Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disciplined hope for the Church

It was 20 years ago today...that my youngest son was teething, restless and miserable. 
Most of the normal soothing routines had failed to have an impact so we resorted to switching on our ancient black and white t.v. It was scarcely dynamic entertainment but perhaps the combination of other voices and the somewhat unreliable picture would divert him for a while. It was mid afternoon, I think - I was trying to do the ironing, the other children were hanging about the playroom...and suddenly everything stopped for me.

As we watched, history was being made and we found ourselves sharing in the ordination service from Bristol Cathedral. 32 women, called by God and finally, finally ordained to the work and office of a priest in His Church.
I was just beginning my Reader training and had no thought that this calling might be mine as well - but as I watched I found myself crying, without any idea of why.
Always enthusiastic hymn-singers, the older children joined me in boosting the Cathedral congregation.
My husband came in, and he too stopped in his tracks.
We looked at one another and at our baby son, happy in his bouncy chair now things were going on around him
"Isn't it wonderful" I said "that he will grow up in a Church that places no distinction between women and men, that honours all callings equally. He'll never know about the barriers that kept women from living out their vocations. All that has gone for good"

I wish that were true.
I wish that the Church in which I work today had reached the point where women and men could offer themselves as they are, in all their rich variety - with all their gifts, vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams and longings - and know that they were welcome. 
I long for the Church would be no more exclusive than is the God whose love that Church exists to share...but in the meantime, I'm thankful for those who worked and prayed and pushed and prayed and wept and prayed so that when I finally removed the fingers that I had kept steadfastly in my ears, I could walk straight through the door that they had opened. 
And I'm going to keep on dreaming.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s laughing
as she rocks in her rapture, enjoying her art;
she’s glad of her world, in its risking and growing;
‘tis the child she has born and holds close to her heart.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s weeping
as she crouches, wedged down by the sorrow she sees:
she cries for the hostile, the cold and no-hoping,
for she bears in herself our despair and dis-ease.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s dancing
as she moves like the wind and the wave and the fire:
a church that can pick up its skirts, pirouetting,
with the steps that can signal God’s deepest desire.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s loving
as she bends to embrace the unlovely and lost,
a church that can free, by its sharing and daring,
the imprisoned and poor, and then shoulder the cost.

God, make us a church that joins in with your living,
as you cherish and challenge, rein in and release,
a church that is winsome, impassioned, inspiring;
lioness for your justice and lamb of your peace.

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