I recently returned from my last board meeting with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW), a global agency of the United Methodist Church that works for the full inclusion of women in the church.
Seven years ago, I was elected to the GCSRW board as a recent college graduate. My college boyfriend had just broken up with me—in large part because I was leaving for seminary. He didn’t think that women should be ordained. I cried on my bathroom floor and listened to music by Ani DiFranco and vowed to never again refer to God as “He.” My election to GCSRW felt like a vindication of sorts; God wasn’t going to leave me in the wilderness.
In the last two quadrennia, I’ve started and finished seminary, been commissioned and ordained, served three churches, and lived in three states. I recovered from being dumped by the patriarchy, and married a feminist-friendly United Methodist instead.
How has your life changed in the last four or eight years? Are you in the wilderness or resting in a meadow of green, green grass? Where are we as individuals, as a denomination, as a universal church? What are the signs that God is doing a new thing—even in the wilderness—that justice, mercy, and righteousness are springing up?
Personally, I have seen God moving through the work of GCSRW, the UMC, and my own life. In my first appointment, I struggled with not being accepted as a young, female, single pastor. Three strikes. If that weren’t enough, I also had over-educated, city-church ways. I “read from the book” when it came to liturgy. Some folks didn’t want me as their pastor and went so far as to boycott services or leave the room whenever I entered. The ones who liked me called me “preachette” and encouraged the others to think of me as “a granddaughter.”
So my eyes welled up with tears one Sunday morning as I looked out over the congregation. A four-year-old girl smiled at me from her daddy’s arms. She let go of her hands around his neck, and raised them up: the orans prayer position. She looked like an icon in the ancient catacombs; she looked like the struggling preachette in front of her; she looked like her own beloved self---the real presence of Christ in this world.
She mouthed the words of the Great Thanksgiving along with me:
“Lift up your hearts… Let us give thanks… It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere, to give thanks to you, Almighty God…”
She will never know that “girls can’t do that.”
She will keep proclaiming, over and over again: “God is with you! The Lord is with you!” and her gifts will meet with others’ gifts and God will multiply them.
Thanks be to God!