Sunday, 14 June 2015

Reinforcing the Stained Glass Ceiling

I am a member of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive network for women clergy. I discovered this ministry some ten years into my own ordained ministry in the Church. Enduring the isolation of a solo pastorate and being surrounded by male colleagues, I experienced the need to reach out to other women who were juggling the tasks of ministry with all sorts of other roles in life. I immediately found kindred spirits who, quite simply,"got it", women who knew how challenging it is to balance all the different tasks assigned uniquely to women in Ministry. RevGalBlogPals remains a life line for me. I serve on the Board and I participate in their Continuing Ed events. Recently, some of my colleagues have been questioning the gender exclusivity of these events. This is my response:
When I began the process toward ordination over twenty five years ago, I had barely heard of the Stained Glass Ceiling. My denomination had been ordaining women to the ministry of word and sacrament for over twenty years and I had experienced some impressive role models of women in leadership along the way.
After training, experiencing a call to Hospital Chaplaincy rather than Parish Ministry saved me from some of the pain other women colleagues were encountering.when they applied for parishes and were rejected on the basis of gender. And each of my appointments since have been based on reputation and recommendation. Along the way,I have had occasion to challenge discrimination against women as I've encountered it. And, for a time, I was confident that there were cracks appearing in the Stained glass ceiling of the church. But, more recently, as my denomination grapples with issues of inclusion based on sexuality, it seems that, for some, re-establishing the church's historically narrow, male-dominated, conservative leadership is a priority.
Twenty years post ordination, my fear is that the Stained glass ceiling was too fragile for many and so now, it has been reinforced in all sorts of obvious and insidious ways. And, while the most effective way to counter this is for women to keep stepping up, to challenge this denial of God's call that does not discriminate on the basis of either gender or sexuality, when one is often the only woman in a room full of men, or when one's contributions have been mansplained one more time (and once is one time too many), it is wearing to keep going back for more. It calls for certain appendages with which only men are endowed. And, meanwhile, there are other tasks to be accomplished as the body of Christ: feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked... Tasks that, as a woman in Ministry, I find it difficult to subjugate to the fight to be accorded my rightful place at the table as a woman called by God.
Hence my need to indulge in women only events that examine the role we play in an institution that continues to discriminate against us because of an alignment of chromosomes or of body parts over which God presided.
That tinkle of breaking glass? It wasn't the glass ceiling coming down. It was being reinforced.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Accepted as we are


Psalms 69:1-3
Psalm 69
Prayer for Deliverance from Persecution
To the leader: according to Lilies. Of David.
​Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.

Come as you are.
Bring what you have.
Not just  good news.
Not just the praise.
Not just the highs of the day.
But every cry and every want
and every complaint,
even despair.
These too are welcome
in God’s sight.
For God wants all of us,
the parts we reveal
and all that we hide,
the things we can live with 
and the things that we bury.
All of these- shaken, stirred, poured out and laid in plain view 
are not pretty to us
but precious to God.
God is big enough to take all of us
and love us even when we do not love ourselves.
Steadfast God who takes it all.

(A reflection written for Spill the Beans)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Counter Balance



Musing today on how my Facebook news feed is filled with silly statuses.
Probably because I'm involved in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The silliness is a counter balance to the gamut of emotions raised by GA business.
During the course of the first thirty minutes today I was moved to tears by the beauty of worship being signed for deaf participants, wounded by a condescending and patronising message from a colleague, filled with hope and pride listening to Youth Delegates' contributions and flooded with gratitude, love, and joy at being part of this great, flawed, maddening, respected and influential institution composed of living stones.
No wonder I feel compelled to take refuge in some silliness!
Thanking God for the love, inclusion and potential of the Church of Scotland, living stones for the nation and the world.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Hope


This reflection was written for Spill the Beans before I knew that this would be the Sunday after a General Election in the UK but seems pretty apt for the season.

