I am a single 28 year old woman in my first pastorate, I have been here for 18 months. I have not dated much since arriving here, and have certainly not made any of my dating public. Honestly, there has not been anyone I was interested in bringing to church, as bringing the "BF" to church is such a big deal for a single pastor - I have only done it once with my ex-fiance (at my student pastorate).
I recently met a man who has been pursuing me - but the manner in which we met is a little ridiculous to say the least. I performed a wedding in October. He is the ex-husband of the woman who's wedding I performed, the father of her child who was also in the wedding. He and his ex-wife have a very cordial relationship and remain friends. They have one child together who is 10, and remain friends so that they can both be a part of his life as much as possible. After the wedding weekend, he sought me out, found my email address, and we started an email exchange.
The man and his ex-wife joined the church 13 years ago, when they were married and when the previous senior minister was leading. They got a divorce nine years ago and stopped coming to the church; neither of them have come to the church since the current senior pastor has started serving, and they have no relationship with him. But since the wedding I performed, the woman and her new husband have decided they DO want to start coming to church. So has her ex-husband (the man pursuing me). Now their status in our church database has gone from "Inactive Members" to "Active Members."
I've touched on the issue with him that I cannot date church members. I expressed that if our conversations were to turn from more than just enjoying each other's company and having dinner that he would need to find another church to attend. We've talked about this a little bit, I've given examples of colleagues I've known who have become involved with church members. This is not a conversation I would dare have over email - but I feel as if we're getting to the point we need to have the "real" conversation.
The woman in me hopes he would say, "Yes - I'll attend another church so we can date," as I have no idea where to meet people in this new city anyway and really enjoy the friendship that has formed. But the pastor in me hopes he would say, "We need to end this, because I would love to be a part of my son's spiritual journey and want to continue being an active part of this congregation."
I'm appreciative of any help you can send my way....
I’m not sure what you’re asking, but I want to affirm your good judgment and instincts. I think you’re doing all you can to set good personal/professional boundaries. You’re honest about your conflicting feelings. If your relationship continues and deepens, I think you’ll want to have good conversations about the interesting intersection of your lives with the rest of the family involved (the son and his mom, who are church members, yes?)
Grace and peace to you as you seek to have great personal and professional relationships!
And Mompriest writes:
This is a complicated situation with two “goods” in conflict with each other: leave the parish in order to date OR stay in the parish, don’t date, and be part of the son’s worship life. On the one hand the father can still be part of the son’s spiritual life whether or not they worship in the same church, so that’s one piece to sort out. On the other hand if he leaves and the relationship doesn’t work out and he decides to worship there again, that too would be awkward. I think in a perfect world the boundaries would be clear and easy. But this is not a perfect world and sometimes life gets muddy. The important piece is to have the conversation with him and talk it through from ALL the angles and see what decisions you come up with together. But be clear, you cannot date a parishioner. That is non-negotiable. I wish I had more substantial thoughts. I hope this works out for all involved.
What about the rest of you? Do you have experience with this sort of situation? How might you counsel our friend who is struggling? Please offer your thoughts in the comment section. And, as always, if you have a question you would like the matriarchs to discuss, please send us an email at askthematriarch[at]gmail[dot]com.