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Friday, May 29, 2009

A force to be reckoned with


"She was a force to be reckoned with."

That's how Bishop Rickel of Seattle remembered her when she died this past December. You can read his eulogy here.

She was only 60 years old.

The other day, I posted a poem I had found that was written by someone named "Peggy Bosmyer." It was 1973 and she was a student at Virginia Theological School who had just come home from the 64th General Convention in Louisville, which had just voted - yet again - to delay full approval of the ordination of women.

At the end of the posting, I asked if anyone knew her.

Oh, my! The answers I have gotten to that question!

She was, apparently, the first woman in The Episcopal Church to be ordained "below the Mason Dixon Line" in 1978. No small feat, to be sure. Her husband, Dennis Campbell, became an Episcopal Priest after they were married.

Her obituary from the Helena, AR newspaper gives these details.

The Rev. Peggy Bosmyer, 60 of Little Rock died Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008. She was born to the late Thomas Bosmyer and Margarett Markland Vandiver of Little Rock. Peggy was a graduate of Helena Central High School before receiving her B.A. degree in English and philosophy from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, her Master’s of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary and her Doctor of Divinity from the University of the South, School of Theology -Sewanee.

In 1974, Peggy served her internship as Episcopal deacon at Grace Episcopal Church, Pine Bluff, completing her intern curacy at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock. Upon women’s ordination in the church, Peggy was the first woman ordained in the Episcopal Church south of the Mason Dixon line in 1978. She was also appointed as vicar of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, program director for the Diocese of Arkansas, which included oversight of Camp Mitchell.

In 1985 she became fulltime vicar of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. In 1994 she was called to be a professor on the faculty of the University of the South School of Theology - Sewanee for seven years, concurrently serving as the co-vicar at St. James Teaching mission at Sewanee.

In 2001 she returned to Little Rock accepting the call as canon missioner and vicar of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. She was also an associate of the Youth and Family Institute.

Peggy loved to preach, to celebrate the Eucharist and exercise her gifts in pastoral care.

She leaves her husband of 24 years, Dennis Campbell of Little Rock; her four children, Caitlin Margarett Bosmyer Campbell, Mary Hannah Bosmyer Campbell, Lauren “Larnie” Elizabeth Bosmyer Campbell and Michael Forrest Bosmyer Campbell all of Little Rock; and her sister, Judy Quattlebaum of Little Rock.


I'm sure the "Mother Peggy" stories are even more numerous than the details of her life and the deeds of her pioneering ministry.

Which leads me to say this:

At the very beginning of one of my favorite books, "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter" (which I borrowed from Fran Trott when I was with her the other day, but I realized that I had read a few years ago. I'm reading it again.), there is this quote from Sarah Gilbert and Susan Gubar:

Women will starve in
silence until new stories
are created which confer
on them the power of
naming themselves.

What I lack in stories about 'Mother Peggy', I gain from the herstories I have from the memorabilia now in my possession, for a time, from the files of Fran Trott.

Here's another story from that first issue of Ruach (which, BTW, was typed on an old typewriter on Fran's kitchen table and run off on mimeograph machine):

During the week-end of Friday, March 22, through Monday, March 25th, four young male deacons were ordained priests in the Diocese of Minnesota. The Consecrator was the Rt. Rev. Philip F. McNairy, DD, Bishop of Minnesota, one of the signers of the statement in favor of the ordination of women signed by sixty Bishops after the General Convention in Louisville in October, 1973.

This is one story from that weekend:

On March 22nd, two male deacons, were ordained priests at 7:30 PM at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in St. Paul, whose rector, the Rev. Grayson Clairy, was opposed to the ordination of women. On this occasion, the Rev.Douglas Hiza, rector of St. Peter's in New Elm, distributed the following statement to everyone in the congregation:

A Statement of Love and concern: by Father Douglas Hiza

One of the truly joyful events in the life of our church has been the service of Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood. It has been a time when dedicated human beings - called by God to serve - have received the laying-on-of-hands by their bishop and fellow clergy.

This joyful event is marred by sadness for me because some dedicated human beings - called by God to serve - having graduated from Seminary; having passed canonical exams; are not eligible for ordination to the Sacred Priesthood by what some view as a birth defect: namely, being born a woman.

