Monday, November 16, 2009
Thoughts on being priest/pastor
I attended the ordination of the first woman priest in the Diocese of Ft. Worth, TX. For as long as I have been a part of the Episcopal Church, that diocese has said that women were unworthy to serve the people of God. I remember hearing one of the bishops saying that “For me to lay my hands on a woman would be no different than my laying hands on a cow, she still wouldn’t be a priest.” Thanks be to God, those bishops have left the Episcopal Church. They have set their ideas totally in the past, not on what is new that the Holy Spirit is doing in the Church and throughout the world.
When I was ordained in 1983, I knew I was doing something that most could not yet understand. I remember a layman on the interviewing committee of my first call fussing about having to interview a woman because “no woman was going to be HIS priest.” In the interview he did a 180 degree change and became one of my greatest supporters. It wasn’t so hard to have a woman at the altar they began to agree, it was more important to have the “right” person at the altar.
All too often we don’t get who we want when we call a new pastor or rector to the congregation we attend. We want someone who will be OUR pastor, OUR priest, OUR minister. No one cleric can fulfill that role and no one cleric SHOULD try to fulfill that role. The only thing that a cleric can do is be faithful to the God as he/she knows and share that fidelity with others. There can be no ownership of clergy by either the laity or the bishop. There can only be the invitation to share the life of Christ with one another.
Each day it is incumbent upon me to remain faithful—to serve as Christ would have me. Sometimes I don’t do it very well but that is my prayer each morning and my confession each night. Sometimes I can fulfill some folks expectations and sometimes I don’t even come close. And then there are the days that I don’t even fulfill MY expectations, but that is always the plan for the journey.
As I share this ministry with others I listen to so many who are discouraged by the loss of membership and the shifting understanding of the meaning of Church. Some who are close to retirement or who are in retirement mourn the loss of status they once had. They grumble about expectations of the faithful or the passivity of the laity. And yet it is often the clergy who have initiated that passivity by taking over or micromanaging things. It is tempting to catch this malaise of clerical attitude. But for some reason I can’t. Yes, the Church universal is taking a beating at the moment. Mostly because we (clergy and lay) have become passive rather that taking responsibility for the faith we have been invited to share. But God is still present in the world and in our Church. Watching a fellow sister become ordained in a place where it has been verboten for years was thrilling. It says that God is working; God is still raising up those who will share the message and God will raise us up to do the work God has given us to do. Halleluia!