I’m reading Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy and in the midst of WWI there is also the story of the Women’s Suffrage movement in England. As I listen to their stories and read of stories around the world of women who don’t have access to education or the choice in whom they marry, I think I don’t have the right to complain about the world in which I live and exist. There are other people who have had to fight harder, other women who can’t type their own words much less send them out in the world of social media.
And yet, I don’t think that the women who fought and the women who are fighting for equal voices would want us to become complacent in pretty good lives when are voices are only sometimes silenced, and so I write.
I write because I haven’t met a women in ministry serving in open and affirming congregations who hasn’t been demeaned, insulted, or belittled. I write because if we pat ourselves on the backs for allowing women to serve our congregations in the same roles as men do, but continue to allow the language of oppression to be in our hallways in those women’s offices and in staff meetings, then we haven’t really done these women a service, but a disservice. I write because 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetimes (not women in conservative and fundamentalist baptist congregations, but all women). I write because in order to survive as professional ministers, we must ignore comments about being “cute” and “pretty” and “looking nice” and take them as compliments rather than attempts at objectification.
I write because we have to band together in private conversations passing along information about how best to work around people who say they support women in ministry, but reduce us to our gender. I write because the justifications of “that’s just the way he is” or “she’s like that to everyone not just women,” need to be rethought.
I write because if the comments that are made in welcoming and affirming congregations to women in ministry were made to my daughters, I wouldn’t stand for it.
For over a year, we have partnered with an apartment complex that helps adults with special needs who have transitioned out of government aid (they are over 21) to learn to live and work independently. The partnership started because the property manager was looking for a way for the residents to have Christmas. What we found was that the things the residents wanted for Christmas were things for setting up an apartment: a crockpot, towels, dishes, pots and pans. Because many of them were living on fixed income, they would have had to save for months before being able to purchase even one of these items.
After our initial meeting over a year ago, several of the residents began to come to church on Wednesday and/or Sunday morning. In fact, they helped us move by working the yard sale as well as helping to pack box after box. They also began to participate in our Sunday School and weekly Bible Study as well as offering to help with special events like our Fall Festival. They were actively giving to our community through their time and service.
We had no new members program that they went through that taught what it meant to be a church member or what faith means because they might just been teaching us more about faith than we are teaching them. A couple of weeks ago, as the offering plate went by, one of the residents reached into her purse and took at all the change. As the offering plate went by, she opened her hand letting all the change fall into the offering plate.
This will be one of those of moments I won’t ever forget as a minister. She had no concern for a tax-deductible gift. She had no direct teaching on why or how to give to the church. She has no expendable income to give. She just gave all she had.
Maybe that’s what church is after all. Not about what we can get from church, but about giving everything we have without expecting anything in return.
I know we progressive Christians aren’t all about cleansing rituals, but the two waves of thunderstorms that rolled through Columbia yesterday made me wish for my days in Germany when you would be stuck in the rain without an umbrella waiting on the bus inevitably at the one bus stop that had a cracked roof and there would be no way of avoiding getting soaked. Or those late summer field hockey games that there would be no thunder and therefore no rain delay. There was nothing left, but to keep playing.
And today in both waves of thunderstorms, I had the intense desire to run out in the rain. Maybe, it’s my baptist heritage and the power of being completely immersed in water, but there’s something about the complete understanding that there is nothing that you can do to prevent being totally and completely soaked. It’s humbly and turns your brain on high in order to try to solve the problem or get to some kind of shelter.
It reminds me how incredibly conveniently we live. In many cases, extreme weather is inconvenient at most and unnoticed at worst. I can remember days in my classroom, especially during testing when I would realize that there would be indoor recess, and I would wonder if there was any way that our little ecosystem could survive another amount of time together in the room. And I would wonder how much trouble it would be to take 23 students out into the rain.
These are sensible or practical considerations, of course, these are childish whims, but they still linger on the edge of my thoughts. Sometimes I let them take center stage.
I’ve only visited one of these 17 Bookstores, and it certainly inspires me to book a bookstore trip tour. More than that, though, it makes me wonder what’s in a bookstore like these independent bookstores that inspires people towards quick reflection and silent browsing?
I have to wonder if it’s not the same emotion that leaves us, as humans, breathless in a cathedral or on the streets of New York looking up to the skyscrapers or gazing out on the gardens in Hanover or holding our breath as the shot as the shot clock ticks away goes up.
It’s the desire to be awed and inspired; to be reminded that there is something more than our mere humanity in this world; something that whispers of the extraordinary divine silently creeping into our ordinary world. Philosophers, scientists, poets, and religious leaders have reflected and pondered about these moments for centuries.
I just have to wonder how many people will truly experience one of these moments inside the walls of a church or place of worship in the coming week. In trying to create order, we may just have planned the divine and extraordinary out of our corporate worship times.
Leaving no room for the unexpected,
Engulfed in ordinary,