Therefore, I, in good conscience cannot fully participate this evening by laying my hands on the head of a very close and dear friend. It is with much pain and sorrow that I do this, but not as much pain and sorrow as those human beings feel when they are denied the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ in the same way.

I appeal to you in the name of Jesus the Christ for love and understanding, for peace and reconciliation . . .

At the Laying-on of Hands, Fr. Hiza stood in the aisle and did not join the other priests and Bishop. The Rev. Jeannette Piccard, deacon, was present at the ceremony but did not vest or participate in the ceremony. She wore her clericals and sat in the congregation at the back of the church. There had been no serious 'demonstration'.

However, this action sparked a few more dramatic moments that weekend - moments that, I am certain, demonstrated the serious breach in our baptismal covenant (which, I hasten to point out, was, at that time, the one from the 1928 BCP).

Hearts and minds were changed and transformed by that "Love Letter" from one male priest, who, perhaps, understood something about the nature of service to God Incarnate, God Divine that had, to that point eluded the institutional church, the corporate Body of Christ.

I'll post more about what happened that weekend in the days to come, 'lest more women - and all those who have been, and are even now - outcasts in this church, starve in silence.

The stories of courageous women like the Philadelphia Eleven and 'Mother Peggy' are gospel food to feed our souls before we meet again in Anaheim, where we will consider those who 'are not eligible for ordination' or to have the church confer its blessings on their sacred covenants of Holy Love and Fidelity, because of 'what some view as a birth defect: namely being born' an LGBT person.

Indeed, whenever we do the work of the Gospel, we, like "Mother Peggy" become "a force to be reckoned with."

7 comments:

susankay said...

In 1966 when I graduated from college I was told that I would be very welcome at (unnamed) seminary because they needed more Sunday School Teachers.

In reality, I suspect that I was not called to the priesthood -- but I was denied the discernment process so I had no chance to find out.

walter said...

Beloved, hang on and hold out because I am going to try to love hard myself also.

Did we decide where to be born, the day and the time and the year? For those of you avalaible to hear the gospel the answer is 'no'. We did not decide how, when and where to be born. This mean that we cannot decide how, when and where we will die. But careful: this is not an issue of nationality or home-going or sensual disciplined passions (I mean how can we starve for something that we have not already tasted). What is at stake is the very essence of resurrection, inclusiveness and gratuitous love. If we hear this we have already won.

It is also in the mood(avalaibility) of this love that I will send privately to Mother Elizabeth one of her favorite song(You Light Up my Life) sang personally by me (now that by the grace of God I feel a bit more confident). Why? Because I believe in the gathering imagination of a community at sea.

Walter Vitale, Buffalo Shepherd

aitchellsee said...

I certainly don't wish to detract from the Rev. Peggy Bosmyer's credit as one of the first generation of women priests in the Episcopal Church, but if she was ordained in 1978 I'm not sure if the claim that she was the first woman ordained below the Mason-Dixon line can be true.

Because I had the joy of being present in January 1977 as the Rt. Reverend Furman Stough of Alabama ordained a friend from General Theological Seminary, the Rev. Marianne Bogel, to the priesthood. And while I can no longer recall whether the ordination was held in her home parish in Huntsville, or in the cathedral in Birmingham, I know that she was ordained in the Diocese of Alabama.

OTOH, as a born-and-bred daughter of the Empire State, I must admit that I'm not clear whether Alabama is considered to be "south of the Mason-Dixon line" or whether that phrase only includes those southern states that are in closer proximity to the actual line.

In any case, I thank God for the many many amazing women who have followed God's call into ordained ministry over the last four decades, and so immeasurably enriched our church.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for writing. Actually, I've discovered that the ECD is right and the newspaper was wrong. It was January 1977 and her friends assure me that she was the first.

And, trust me, darlin', Alabama is most assuredly below the Mason-Dixon Line. Oh, yes. No question.

JCF said...

Wow, if only all my OTHER requests were answered so fast! (See re my request for more info on Deacon Peggy that I made, like, 5 minutes ago!)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It's not hard when you're a woman ;~)

Anonymous said...

mother peggy was my mother actually if you would like some more info on her you can find me on face book my name is michael bosmyer campbell I would love to share with you