I haven’t always been Christian.
I was brought up in the United Church of Canada. I think it’s fair to say that, on some level, it didn’t “take”. There are many reasons for this, but a key one is that my relationship with a minister was extremely difficult, and that people close to me also had difficult relationships with him and with other ministers.
That relationship coloured my interactions with the rabbi at the synagogue I attended when I was exploring orthodox Judaism, with a view to conversion. It influenced my impressions of a Unitarian minister who walked alongside me for a while as I struggled to figure out where I needed to be.
Basically, I made a category error. A man in a position of religious leadership had caused me and others pain and fear, and this meant I was unable or unwilling to trust clerics — of any faith. And I wasn’t so great on trusting men, either, especially in positions of authority.
So what am earth am I doing as an organist in the good old C of E, working with a male vicar? What changed? What happened to heal this hurt, at least to the point that I do this work with joy rather than dread?
There are a lot of threads to this, and I can’t untangle them all in one blog post, and won’t try. It’s been an interesting journey and it isn’t done yet. But all the way along, ordained women have been tangled up in it somehow. The first CofE Eucharist I attended, I only went to for the purpose of finding out how it would go so that I could know what to expect when attending the ordination of a friend. My first in person conversation with a CofE priest was with that friend’s training incumbent. I started attending Evensong when I could, and those two women were there, preaching and praying and blessing. I went to some Eucharists there. Things started to shift for me, somehow, imperceptibly.
Other ordained women have been part of this. The cathedral chaplain who helped me find some words for a piece of music; the ones who presided at various Eucharists I’ve been to; the vicar who I’d only met online who invited me to her home so I could work on a piece; the woman who preached “God has use for you” in a way that made it stick in my heart.
It took women in liturgical leadership in the church for me to believe that I had any place in it. It took women I had grown to love presiding at the Eucharist for me to understand that I was invited, too.
With God all things are possible. Maybe I would have found my way into this church, or some other, without the ministry of ordained women. I’m not going to deny that it could have happened. But the stark reality is that I didn’t find God in Christ as presented by men, though many men have also been alongside me on this journey. God found me, Christ came to me, through the priestly ministry of women. It happened this way, not some theoretical way.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for, O my God, it found out me!
If you reject the ordination of women in the Church of England, you also reject my experience of the ministry of ordained women, and the experience of those like me.