It has been a month since graduation from divinity school. In this time of post-school life and by way of introductory WIT post, I find myself wanting to express gratitude for what has been a liberative formation experience.
I have spent the last three years in a place where it is normal for women to preach and preside. For Catholics this is far from a given. It was in this context that my own call could rise up from where it was buried under prohibitions.
Here, we were all expected to take preaching courses and to fully engage in field education settings where we develop the ministerial arts of pastoral care and worship leadership. I was mentored by women clergy: a Methodist Pastor of a large downtown church who showed me what vulnerability from a position of power looks like; a Baptist prison chaplain who taught me to pray out loud in public and to preach toward the altar call.
Here, I was surrounded by peers who were stepping into their call: navigating with grace and faith and ferocity what it means for them to stand in a pulpit and lead a congregation. Together we have unfolded as we had our notions of Jesus, sex, the church, preaching, redemption shattered and gathered up again into mosaics that we make in our living. We curled up with chocolate to fight off dementors, then stood up to sing words our spirits long to hear. Together we talked politics and liberation and trauma and racism. We healed and were healing. We invited forward more courageous parts of one another, more honest and humble to our blind spots.
In spite of this norming-women-in-the-pulpit context, I lived with the delusion that I could make it through the three years without having to face down my own call. I didn’t know how deep the voice telling me “no” went until I finally let myself entertain a “yes.”
The internal dialogue usually went (and still goes) something like this:
You must have heard it wrong. Must be arrogant. It is not for you. Why can’t you be satisfied with all the space opened up for you to be equal with men out in the world –you are already so privileged, with your education and advanced degree. Why do you want to have it all? Holy orders – it’s not for you, just like motherhood is not for men.
Most days I feel like a fish caught in the Jesus net and that the Petrine institution throws back into the sea: found wanting. Lacking in the right (biological) stuff and found excessive in the wrong (biological) stuff. My own intellectual prowess can feel weary from the arguments of essence and femininity and motherhood and virginity and who can/cannot stand in persona Christi.
I only want to follow where the Lord appears to be leading.
What I can see now, is that there is no going back.
The call to preach is not some fleeting desire: it is where I meet God most clearly. Not because I think I have something more profound to say than male counterparts, but because I find life in the Spirit as I exegete and prepare a sermon. Not because I think I would be less prone to abuse power if I were a parish priest, but I feel called to stand at the altar as a vessel proclaiming: this is my body, take and eat. I feel called to represent Christ at the moments of entry and exit and milestone in the Christian life: to baptize, to marry, to anoint, to bury.
The witnesses within this protestant institution have given me permission to hear the Word of the Lord speaking to me. Men and women have believed in my voice and recognized my call. Their words of affirmation and challenge bespeak Christ’s own presence proclaiming: I have called you to preach my Word, to feed my sheep, to love me and to follow me.
For their witness and their welcome I say: thank you.
As I enter life after seminary and discern my next steps in ministry I hope to find sisters and brothers within the Catholic folds who can also be transformed by the witness of fellow Protestant members in the One Body.