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Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, PA
Happy "Philly 11" Day - a day to celebrate 40 years of the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood and 2,000 years of women in ministry.

I offer this in praise and thanksgiving to all the amazing women in my life: 

- from my beloved Grandmother and the nuns of my youth and childhood, many of whom were the first priests I knew and became role models for me of the priesthood by whispering in my child's ear, "Never doubt that Jesus has a mighty work of justice for you to do."

- to Martha Blacklock, the first woman I saw in a clergy shirt and collar which broke through the protective coating I had built up around my heart and allowed me to hear my own call. Your work all those years ago on Mother Thunder liturgy continues to break barriers and calls us to be mindful of the images and language we use for God and humankind.

- to Brooke Alexander, the first woman of the Diocese of Maine, ordained in the Diocese of Maine, now numbered among the saints, who taught me the incarnational truth that "Your mind may fool you and your heart may deceive you, but your body never lies. Learn to listen to your body." 

- to all the women of the Philadelphia Eleven and the Washington Four. Oh, my sisters, to the grace that lead you to your courage, I am forever a grateful debtor. 

- to Elsa Walberg, first woman ordained deacon in 1973 in DioMA who was invited to be one of the "Philadelphia Twelve" but declined at the last minute. Called "a good deacon" publicly by her bishop for this, she wrote to him, "Don't you ever again put me in a position where I have to choose between my sisters and the church." (Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.)

- to my professors and mentors at The Episcopal Divinity School - all of them, but especially Carter Heyward and Sue Hiatt, Fredrica Harris Thompsett and Kwok Pui Lan for teaching me what I need to know to be an effective minister of the Gospel and strive to be an institutional person with integrity. 

- to Ellen Barrett (now Sr. Bernadette), first lesbian woman ordained in New York and Jane Garrett (VT), first clerical deputy (along with lay deputy Pat Waddell, El Camino Real) to 'come out' on the floor of the 1991 General Convention in Phoenix; two lesbians who are priests who live the simple truth of their lives and know more about courage than I'll ever hope to know.  When I think of how you laid down your lives for us in the "long littleness"of  everyday acts of justice, my heart overflows with gratitude. 

- to the women of The Miserable Offenders, Ana Hernandez and Deborah Bly (who now sings with the heavenly chorus of angels and archangels), whose music not only put the wine of old hymns into the new wine skins of musical arrangements, and so became the musical metaphor of the ministry of women, but also provided the soundtrack of those hard, early years of continuing to beat back the second and third waves of sexism and misogyny in the church. 

- to Margaret Rose, who fulfilled the unlikely role of teaching me how to chant Eucharistic Prayer B in good Anglo-Catholic style for the first time I presided at Eucharist at St. John's, Bowdoin St., Boston. I still hear you calling softly to me over the notes, like a midwife to a woman giving birth to herself: "Breathe. Easy. That's it. Breathe."

- to Marge Christie and Sallee Buckley, two members of the laity who knew well their membership in the priesthood of all believers and grounded their lifelong commitment to the work of justice in their baptismal vows. Like Mary of Magdala, whose Feast Day it was on July 23rd, you taught me that "meet, right and proper" are lovely liturgical words, but the real work of the Eucharist is in that which is broken and poured out and is a scandal to the prevailing culture. 

- to Barbara Clementine Harris, first woman consecrated bishop in the Anglican Communion, who continues to teach me how to gather up my annoyance and agitation about continued injustice, bring it before the God-given-and-blessed place of a sense of humor in us all, and turn the joke on oppression. (To wit, at Lambeth, 1998: "If assholes could fly, this place would be an airport.")

- to Jane Holmes Dixon, second woman consecrated bishop who bore the heat of the day and the scars of battle with misogynists with grace and style and intelligence, laced with deep spirituality and just enough Southern spice to earn the unlikely title, "Kick-Ass Bishop".  I know you aren't 'resting in peace', Jane. Keep kicking my butt from on high when we need it. (Oh, do I miss you!)

- to Katharine Jefferts Schori, first woman Presiding Bishop and Primate in the Anglican Communion, who continues to model what it is to be a strong woman in institutional leadership, and how to take the rap for that with grace and style and an air of mild bemusement (which speaks of humility) that you - even you, of all people - are called to do this work at this time. 

- to the "Too Women" in ordained ministry - deacons, priests and bishops - and those who have felt called to ordination but did not "make it through the process" who have been dismissed and marginalized by the institutional church as "too" - Radical. Angry. "Out there". Emotional. Aloof. Inexperienced. Wounded. - and have not been able to fulfill your ministry in the institutional church.  You are the 'baroque' pearls of great price. You let in more of the Light and Truth than some people can stand. You know who you are. More importantly, God knows. God sees. And, God loves you more than the institutional church ever has and you will ever know.  You bring me hope and inspiration when all the "good girls" who have "made it" bring me to despair.

