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
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Most of the blog articles are written by our Rector, The Rev. Rebecca Ragland