An Interview with Priest Kira Schlesinger

Right off the bat, I need you to know how uncomfortable I am calling a priest a bitch, but Kira assures me it's okay. I met today's bitch on a Monday Night Ladies Ride two summers ago. We both live in the same part of town, so I followed Kira home that night and noticed she had a cross bumper sticker. I thought, 'Oh, she goes to church'. I had no idea she was a priest.

Kira has that special combination of humor and kindness that immediately draws you in. After two summers of Monday Night Ladies Rides, we both joined the Tennessee Women's Cycling Project, which is great because now we get to see each other year round! In addition to enjoying Kira's presence in general, I really love her enthusiasm for red lipstick, bright clothes, Twitter, and our shared, unbridled enthusiasm for Snapchat. Meet today's bitch, Kira Schlesinger!

P.S. Kira wrote a book! It's called Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justiceand you can buy it here.

What is your job title and where do you work?

I am an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, currently serving as priest-in-charge at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Lebanon, Tennessee. I am also a contributor to the Ministry Matterswebsite and wrote a book for Westminster John Knox Press on being pro-choice and Christian.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I am what we call a “cradle Episcopalian,” meaning I grew up in the Episcopal Church. I attended an Episcopal school up until 6th grade, and my great-uncle Jim, who was like a grandfather to me, was an Episcopal priest as well. The senior pastor at the United Methodist Church I attended from 7th-10th grade met with me and talked to me about what he did the rest of the week.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I first thought that I might be called to ordained ministry around 16, but I put that on the back burner to study classical voice. In college, at Rice University, I was very involved with the Episcopal campus ministry. One afternoon, I was on the phone with my mother in the parking lot having one of those “life crisis” conversations when I told her that I didn’t think I wanted to be an opera singer. She calmly said, “Okay, well, what do you think you want to do?” and I responded, “I think I want to be a priest.” My love for God and people, my calling to the sacraments and the pulpit, it all made sense.

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

While I was in Divinity School at Vanderbilt, I would ask God to please not put me in a small church where I was the only clergy person. After I graduated, I spent a year doing Clinical Pastoral Education as a chaplain resident at Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, found that work very fulfilling, and considered pursuing a chaplain position. Then the bishop’s office called me with a possible placement - a small church where I would be the only clergy. I’ve now been at Epiphany-Lebanon for four years, and I absolutely love it.

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

I don’t know if it’s advice or just a motto, but I’ve found it helpful to tell myself, “It’s not about you.” Oftentimes, when people are critical or angry or upset, it’s easy for me to take that personally, but I’ve learned from my work in the congregation that it’s very rarely about me. Likewise, when things go well, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about how great I am instead of giving the glory to God or acknowledging the ways that other people have contributed.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

Early on in my time at Epiphany, I miscommunicated with someone about something that was important to them and hurt them. While I wanted to just let it blow over, I made myself write them an apology letter (and not the I’m-sorry-your-feelings-were-hurt kind, the I-messed-up-and-I’m-sorry kind), and it helped heal the relationship. It wasn’t easy to admit that I was wrong, but the relationship was more important than me being right.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Pray and read more church-related/theology/non-fiction books.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

While I hold my values and beliefs very dearly, I am very proud of my ability to be in relationship with lots of different kinds of people, both inside and outside of the church.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

My weather app to see what I should wear to go run or swim or bike.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

For me, cooking is a great way to decompress because there are visible results and then I’m able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Wine or a big mug of tea helps. I also really enjoy watching comedy specials on Netflix. Laughter is a great way to decompress.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

I think the hardest thing about my job is just how much emotional energy it takes sometimes. There are times when I come home and think, “Why am I so tired? I didn’t do anything today,” but I’ve expended a lot of emotional energy in a stressful situation or listening to someone. Even Sundays can be really challenging because I have to be “on” all morning, and if something else is going on in my personal life, it can totally wipe me out.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

I’m going to list two things. The first is that a lot of people think that a priest/pastor/minister only works on Sundays. HAHAHAHAHA! The second is, when people learn what I do, they sometimes think that I’m supposed to be very serious or that I don’t curse or, like, am allowed to have fun (or wear red lipstick).

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Oh gosh, I love television. My favorite show right now is probably Jane the Virgin for its blend of humor and drama. I also love how it portrays religion and spirituality and family dynamics. And my favorite snack is dried apricots, preferably with a slice or two of prosciutto alongside, but that’s only because I can’t keep chips and salsa in the house without eating them all.

All photos courtesy of Kira Schlesinger

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Sign Language Interpreter, Rhonda Andrews!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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