We Need Each Other

After the credits rolled and the lights came up again, a conversation erupted in the old theatre about change in the church. It happened last night after a screening of God’s Daughters: Knocking on Heaven’s Doors which tells the story of two Roman Catholic Women Priests who serve the Holy Wisdom congregation in my community.

From a NPR story on Roman Catholic Women Priests.

After the movie, people wanted to talk. They wanted to ask about why anyone would stay in a tradition that doesn’t affirm their leadership. They wanted to talk about power without ever really naming it as power. Question after question struggled with authority and tradition.

And I sat in the balcony audibly sighing.

I couldn’t help it.

I mean, I know better. I know that I’m a public figure and I can model a way of engaging in conversation and that I really should be supportive of my colleagues. But, I was really frustrated. Because I’m an ordained woman. Because the film was a snapshot of my life. To the point that the filmmaker even introduced the film by saying: “This isn’t just about women that are priests. This is a film about how they live their lives.” And this is how I live my life too. I take communion to folks who can’t attend worship. I lead worship. I share in intimate worship with colleagues and have a life that is beyond the community that I serve or even the work God has called me to do. And it’s really weird to see your life on the silver screen.

But, even so, I was frustrated. Because even though it was my life on that screen, it didn’t feel like an affirmation — not in the way that I might have hoped. Because the conversation never mentioned the broader Christian tradition that is always reformed and reforming so that women have been ordained. Oh, I know. They had to focus. It is the Roman Catholic Church that needs the reform. Yes, but we need each other. Women are serving the church in many, many, many traditions — and we need each other.

Because we still find ourselves in a male-dominated institution. Even in the United Church of Christ where over one-third (35.6%) of all solo / senior pastors are female, the boys still have the power. They still have the authority. And so, we need each other. We can’t create change in any system without seeking allies and building a broader community. We need each other.

We need to remind each other why we are called to this work. We must not hesitate to tell that story even in the Pacific Northwest where it’s not popular (or even advisable) to talk about faith. We need to reclaim our voices so that we stop saying things like “a celibate, unmarried man has no understanding of my life” so that we can instead focus on the affirmations. Because it’s not about what we look like. Or even what our body parts are. The power of ministry is that we are called as we are. God calls us and we dare to say yes. But, that’s terrifying so we can’t do it alone. We need each other to help tell the story, to find support and to encourage our faith hearts. We need each other so very much.

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