Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you
Today I am furious, steaming angry, and I’m afraid those around me are bearing the brunt. I know what I’m doing, I’m deflecting the anger and de -valuation I feel after the vote on Tuesday, I’m blaming other people, I’m just bloody angry and today its blinding me to the good that’s around and the people who care.
Today I am also sad, sadder than I was on Wednesday, when I felt numb and shocked and also defiant, as if putting my collar on and going out & being a priest with boobs was about the most two finger sticky up thing I could do. Which is good, cos that’s what I’m called to do. ( not the two fingers thing, the priest thing!)
I went and led 6 year olds in worship, and encouraged them to keep on keeping on for the things they believe in, the things they can do ( and yes that was on the terms plan for worship) Those 6 year olds don’t give a stuff about my chromosomes, they’re not fussed if I wear a skirt or trousers, they love me and they share their lives with me and let me in to bring God into those lives -that’s being a priest.
I stood behind an altar, I prayed, I prayed for wounded broken people, here, in Gaza, wherever they might be, and I preached, not knowing what was going to come out of my mouth because I hadn’t prepared anything, and I spoke about how we can see our God, who was, and is and is to come, who sees us and holds us and all eternity in his hands, and that because of this we can trust that “All will be well and all manner of things shall be well”
and then I broke bread, and remembered why any of us are here at all, and how being broken is a prerequisite for service. Cracked vessels, so God can get in, and out.
and boy, did I feel broken.
Wednesday was also my Mother in Laws (4) Years Mind, and a reflected on the process of grief and bereavement, the shock, the numb floating feeling, almost cocooned. The anger, the wrenching sadness and tears that come unbidden, provoked by the slightest thing.
I was in London on Tuesday, I sat in the gallery and heard the verdict. Shocked but unsurprised. All through the debate it was impossible to tell, but the conservative evangelical arguments banged nails and stones into us as we sat listening. Time and again we were being told, you can’t be used like this, God only calls men to priesthood, let alone episcopacy, what we heard was, you’re in the wrong place, stop aping men, leadership is not yours. The argument that we’re the same but different, equal but with different roles to play fell dull and heavy on our ears, if only there was something men weren’t allowed to do in the church it might not sound as empty.
apparently enormous numbers of young men will be put off ministry if we allow female bishops. They said that in 1992 and I haven’t seen a let up in them coming to offer their lives to a church they already KNOW has no theological objection to leadership being female…
and afterwards, a solemn shocked gathering of like-minded people, from Curates to Canons, and a few Bishops too, men and women alike, sharing tears and wine, prayer and comfort. Such a sense of oneness in grief, and right in that place the anger the sadness, the doubt and the determination to go on, to fight on.
I seriously doubt there is now “something better” in terms of provision for those who disagree, after over 10 years of discussion, how likely is that, and what anyway would satisfy when the real issue for many Conservative Evangelicals is women in leadership full stop?
I’ve been so grateful for so many people in all of this, knowing we don’t stand or cry alone, knowing that there are women like me who are questioning and doubting, considering leaving, determined to stay, flying the flag and hunkering down and getting on quietly -often all at the same time.
Grateful too for the men, those who fully support our priesthood and potential episcopacy, those who almost wish they were women so they could properly understand our pain (if that’s not an incarnational notion I don’t know what is..!) Those who are finding their voice, realising that they’ve been too quiet for too long.
For this is not a gender issue. This is a theological issue. Its an issue about men and women, working better alongside, equal. Its an issue about health, of ourselves, our church and our nation. It’s an issue of priesthood -together male & female we represent the full image of God, not half missing, not falsely hierarchical, but side by side, walking together each step of the way.
I’m grateful too for those who don’t agree with me, those prepared to talk, and to give me listening opportunities, bruising though it was I learnt a lot on Tuesday, not the well rehearsed party lines, but the heartfelt convictions, and the pain that crosses all the boundaries. We will carry on listening, and sometimes people will say the wrong thing, deliberately, inadvertently, but carrying all this and bringing it to God, thats’ being a priest too.
So today I feel sad, and angry, today I’ve considered my resignation and my future plans in the church. I’ve been despairing and hopeful, Today I’ve cried and shouted, and finally I’ve written this!
There’s no one way to deal with grief
There’s no one pathway through it,
but broken glass reflects light differently, it makes rainbows.
Gather everything that happens, trivialities included, without reservation, regret or nostalgia, in inexhaustible wonder. Set out, going forward one step at a time, from doubt toward faith, not worrying about the impossible ahead. Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you. Br Roger of Taize