To all the countless and unnamed and "anonymous" women (too many to be named here, but kept close in my heart) who have built a bridge with their very backs over the raging Rivers of Misogyny and Sexism and Homophobia for us to walk upon and follow the path which God has set out for us. 

You continue to call to us to be true to our vocation in whichever of the four orders of ministry - laity, deacon, priest, bishop - we are called to pursue, whether in the institutional church or outside the institutional church. Or, both. 

Sometimes the sound of that call is a mighty roar.  Sometimes it sounds like tears and laughter, which roll over and over onto, into and out of each other. Most times, it sounds like a whisper, almost inaudible, causing us to lean in, focus, pay attention, and hear it more clearly. Even if that takes all of our whole lives.

Thank you for your obedience to your call, and for teaching me to be obedient to mine.

Together, may we move mountains of prejudice, bigotry and oppression so that all the children of God may one day soon be free.

There is a new sound
of roaring voices
in the deep
and light-shattered
rushes in the heavens.

The mountains are coming alive,
the fire-kindled mountains,
moving again to reshape the earth.

It is we sleeping women,
waking up in a darkened world,
cutting the chains from off our bodies
with our teeth, stretching our lives
over the slow earth—

Seeing, moving, breathing in
the vigor that commands us
to make all things new.

It has been said that while the women sleep,
the earth shall sleep—
But listen! We are waking up and rising,
and soon our sisters will know their strength.

The earth-moving day is here.
We women wake to move in fire.
The earth shall be remade.
From Womanpriest by Alla Renée Bozarth, Paulist Press 1978,revised edition Luramedia 1988, distributed by the poet; Gynergy by Alla Renée Bozarth, Wisdom House 1978; audio cassette Water Women by Alla Renée Bozarth, Wisdom House 1990, distributed by the poet; and Stars in Your Bones: Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys by Alla Bozarth, Julia Barkley and Terri Hawthorne, North Star Press of St. Cloud 1990. All rights reserved.

Inspired by “Mountain Moving Day, ” 1911, by Japanese Feminist Poet,Yosano Akiko.


Ann said...

This is lovely -- my grandmother is probably the most "image of God" etched in my being. To all the women who pushed the tide and opened doors!

SCG said...

Thank you!! And please pass the Kleenex box, you got me crying.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure women clergy is much of a victory; there seems to be an increasing marginalization of religion which means that women are simply being allowed into a place that many high status men have simply lost interest in: it's not like 1850 or 1900 or even 1950, when clergy was a profession closer to lawyer or doctor in status; now it seems to be increasingly a second career move for people over 35-40, somewhere between social worker and RN in status and pay.

Bex said...

@Stan Theman: So that's why some rather large churches still fight tooth and nail to deny women ordination?

Martha said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. You're on my list, too.

JCF said...


["high status men" }-X. Please ignore the troll]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ann - It's one from the heart, where all those women and many more still live.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

SCG - Wipe those tears, blow your nose and lift up your socks. The work of justice continues.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Stan Theman - Someone was just saying this same thing to me about doctors. That, when he went to a doctor's office or saw one in the hospital, "he" always wore a suit and tie and looked professional. Now, he said, no one wears a suit and they all look like they just came out of the lab or the OR. When did the standards get lowered, he wondered out loud, the answer dangling from his lips: When women were allowed into med school. Some say the same thing about lawyers and judges. How funny is that!? Well, it's hilarious if you see that misogyny, like all other prejudice, someone always thinks it is invisible.

Get a grip, Stan.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bex - Right. Pay no attention to the troll.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marthe - Thanks, my dear

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - It's amazing how trolls pop up when there's a celebration of justice, isn't it?

Brian R said...

Just a small issue. The 2nd woman bishop in the Anglican Communion was Dr Penny Jamieson in 1989 who was also the first woman Diocesan, in my own diocese of Dunedin in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

No small issue, that, Brian R.

Martie Collins said...

How far we've come; how far we have to go!

We'll probably never get to sleep.

Thank you for your beautiful encouragement.

Unknown said...

I'm guessing that the men there don't want women in the clergy so that being a clergy man still has some automatically higher status since only men can do it; they're afraid that being in the clergy will suffer even more from being marginalized.
They're confusing the symptom (female clergy) with the disease (religion is shrinking and becoming more marginalized: Catholics, Orthodox and now Evangelicals are all shrinking.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Thanks for this post! A luta continua!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Martie - We all need to be each other's cheering section.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Stan - Some men are walking around, shooting themselves in the foot, and blaming women because they are limping. It would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetic.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

MC - You're right. The struggle will probably continue for a few more generations to come.