The issues around terminating a pregnancy are complex and personal. It's an example of our polarization that two camps have formed instead of the several that would express the varieties of perspectives most of us have.
Our congregation has differences of opinion on this issue. I was dismayed to hear from one of our members that she felt diminished by the comments of others who held a different position on this issue. I encourage all of us to share our perspectives candidly and humbly. "Don't ask, don't tell" is a pathetic tool for healthy community. We can do better. We can speak our truth with love and respect. Being one in Christ is not having a hive mind. Thanks be to God! The Gospel hope is that God loves us all - regardless of our positions on social issue. And in relationship, we grow and change according to God's plan, not anyone's personal agenda.
I'm sharing my perspective on abortion through a concise message from a colleague, the Reverend Kurt Stancil. He and his wife pastor Wayman AME Church on Kingshighway. If I could express my personal position more clearly than him, I would. But I'll spare you and let his words speak on my behalf.
I'm not trying to sway or change anyone's mind but to offer my perspective and invite you to engage with yours. If you would like to comment, please do. Let's create a safe space for dialogue and learning from one another.
-- Pastor Rebecca
A door closes...
In mid October, while in Yonkers, New York, I toured a beautiful Episcopal Church called St. John's Yonkers. The congregation was founded in 1693. Their sanctuary seats 600. Unfortunately, their average Sunday attendance has dropped to around 50. Brace yourself; their property insurance is $80,000 a year!
While I was talking with their Rector, Bishop Deon called. He told me the 6300 Minnesota property has significant repair issues and substantial insurance premiums. He clarified that purchasing the property would be catastrophic for our community. It was God's perfect timing to receive that call in a church that anticipates closing in a few years due to a similar problem.
In this discernment process, two things have come to the fore that hadn't been visible before (at least to me).
1. Parking is a critical issue for us. We need more of it if we are to continue to be vital.
2. We could plant churches in South County as we continue to grow.
These are essential and exciting considerations. I suspect you could name others.
So, now, we move into a new phase of discernment. The Bishop's realtor will look around Carondelet to see if other properties might better meet our needs.
It's a stretch to keep ourselves open to that, but God has a plan, and it's so good for us to surrender to new ideas, even when they don't lead to anything. Surrender is a spiritual practice of the highest order!
I join you in continuing to pray for our community. May we see our property with fresh eyes, open to new possibilities wherever God calls us.
-- Pastor Rebecca
Women at the Altar
Does it startle you to see the busts of three women sitting on top of the altar?
The three women were martyrs whose skulls were encased in wooden representations. The whole scene is displayed in a room at The Cloisters, a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
When I saw this, I was captivated by the power, serenity, and presence the three busts added to the altar. They seemed right at home above the coat of arms, and the stories behind them depicting the life of a saint. For me, the three women dominated the space and left me with a question: Is this okay?
Is it okay for these busts of women to be on the altar? What’s allowed? For that matter, who is allowed? I could easily imagine disgruntled museum patrons complaining that “The only things that should be placed on an altar are the sacraments and all such utensils as support the celebration of the Eucharist.”
Were these busts profaning that? These women had literally given their lives for their faith. They had laid themselves on the altar. And now their bones rest on one.
For half of my life, I believed women shouldn't be ordained. It took a spiritual transformation, literally a vision, for me to begin to change. I learned that it was the inward leanings of my heart and personality that enabled me to fulfill this vocation. My gender is both an asset and a liability; like most of our particulars!
Jesus used a little child to teach us who was most important. He took a little child, stood him by his side and said, 'Whoever welcomes this child in my name, welcomes me. For whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.' Luke 9:46 – 48.
This phrase, the least will be greatest, subverts the privileging of gender, class, race, or merit and makes us all equal before God. We are all called to be servants of one another. Not greater or lesser. Mutual love, and honor mark us as Christ’s own.
I wonder how long it will take before Christians of all ddenominations move past the patriarchy and realize that the Christ-like qualities of any leader are what matters. In the meantime, I'm so glad to be able to fulfill my call as your Rector.
Is it joyful to see your female clergy at the altar? God has emphatically said yes. Yes to our life together. Yes to our ministry in this place. Thanks be to God, that we are all included. No exceptions. That's A-OK!
-- Pastor Rebecca
Most of the blog articles are written by our Rector, The Rev. Rebecca Ragland