Here’s this week’s prompt: What’s the most surprising connection you’ve made through RevGalBlogPals? Or the most surprising or helpful thing you’ve learned/experienced through this galship of friends?
Well, the first one’s almost too easy, but you didn’t come here for a romantic comedy. So I will take on the second.
Lots of people think that religious groups divide on such hard lines that there are some differences you just can’t overcome and work together. When we started RevGalBlogPals, there were some early discussions about requirements for membership,* and we determined that the only thing that really mattered was being supportive of women in ordained ministry. That opened the door to include laywomen, men (some ordained, some married to pastors) and Catholic sisters or women discerning a call to become nuns. We didn’t set rules about age of baptism or frequency of communion or height or depth of Christology or any of the things that frequently divide us. We didn’t ask for a particular political party or nationality or family background or favorite baseball team. We didn’t fight if our denominations had vastly different points of view on hot topics like the ordination of LGBT people. We accepted that we would not agree on everything, but to be clear, that is not the same thing as flouncing off after agreeing to disagree.
We stuck with that, even though sometimes it’s very hard to keep talking (or typing) to people who disagree on something that matters to you a lot. I’ve been monitoring our blog comments for almost eight years now, with only a few short breaks, and it is amazing how we’ve been able to come back to being the community even when the edges got temporarily sharp. It’s not perfect. There have been conflicts. I’ve been hurt by some of them, and I know others have, too. When I’m wearing the Moderator’s hat, I’ll sometimes say, “It’s okay to disagree here. We’re going to learn something from each other, from hearing about the different things we think and the different ways we do things.” We’re not a church, but like a church, we’re a community of flawed people who believe in forgiveness, because the One we serve promised it.
And here’s what’s helpful to me, and hopeful, too. I think if we can assert that women’s call to ministry on behalf of Jesus Christ is a universal (for us), maybe there’s a hope other varied groups of people can do the same, too, around other important ideas. Just start with something basic and essential. Build from there. Let people say what they think, respectfully and with as good a humor as possible. Let people go when they don’t like that approach. Never forget the basic purpose. For us that was building a supportive community for women in ordained ministry, both on the web and in person. One thing that hasn’t changed is we still need it.
*Mostly because it was omigosh inconvenient to teach a person how to install html on a blog only to have them stop blogging five days later, after which everyone in the group, which was smaller then, would email yours truly saying “that blog is gone!”