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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, May 23, 2019


I was supposed to take the train to Edinburgh today.

Apparently Spirit had other ideas.

Through the 'magic' known only to social media, a friend in New York saw that I am in Glasgow. She contacted a colleague who had moved to Glasgow about 5 years ago who contacted me.

So, she's not just a colleague. I am delighted to call her a friend. She's a hero to me and to many.

Her name is now Sr. Helena Barrett. When I first knew her, her name was Ellen Barrett.

Yes, that Ellen Barrett. The first woman ordained in the Diocese of New York after General Convention approved the ordination of women in 1977.

Oh, and the morning of her ordination, she was also on the front page of the New York Times - and, later that day, the San Fransisco Chronicle (I think that's right).

She attained that notoriety because she dared to speak the love that dared not speak its name.

It was bad enough that she was a woman being ordained in The Episcopal Church. She was also the embodiment of the worst fears of the misogynists who were opposed to the ordination of women who believed that the only possible reason a woman would want to be ordained is that she really wanted to be a man.

Yup: Any woman who wants to be ordained must really want to be a man.

Because, I mean, doesn't everybody?  Isn't that what a lesbian is, anyway?

In his book, "Take a Bishop Like Me," her ordaining bishop, Paul Moore, stated that of 42 letters he received from other bishops, ten were supportive and thirty-two were critical.

Bishop William Frey of Colorado stated that there were better ways to minister to homosexuals than to "bless that which God offers to redeem".

Moore related his belief that it was not so much Barrett's sexual orientation that his fellow bishops found disturbing, but rather her candor as a lesbian.

Oh, but it didn't end there. Like so many of the women who were first to be ordained, a high price was to be paid for women who chose to live into their vocations with authenticity and integrity.

I mean, who in the church wants to hire a controversial figure as their rector? So, while white men - straight and gay (but deeply closeted or practitioners of "don't ask, don't tell") - were being hired and earning their pensions and are now living well in retirement, many of those women are living on pensions that place them well below the poverty level.

Sr. Helena has been more than faithful to her vocation and vows of ordination. She has worked as a supply priest and an interim rector. She has her doctorate in Medieval History and has taught at universities and colleges. She has also worked as an Office Manager and a Libraian. Whatever helped to pay the bills.

She is now living out her vocation faithfully as a Sister of the Companions of our Lady and St Mungo, Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway. She was married six years ago to Sr. Alison Joy, also of the same religious order. Together, they offer retreats to parishes in the diocese and beyond. And, of course, they do not charge for their services.

Sr. Helena helps out at St. Mary's Cathedral, where the Provost is Kelvin Holdsworth. Perhaps you've read his blog: "What's Inside Kelvin's Head?". I certainly read it daily during the days of the struggle to allow women to the episcopacy and Lambeth 2008. He was also a great source of information during the fight for marriage equality in U.K. 

So, today, I hit the "Spirit Trifecta". 

I not only got to celebrate the mysteries with 16 other souls at the 11 AM Eucharist at St. Mary's Cathedral as Sr. Helena presided, I also got to meet her spouse, Sr. Alison Joy and Provost Kelvin. 

Yes, I got to see what's inside Kelvin's head. 

Well, and didn't we just have us a regular chin wag in the Synod Room of the Cathedral! We had tea and some biscuits and shared a giggle or two with the faithful souls who gather there. Believe it or not, I met a woman who has and adult child and grandchildren living in Mississippi.  

It's a small world, after all. And, an even smaller church.

I had absolutely no intention of attending church today or any day, actually, while here in Scotland. This is all about spirituality for me, not religion. 

Seems like Spirit had other ideas about that. 

I did get me some religion but more importantly, my spirit was richly nourished by visiting with old friends, two of whom I had never met in person. 

We told stories and re-told old stories and laughed and giggled and gasped and snorted. You know, the way friends do when it seems as if the conversataion never really ended. You just pick up almost exactly where you left off the last time you were together.

And then, it suddenly dawns on you:  The richest, deepest luxuries are often delivered on the wings of serendipity.  

This is why Mindfulness has become so important to me - much more important than planning and organizing a spiritual pilgrimage. It's all about intention and focus, balanced with openness and wonder. It's about "living from the Center".

As I begin my second intentional pilgrimage, I am reminded of practicing the important "mindful leadership" skills I learned from Valerie Brown, the spiritual guide and anamchara on my Camino Pilgrimage: 
to turn to wonder,
to inhabit the moment,
to slow down,
to practice opening,
to practice listening,
to find the beauty in moments of quiet transformation,
even when those moments are not apparent.
This was one of those moments.


It's not just a greeting. It's a way of life.


VK McCarty said...

Simply delighted that you were able to get together, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for mid-wifing this spiritual event.

Susan Brooks said...

Blessed to be on this journey with you. Susan