For what do you hope?
For what do you hope?
Is it some future event?
Something that can be planned, researched, engineered or financed?
Like a cure for cancer?
Or a way of regenerating brain cells destroyed in dementia?
Or marvellous DNA repairs for confused chromosomes?
For what do you hope?
Is it some notion that tomorrow will be better?
That the benefits system will serve those in need?
Or that Food Banks will no longer be necessary?
That no one will sleep rough on our streets but that all will know shelter?
For what do you hope?
Is it for signs of world peace?
The dismantling of refugee camps?
The sharing of clean water?
For what do you hope?
The promise of God
for God’s people everywhere
is to know peace in every situation
because we are loved by the God whose name is love
and who, in Christ has already gathered us up in love.
Now that is something for which to hope.
And a hope that will not disappoint.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Welcome to a brand new day...


As the sun rises on another day in Scotland, the day after a General Election in the UK and 70 years since VE Day celebrations, the landscape looks different. It is as yet unclear what that difference is or how it will play out. But, in a country still struggling to re-define itself post Referendum and with so many claiming, I believe falsely, that to vote SNP is to vote for Nationalism, it is certainly a country in turmoil. While democracy has prevailed and people have exercised their democratic right to change the political hue of government, it is unclear whether that voice of protest will in fact change the things we want to see changed.
Will the hungry be fed without the need for Foodbanks?
Will the benefits system provide the safety net it lacks at present?
Will the "never employed generations" be offered a way to meaning and value?
Will austerity be banished?
Post- Referendum, churches were asked to pray for peace and reconciliation.
I believe that, today, that is perhaps even more crucial as this small nation finds its way to show the rest of the UK - and the world- how to "Walk humbly, act justly and love mercy" (Micah 6:8)
And, in working out how to do that, remember all those whose life's work and honest intentions have been swept aside overnight and who are forced to begin today to reassess their place in the future of Scottish and UK Politics.
When victory was declared in Europe, there was much shaking up and shaking down to be negotiated. Hopes were high. But there were also many wounded souls that required just care and compassion.
Seventy years on, my prayer is that we can find a way through the melee, listening to and for the voices that reach for justice and peace. And, above all that we will love one another through all our differences.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Uproot

Uproot
Being pulled up gently
Like a tender sapling
Disturbing the soil
Shaking it loose
Each tendril
claiming its own space
before being replanted lovingly elsewhere
to bloom and to grow 
knowing the nourishment of good soil
and the nurture
of caring and competent hands.
OR
Being ripped out of the earth
Pulled violently
from a place of deep longing
Broken apart
with no way back
Uprooting comes in many ways
For some an every day occurrence
accepted as a part of existence
For others, a fiercely resisted intrusion
that wreaks havoc
And yet uprooting 
always carries the potential
Of life and growth
however it comes to us. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Relinquishing shepherd hood

Ruth Everhart, teaching on Pilgrimage said: "So much of what we do is about shepherding other people's spiritual experiences." And she asked: "What is it you do to reclaim your spiritual authenticity?"(or something along those lines.)
I began to think, firstly, of some of the physical ways I would attempt to remove myself from being in pastor mode. I have a T shirt I love to wear which bears the question: "Ask me if I care?" That serves to remind me that, at this moment, in this setting I am not the pastor. I am not the one called to be the carer. It is a T shirt for time off.
If physically possible, I head to the beach and can usually find a spot with no other human company. Then it's just me and God. The wind and the waves and the beauty of the scenery conspire to renew my energy and to draw me to something other than my bone crushing weariness. My senses are tantalised. I breathe deeply, deeper than I have for some time and, even though this beach pilgrimage is a fairly regular occurrence, I'm always surprised to discover in it, the presence of God. When I move out of God's way, God materialises, sitting alongside me on the beach, walking next to me at the water's edge, blowing around me, messing my hair and placing the tang of salt on my lips. And in those moments I am reminded that God cares for me too. The God I work hard to reveal to others is revealed to me in those sacred moments. That shift in perspective is surely pilgrimage.

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