The Unicorn Syndrome
There is a thought that frequently comes to my mind and stops me from even applying to a position I become aware of. The thought goes like this: “That’s a position I would like. But they would never pick me because I’m a unicorn and no one really wants a unicorn. So why bother.”
What that really means is that I have an image of myself as, not just “different” but, TOO different. I have an idea of what is “normal” in a priest and I’m not it. When I challenge myself to describe “normal” this is what comes up. Normal in a priest is white, male and straight. And the further a priest is from “normal,” the less likely it is that priest will be selected.
As I look across the sweep of all Episcopal congregations, I see that several churches have taken a step away from normal in one way or another when it comes to calling clergy. A few churches have taken two steps from normal. However churches that have taken three steps from normal are exceptionally rare.
As I look at myself, I see that I am far from normal. Therefore I conclude that no matter how well a position may fit with my skills and talents and gifts and experiences, it doesn’t matter. I’m a unicorn. And unicorns need not apply.
The facts about who is serving as stipendiary priests in Episcopal congregations appear to undergird the assertion that being a unicorn is a one-way ticket to vocational underachievement. However that doesn’t mean that there is no hope in seeking positions. The above conclusion that unicorns need not apply is NOT true. God is still to be considered. If death itself can be reversed, certainly a unicorn priest can find a place of vocational achievement. God is always at work in the church. The Spirit is always moving and grooving in the people of God. So there is no telling what might happen in any given congregation when it comes to calling clergy.
And so The Unicorn Syndrome is, in the final analysis, a fallacy. It is a challenge to vocational activity. However it does not automatically lead to vocational underachievement. Therefore I will continue to seek places to serve in God’s church.