- the way the old boys called her out to protect their friend and colleague,
- the racist history of the nominee she opposed,
- the fact that they silenced her while she read a letter by the late Coretta Scott King.
Yet nothing about it frustrated me more than looking at the list of the senators who voted to silence her by a count of 49-43. The senator we used to call “moderate” and “reasonable,” “centrist” and a great representative of my former home state of Maine, was on that list of 49. Susan Collins was not the only woman to vote to silence her colleague, but it was her name that lit my fuse. If women won’t let women do their work, what chance do we have of getting men to let us do it?
You see, it was not too long ago that a female colleague silenced me by hijacking the end of a meeting.
The circumstances were less public, but the assumption that a different voice should take priority was identical. Surprised, I did not try to get the attention of the gathering again. Cable news was not waiting for me outside the Senate chamber, as was the case for Senator Warren, but friends expressed their annoyance at what had transpired. I later learned that she doubted my capacity to lead the group simply because I did not match her assumptions about leaders. I was not tall, or loud, or strong.
It’s true that I am neither loud nor tall.
It’s also true that it’s not the first time that while leading this ministry, designed to offer resources and community for women in ministry, I have been undercut by a female colleague who made a remark about my height or my voice. I expect that kind of nonsense from men; a (tall) male colleague once joked that I should stand on a chair to be seen in a room full of pastors at a denominational meeting. Did he intend to undercut what I planned to say, or was he just horsing around? It didn’t matter. In that case I had a reputation, and others listened. In this more recent case, I must admit, I had to ponder the meaning of what I had been told. Why do women apply a standard to each other drawn from a masculine model for leadership, a model of height and volume as the measure of power and strength?
Sisters, we need to do better.
In a season when the world is in turmoil, and the church has struggles of its own, we have important work to do on behalf of Jesus Christ. We need to encourage, embolden, and inspire one another.
If I could, I would declare these our squad goals:
- to elicit leadership that is not modeled on the tropes of white, straight, cis patriarchy;
- to kindle more networks that highlight the effective and faithful work of women;
- to exhibit respect for voices and accents that may not sound like ours; for energy that may not be on the same wavelength as ours; for strength that may derive from patience, intellect, warmth, and perhaps particularly persistence.
I continue to ponder the negating description offered to me. Although an intended compliment followed on the opening salvo, it never had a chance of landing. You don’t lift a sister up by putting her down first.
And you might miss something important if you impose the power of your voice, or your vote, to end the conversation.
(Originally posted at RevGalBlogPals – The Pastoral is Political: Squad Goals)
I’m in the strange-for-me position of being out of the pulpit for the foreseeable future, and at least for now, I am attending my wife’s church as a worshipper.
Yesterday, in the first session of a wonderful and thoughtful Sunday School on Peace, Reconciliation, and Forgiveness that includes all ages from 6th grade to Senior citizens, we were asked to share in small groups the names of people we thought of as truly good. I was proud of The Boy when he named Martin Luther King, Jr., then saddened to hear a trusted adult respond, “He was good, but he was not perfect.”
Now, this was going to be the further point of the discussion – we are all in need of God’s grace, as the Presbyterian Confession of 1967 was used to illustrate – but I felt frustrated that an adult would administer that kind of corrective to the one student in our group. No one questioned any other suggestions.
When the full class shared answers, The Boy whispered to me, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it.” My heart hurt.
No, son, you were not wrong.
We went on to read portions of the Letter From Birmingham Jail as the Confession and the Statement of Faith, alongside a text from Luke reminding us that the hometown crowd tried to throw Jesus off a cliff.
Thus it has ever been with prophets, even the 6th-graders.
Spirit of God,
You move like the wind,
But we are not looking for you
when our noses are bent toward
small screens and large,
when our eyes cross
and vision fades
after hours of studying
held in our hands.
We know this, but it was a shock
when the 11-year-old said,
“Hey, maybe we could all
take a break from electronics!”
Hmmm. People might need us for something.
Suppose there is an actual emergency?
How can we arrange this?
Phones in a basket on the counter?
(We know the difference between
the ringer and a Facebook chime,
a tweet, a Bleacher Report update.)
After church, said the clergy parents.
After church, until Monday morning.
Today, may we find peace
in some Sabbath hours
going for a walk,
looking each other
in the eye,
looking for You.
The two preachers at my house have a disagreement in principle about church attendance. Oh, we’re both for it under ordinary circumstances! We grew up in families where everybody went to church. We loved Sunday School and Youth Group and special choirs. Really, seriously, most of the time we are eager to get up and go on a Sunday morning, to lead worship in our respective congregations.
But on vacation? There we disagree. I love to visit other churches on vacation. My spouse does not. And she may have a point. Church is our workplace, and maybe the occasional Sabbath spent on a beach or walking in the woods is a good thing. (Although we spent the last joint Sunday off on the road returning from vacation.)
Perhaps when I visit other churches I do it with the keen, appraising eye of a professional, taking notes for my own worship leadership. In fact, I’ve been guilty of preaching at one church while taking vacation from another, a kind of busman’s holiday.
Why do you go to church?
Some do it out of obligation, and others to see their friends. Some do it because they always have; it’s a habit. Some do it out of fear they will end up on God’s bad side. I’ve heard people say they went to church every week when they were younger because in the day of the Blue Laws, there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. I find I wonder this about the people who come and listen to me on Sundays, particularly when they look unenthused about the experience. Believe me, I bring that home to ponder.
Why *do* you go to church?
In October we heard the Ten Commandments in worship and received the reminder to keep the Sabbath holy. Christians worship on Sunday to mark the Resurrection. It’s our less elaborate adaptation of the Jewish Sabbath. Most people feel no cultural pressure to attend, and some have no experience with church, and others have made other choices for legitimate reasons of their own including past hurts.
Why do you go to church?
In February I visited my childhood church in Virginia, where, yes, I preached on a vacation Sunday. It’s the place I first heard the words “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1, King James Version) And I think that’s the reason I keep going to church on Sundays, the reason I responded to God’s call to local church ministry: I go because I am glad, week in and week out, to go into the house of the Lord.
Why do *you* go to church? I would love to know.
Holy, holy, holy God,
In that moment when
I can’t find the liturgy
I know I wrote
at the office,
but for some reason
it’s not on Dropbox,
grant me the peace of mind
needed to dress and get to church
and find that I saved it
to a local folder.
Please, oh, please, may it be so.
A pastor’s work is lonely,
full of stories
we cannot tell
and deeply heavy burdens
placed with trust upon us
composed of true stories
and imagined wrongs
and incalculable bad fortune
and actual evildoing.
The telling honors us.
The hearing weighs us down.
I thank you, God,
for friends who know it’s holy
to carry things together,
for friends who know the difference
between weakness and exhaustion,
They make us
these friends who walk beside us,
who answer questions,
and offer challenges,
yet know the time
to just show love.
When we are tempted
to manage it all alone,
remind us that Jesus
sent his friends out in pairs,
each friend with another,
not alone to face the world.
Friends make each other better.
Help us to find those friends.
Help us to be those friends.
We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
A prayer offered with thanks to God for all the friends who have come into my life through the community of RevGalBlogPals over the past ten years, on the occasion of the organization’s tenth anniversary.