We like to stand out and shine, except when we don't want to stand out. Or, at least I do.
I like to be original, except when my originality feels more like I'm part of a side show. And, unfortunately, that side show is often part of the priest who is female genre. Like at a recent funeral, when I overheard a male congregant whisper (a bit too loudly), "Look, it's a lady priest. This should be interesting"
No, actually, it's a priest who just happens, on her best days, to be a lady. Most of the time I'm just a common woman who isn't all that interesting. Although I did wonder what he would have considered interesting at a funeral...
I suspect I speak for many of my clergy sisters when we say we get tired of being the girl/female/lady/woman/have you ever seen the "Vicar of Dibley" priests. We get tired of being introduced as the token first female clergy on a staff. We get tired of hearing during parish search committee interviews that, "We're just not sure we're ready for a woman pastor." We are exhausted from listening to comments ranging from mildly inappropriate to say around professional women (well, don't you look cute in that clergy shirt today) to completely inappropriate to say to anyone (those are fine looking legs for a priest), and when we complain, we are told that, "He's just that kind of guy." We are really, really over the fellow clergy who never seem to miss an opportunity to share with us their personal hesitations about the ordination of women. And we are done with the institutional church that pays most women less than their male counterparts for no reason that seems logical and that ignores sexual harassment.
But we are here, and the church is changing because of us. Women hold up half the sky, so the saying goes, and they hold up at least half the church. We are not side shows. No child of God, female or male, is a side show. We are all part of the main event. An emergent church theologian opines that the future of the church will be in the imaginations of women and those who have been marginalized by the institution, because the future of the church will be found in those who have lived in the edges and margins, those for whom "the rules" and the institution weren't so wonderful.
The institution of the church as it has been for centuries is changing. Changing because the old ways are dying. Changing because God is pushing. Changing because people who have been tired and annoyed eventually say, "Enough," and act. The world where the only real opinion mattered was that of the straight white male property holder has passed away, and the coming of the kingdom where the voices of those who were once relegated to side show is here. Those children of God who are gay, female, and of color; those children of God who are poor, powerless, and broken; those children of God whose faith communities are smaller, whose expressions of faith are imaginative and daring, and who ask hard questions - they are speaking.
And more importantly, they are being heard.
Watch what happens in the smaller places, the dioceses and parishes where power and prestige aren't that important because they don't have either in the traditional sense, but embrace the holy truth that there are no menial churches or gatherings of God's people because there are no menial people in the Kingdom. Listen to the daring worship springing forth from the souls of those who have been marginalized and disaffected, worship that truly reflects the gifts of the community which offers this holy work instead of simply being the Church of What's Happening Now. Hear the sermons to the priests and pastors and bishops and ministers who are willing to preach a gospel about dying to self instead of hoarding one's ego and riches and power over the heads of others.
Look, it's a priest, a minister, a bishop, a pastor, a person who loves God and follows Christ and is inspired by the Spirit. Look, it's a lady priest, a gay man, a transgendered person, an Asian, a lesbian, a poor teenager from Appalachia, an African-American professional woman from Middle America, a Hispanic man from Alabama, a single parent. Look, it's a child of God demanding to be heard and yearning to respond to God's call.
This should be interesting.