Friday, October 9, 2009
Friday Five: Special Days
Sophia at Revgals has provided a very provocative Friday Five:
I am pre-posting this because Friday I will be at my new Independent Catholic church's yearly Synod, being welcomed and conditionally re-consecrated to episcopal ministry for this jurisdiction. I leave in a few hours and am spending the morning packing and making last preparations for my preaching, presiding, and teaching during the week. Exciting stuff but also nervous making with less time to prepare than I would prefer and lots of new people to meet--especially because, in accord with the pioneering status of ordained Catholic women, 95% or more will be men and I am not sure how receptive some may be to the Christian feminist theological/liturgical perspective!
This has me thinking of the special rites of passage in our lives which we participate for ourselves or in which we support and bless others: baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, graduation, funerals, etc. Such important days, so exciting and joyous, but also sometimes anxiety provoking or deeply painful....So, this week, please share five memories of such sacred moments with God and her holy people from your life and the lives of those you love.
1. There are so many ‘thin places’ in my life where God has touched me through my life. I was 25 when I was baptized. I was one of the first ones in the RC church in the 60’s who was baptized and confirmed at the same service at the Easter Vigil in a poor little parish where I was working. I had spent the three days before at a convent in retreat praying the hours with the community and then went to be baptized. It was a powerful experience.
2. Ordinations were blow away experiences—both of them. The priestly orders were crushingly evocative of birthing: the weight of the pressure of all the hands on my shoulders and head to the point that I thought I was going to be forced to my hands and knees, then the prayer of consecration and the lifting of the hands, fresh air, the hands that helped me to my feet. I knew I was a new person, one consecrated to do what it was that God wanted me to do.
3. In 1977 when J. was ordained—one of the first regularly ordained women in the Episcopal Church, I attended her history-making ordination. I was Jan. 6th in a driving snowstorm in the Cathedral in St. Louis. I was still a RC and went with a number of Sisters to the event. I saw the rite make her a priest. I listened to the preacher (who would later be the dean of my seminary) open the scripture and knock down every argument against the ordination of women. I felt as though someone had opened my brain, my heart and my whole meaning to entertain the priesthood for myself. It wouldn’t be until 1983 before I was ordained, but that night God came in the doors of that cathedral and touched me and said, “I want you.”
4. After the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, the gay bishop in the Episcopal Church the fall out was fierce. The neo-conservative dean in my district accused me of being gay (I had been a vowed celibate for 3o years at that point) and I could no longer say no with integrity. I was in a new parish and the homophobia was rife. It was not handled well by either me or my bishop and I lost my parish. Then the bishop refused to allow me to work in the diocese because I defended a colleague whom I had known for years. I couldn’t even substitute in the diocese. So I began to substitute for the Lutherans. One little congregation, after several weeks of me serving there asked me if I would stand for election as their pastor. I asked them to talk to their bishop and their bishop talked to MY bishop and I was elected. That was three years ago. The installation was a wondrous affair. It still reminds me that God will have what God wants. At Lutheran clergy conference a few weeks ago, we renewed our ordination vows and then the bishops present prayed with each of us individually. With tears running down my face I asked the bishop to give thanks to God with me for making me a better Episcopalian. She was a bit puzzled by that but I know more why I am an Episcopalian and what that entails. I am so grateful to my Lutheran congregation and my Lutheran colleagues for helping me become a better priest, a better pastor, a better person. The walls between my Episcopal bishop have begun to come down too. God is good—all the time.
5. This week I have travelled with a friend half-way across the country to do an intervention for a mutual friend who has become addicted to prescription drugs. For the past 3 days she has tried to squirm out of going to rehab. She, like many addicts, had a laundry list of excuses. We finally said that none of them were acceptable. With that, she went to the refrigerator and the pantry and brought back crackers and grape juice. I didn’t really know what she was doing—the feelings were so tense. Then she went to her bedroom and brought back her prayer book and set in front of me. Without another word, I opened the Book of Common Prayer and began the Eucharistic service. We all cried: C. because she was beaten down and knew that she needed God to go through rehab, B. because she has struggled with conflicting images of who God is in her life and me. It was the first time I had celebrated according to the Book of Common Prayer in 3 years. God has been wonderfully present in those liturgical celebrations in my life.