Sunday, November 15, 2009

An outward and visible sign

I awoke smiling this morning.

Today we ordain Susan Slaughter to the priesthood and install her as rector of St. Luke's in the Meadow.

This is a joyous but not extraordinary event in most of the Episcopal Church. Here, in the Diocese of Fort Worth, it is historic.

Thirty-three years after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood, our diocese is finally achieving that milestone. It's been a long hard weary road to get this point, and in the midst of my joy, I grieve for those we lost along the way.

There are so many women and men and girls and boys who just left the Episcopal Church, driven away by the negativity of so many of our former leaders. Some joined other denominations, but many if not most simply stopped going to church anywhere. They had found it too spiritually abusive.

We are seeing some come back, tentatively checking to see if things have really changed. I say to them all, yes, things are changing. We're not there yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

I said to some people at our diocesan convention yesterday that one reason this ordination is so important is that it is a outward and visible sign of the inward grace that is blossoming here.

Much of that grace is the result of the clergy who remained with us -- all male of course. These men have worked themselves into exhaustion taking care of displaced parishes. Those clergy in our intact parishes offered themselves and their buildings to the displaced. These priests were joined almost immediately by the Rev. Maurine Lewis, who retired here from the Diocese of Milwaukee. They welcomed her wholeheartedly into their midst, as they have the Rev. Melanie Barbarito, who was hired in August by All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth as parochial associate for evangelism and engagement. She came to Fort Worth from the Diocese of Missouri.

These men have suffered wounds themselves, and one of the most important things Bishop Ted Gulick has done is to care for them pastorally. For some, it was their first experience of a bishop who ministered to them, a bishop who delighted in them instead of seeking to discipline them.

Because there are so few of them, however, the rebirth of this diocese has been accomplished largely by lay people. In saying that, I mean to take nothing away from our clergy. But they themselves acknowledge this fact.

This has been a lay-run resurrection.

Today we all, clergy and laypeople, unite in our joy as we come together as the people of God to ordain Susan, one of our own, a sheep of our flock, to the priesthood. Today, we all embrace joy.

Today, together with Bishops Ted Gulick and Wallis Ohl, we will wrap ourselves in the grace and promise of this moment.

". . . let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

7 comments:

Caminante said...

Knowing you are there... so many blessings, such a great day.

I've tried and tried and tried to get the web streaming to work but alas, even with flip for Mac, I keep getting the install dialogue box so I will just wait for photos.

Prayers however are currently streaming from Vermont to Texas.

Fred Schwartz said...

33 years? Fascinating!

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

It was an AMAZING thing to sit here at my desk and listen to the service across the miles. Rejoice and be glad, indeed!

Southwood said...

Congratulations on this healing event!

EHC said...

Amen and Amen to your comments about Bp. Gulick's pastoral ministry. Grace - how easily it can be taken for granted, and how arid our lives and ministries are when we don't find it, either because we're not in the right place spiritually or it's simply not being given.

Heartfelt prayers for Bp. Ohl and Mtr. Slaughter, and thanksgiving for both their ministries. May God richly bless them and all the people under their care.

Episcopal Evangelism said...

Congratulations and many blessings to he Diocese of Fort Worth on this historic event in your life!!

Muthah+ said...

I was so grateful to be a part of last night's service. I was on the outside of the pack of clergy around her with the laying on of hands, so I had to lay hands on several of the men who have served this diocese for the past 33 years in order to "lay hands on my sister. It was a visceral experience that thrilled me as I never thought possible.

The energy I saw among the laity in the church is like I have not seen anywhere in the Church for some years now. I guess I can say now "I'll be Back!"

Thanks for inviting me, Katie.