I don’t know the story of how the publication of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus came to be named “Ruach.”
Someday, I’ll ask the question and then sit back and listen to the story, which I’m sure will include a cup and a half of passion, a flash of anger, a small dose of irony, a dash of synchronicity, a modicum of danger and sprinkled throughout with laughter.
Ruach, of course, is the Hebrew word used in scripture to describe the Spirit of God, who broods over chaos and brings forth new life, new order, and makes creation new.
It is a feminine pronoun for the third person of the Trinity, the first gift of the Risen Christ, who is also named, the ‘Advocate’ and ‘Comforter’, who will ‘lead us to all truth.” It is the word used to describe the fullness of the presence of God.
From the very first issue of Ruach, it is clear that the Spirit of God was moving in a powerful way during the first week of March, 1974. In retrospect, we are able to see that the events of July 29, 1974 should have come as no surprise to anyone.
This is the third, final, and perhaps most dramatic event to happen in those three days, from Friday, March 22 through Monday, March 25, of 1974, as reported in the first issue of Ruach, published May, 1974.
“Monday evening, March 25th, was an even more painful and yet uplifting experience. The Rev. Philip R. Bozarth-Campbell, male deacon, was ordained priest. His wife, Alla Bozarth-Campbell, who had been ordained deacon two years before her husband, was not priested. She was present but did not participate in the ceremony. She wore a black cassock and a red stole to match her husband’s stole. She stood just inside the door at the back of the church, St. Christopher’s in Roseville, whose rector, the Rev. Henry Hoover, voted against the ordination of women at General convention in Louisville, October, 1973.
At St. Christopher’s, Fr. Hiza’s “Statement of Love and Concern” was again distributed to the congregation. The Rev. Jeannette Piccard vested and walked in the procession but did not take a lace in the pews with the other clergy. She stood behind the crucifer until the clergy were in their places and the Bishop with his entourage were arriving. At that point, she stepped aside until they had passed. She then turned and walked back down the center aisle to stand beside her sister in Christ, the Rev. Alla Bozarth-Campbell, deacon.
When the moment came for the Laying-on of Hands and Philip knelt before the Bishop, Alla also knelt in the aisle at the back of the Church. As the priests joined the Bishop to lay their hands on Philip, the Rev. Douglas Hiza, priest, and the Rev. George Parmeter, deacon, came back to join Jeannette and Alla. A number of women also came out of the congregation and stood around them. One of the laywomen joined the Rev. Hiza and the deacons Parmeter and Piccard in laying their hands on Alla whose vocation had been denied by the General Convention in Louisville.
The Bishop gave the Kiss of Peace to the newly ordained priest, Philip, who started back toward his wife. Stopped by someone on his way, he was startled to see the Bishop, walking tall, march past him. The Bishop stepped aside to let Philip be the first to kiss his wife and then he, too, gave her the Kiss of Christ’s Peace. The formal Eucharist ended.
Later that night, in the home of one of the clergy, three of the newly ordained priests, the two women deacons, Fr. Hiza and three lay women celebrated a “Third Rite” Eucharist with a deep sense of vocation and commitment.”
Feminist theologians have a different name for an encounter with God: Shekinah.
Author Kristin Johnson Ingram has probably given the best description of Shekinah. Johnson explains that Shekinah (she-KI-nah or SHEK-I-nah) is a transliteration of a Hebrew word not found in the Bible but used in many of the Jewish writings to speak of God’s presence.
The term has a feminine gender and means, “that which dwells.” It is implied throughout the Bible whenever it refers to God’s nearness either in a person, object, or God’s glory. It is often used in combination with glory to speak of the presence of God’s shekinah glory. (Daughters of Sarah, Spring, 1994).
“I sometimes prayed to her, calling her Lady and Sister; I waited for her beside quiet pools and in the fern light depths of the woods. I listened for her in the voices of flutes and harps, sought a vision of her in moments of peace. . Shekinah came not as a handmaiden but as a queen, not whispering but crying out like a hoyden in the streets, bringing no consolation but urgency of motion. . . .
. . . .She travels at warp speed and beyond: she is in the mouth of blessed Miriam on the far shore of the Yam Suph, drives Miriam to grab her tambourine and lead the dance of rejoicing. Shekinah vaults to glorious Deborah, and gives her an army and a song; she races into the mouth of angry Huldah as she warns the men of Judah that they have forsaken God and God’s book; she speaks through Isaiah’s prophetess wife, she comes forth in the host of heaven to say she will go forth and delude the priests of Ahab. And Shekinah swirls over a young Galilean girl and lines her womb to prepare it for a salvific miracle.”
Whether called Ruach or Shekinah, the spirit of the glory of God is She who will not be denied. She is a ‘force to be reckoned with,’ the powerful dwelling of God within each soul who is called by God to serve God’s people – despite race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, age or physical ability, educational background or class status.
I believe that Ruach or Shekinah, the spirit of the glory of God, whose hot breath brought to life the dry bones right before the eyes of Ezekiel also moved the earth that hot summer day, July 29, 1974, in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia.
I believed that Ruach or Shekinah danced on the ears of an acolyte for that service, a young woman named Barbara Clementine Harris, who would, fifteen years later, on February 11, 1989, become the first woman to be ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
I believe that Ruach or Shekinah was with us, fifteen years after that, one windy Sunday in Columbus, June 18, 2006, when the Episcopal Church elected Katharine Jefferts-Schori as the first Presiding Bishop and Primate in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
It was ‘Father’s Day’, as I recall. Leave it to Shekinah to shatter all of our false idols ‘lest we create new ones.
I believe that Ruach or Shekinah called all the saints together on that Sunday afternoon, November 2, 2003, when V. Gene Robinson was consecrated Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, making him the first honestly gay man to hold a position in the highest councils of our church.
I believe She is, even now, racing to be with us in Anaheim, July 5 – 18, 2009, to swirl round us with awe and wonder, ‘bringing no consolation but urgency of motion’ into the fullness of time where justice dwells with mercy and peace.
I can’t wait to hear the stories our daughters and granddaughters will tell of this time in our lives.
For make no mistake: Whenever we are in the presence of Ruach or Shekinah, the spirit of the glory of God, time stands still as it rushes to fold in the past and the present, bringing us to the knowledge that we have been – are and will always be – living Herstory.