Saturday, May 14, 2011

This Should Be Interesting

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.

14 comments:

Lauren said...

Amen! Y'all speak the truth, and you ARE being heard.

Alex said...

very well said.

Cortney Dale said...

I love love love your blog! And as a lady in discernment for ordination this post was especially salient. My faith has been shaped by many, but especially a few amazing female priests. Here's hoping more people come around, and your candor is certainly helping.

Steve Collins said...

hurray! great stuff [like all your other stuff]

emb said...

Amen, Sister! As one of the disaffected, I look forward to the future, and I applaud those who stand in the face of "the institution" and shout at the top of their lungs, "Change! Or die." And not as a threat. Never a threat. Simply a statement of fact.

Actually, I suppose that what I look forward to is the past, the origin, as well as the future. For we, the disaffected and the downtrodden, are the original faithful. We were the original followers of Christ. The powerful and prestigious were what Jesus was rebelling against.(Please, correct me if I am mistaken!) Ah, would that these "Power-Pious" could recall their history and see what they have become. So perhaps we are simply (re)claiming our rightful place at the table. And as far as I can see, there is plenty of room for all. After all, we know what it feels like to be excluded, and I, for one, don't want anyone to else to have to feel that way. Quite frankly, it sucks.

Peggy Blanchard + said...

Amen, and thank you. After twenty years of ordained ministry with all the attendant remarks (as you so accurately point out) and struggles, it feels so good to have a significant number of sisters who are on the same journey. And it is -so- hopeful to hear you articulate the hope we embody for the future of the emergent church. Again, thank you.

Mary DY said...

Always love your take on the kingdom. AMEN.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Tired? I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I know that this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but part of the problem it is that we have forgotten our herstory. Not we women, necessarily, but the church - which still, OBTW, refuses to accept July 29, 1974 as the date when women were ordained, choosing, instead, to remember 1979 when the church "regularized' the ordination of women. That's more than a generation. More than enough time for some people to 'get it'.

Problem is, they won't. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Even when it's right in front of their eyes. Not only do I believe in ordained women, I've seen them. Indeed, I am one. For the past 25 years.

I. Have. Had. Enough.

Thank you for so eloquently articulating the on-going struggle.

Caminante said...

About to hit 18 years of ordained ministry and have been dealing with subtle stuff about being the parish's first head priest (they had a deacon and assistant who were women but that is different). It has been an uphill haul. Thank you for your words.

Sam said...

Found this post via my sisters Facebook - and WOW! Great post!

Dom said...

Great post. I love your blog.

It's very difficult to believe that in 2011 there are still a number of people that have trouble accepting (especially accepting as equals) women priests, rectors, and bishops. But, very sadly, I know that you are right.

Noelle said...

Yes. Sigh.
My particular current pet peeve are the parishioners in my parish that say of our clergy staff of five: "we have three priests and two women priests." So tired of being considered a subset.

Jim said...

In our parish, we are dealing with those who can, they at least say, deal with female clergy, but are unable to see they are treating our rector in ways they would never abuse a male. She is a hell of a lot more tolerant of it than I and some other parishioners and some of the lay conversations are getting a bit tense.

::sigh::

FWIW
jimB

Crimson Rambler said...

I'm with Jim on this one -- getting an upclose look at the behavior of parishioners toward the single, under-40 Rector, especially as regards her living next door in the Rectory...I'd be tempted to set the dog on them, myself...but it's knowing that it would NEVER cross their minds, EVER, to behave as they do toward a male Rector...