Sunday, December 06, 2009

Look this way!”

My good friend Bruce Coggin has done it again, preached a sermon that knocked the socks off some folks who are pretty picky about their sermons. So I'm sharing it with you. Enjoy.

A Sermon preached at St. Simon’s Church, Fort Worth, Texas, on Advent II 2009

As I don’t doubt you’ve been reminded a dozen times, each Advent the Church takes up anew her centuries-old task of telling the story of her Savior in her life of prayer, the year-long sequence of feast and fast between Advent I each year and Christ the King the next. I’ve heard it said that the first great feast of that cycle is Christmas, and sure enough the church’s canons say Episcopalians must celebrate the birth of Jesus or lose their “good standing” status. The canons don’t give us much advice on checking that all out, of course, but in any case Christmas is the first big milestone on the path of liturgical prayer each year.

Let’s not, however, forget Advent and its messages, something really easy to do when you live where people put up Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving and plunge like lemmings into the annual orgy of belligerent acquisition that has become the way far too much of the world takes notice of the birth of that Jesus fellow. Advent reminds of the world without Jesus, before Jesus, no Jesus. Percolate that thought a little while. And in that realm we run into the figure who straddles the abyss between life without a savior and life with one: John the Baptist. Used to be, the Prayer Book gave us John the Baptist on Advent II and the Blessed Virgin on Advent III. But since They Changed Everything, we get the crusty, pungent fellow to deal with not just one Sunday but two. In a row. The Virgin can wait her turn!

Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice

If we can believe Luke, Jesus and John were cousins, close cousins though whether first or second or third-down-from-the-longest-and-strongest double half cousins twice removed can’t be established. John’s the babe that leapt in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when her youthful—and pregnant—kinswoman Mary came to visit her in the hill country—cooler, you see? John’s birth was not quite the bash Jesus’ turned out to be, but his Old Pap Zechariah did brast forth with a hymn of thanksgiving for the boy’s birth that enriches our prayer life today as the beloved canticle Benedictus Dominus Deus (Luke 1:68-79).

By the time we run onto John again, he’s about thirty and making a world of trouble, gone into the freelance propheting business—Israel’s always worked alive with them—running around just outside the city limits, gathering crowds, and telling them: “Hey! HEY!! Looka here! Thissaway! Turn around. Repent. Come be baptized to show your sins are forgiven. And look out, because the Kingdom of God is just blowin’ in all over the place!” Well, that’s what he said. Look it up. And he was not socially acceptable. I mean, he ate bugs and wore animal skins. My friend Owanah and I were looking at paintings of him, and about one she asked, “What’s that little critter he’s feeding?” I had to say, “He ain’t feedin’ it. He’s wearin’ it.” That’s the fellow who gets to be the first one to show Jesus to the rest of the world. God’s thoughts are not ours.

A couple of things before we go any farther. The way we use the word repent it means feeling very sorry for something you just got caught doing. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as it goes, but that’s only a minor subset of what the word actually means. The Aramaic word shuv that John used means turn smooth around and go the other way. Look the other way. The other way. Another way. John was asking people to forget all the superstructure of their religion, all the gesture and rite, all the sin counting, all the hope that God would soon ride in on a tall, mean horse and vindicate them. “Forget all about that,” he said. “Shuv! Turn around. Look the other way. Look this way!”

Second, some folks think John’s the one who invented baptism, which is not even nearly so. The Greek word we get baptism from just means washing, and the Jews were big on washing up before they went to church. Remember: ours is a desert born religion, and they don’t have lotsa water in the desert. The act of washing, part of the old holiness code, was in its origins very expensive, using up some of the rarest and most precious stuff they had, a real sacrifice. By the time John comes along, of course, the Jerusalem religious establishment has all the water it needs, but they were still big on washing, baptism. Solomon had a vast basin of water, a kind of Holy Cistern, installed in the temple precincts to get the smelly masses scrubbed up. John didn’t invent baptism, but he did use baptism as a sign of the forgiveness of sins. That was new.

Now, we customarily say John was the last of the Jewish prophets, though our Jewish and Muslim confreres don’t agree. Today you heard readings from two other Old Testament prophets, one from Baruch, another from Isaiah quoted by John, and both those messages were about return and restoration, the children of Israel coming home from somewhere, coming back to Jerusalem, and so magnificent is that homecoming that the hills fall down flat so God’s Israel can just stroll home on level ground. No rough places. Smooth sailing all the way. Now, the fact is that both Baruch and Isaiah were talking about something quite specific: after decades of captivity in Babylon, the descendants of the first captives were coming back to Jerusalem. The King of Persia was paying their way home on first class tickets, and when they got there they had permission to rebuild their temple and go right back to the religion his royal predecessors had tried to blot from the face of the earth. And so the prophets at the time, watching and waiting and wondering, burst forth in exultant hymns of rejoicing and triumph. We’re going home! And when we get home, we’re going to rebuild the church house and start praying, and then everything will be just hunky dory. Since they were, in their opinion, the only people on the planet God cared about, they’d soon show the world How These Things Are Done!

Of course, that didn’t happen. Things went from bad to worse. First this, then that, then the next invader conquered Palestine—Egyptians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans. Take a number. By the time John shows up four centuries later, their religion has descended into a murky guilt management system which promised them that wunna these days, by golly, God’s gonna take a hand and kick out all our oppressors and then we’ll show ‘em How These Things Are Done. No progress.

Now, if things were so bad off when John gets the preaching bug, what on earth was he talking about? What specific incident prompted him to stand up and say, “Looka here! Your sins are forgiven. The Kingdom of Heaven is bustin’ out all over!” His predecessor prophets had the Persian king’s amnesty to fuel their hope, but what on earth was John looking at? What drove him nutty, so nutty he risked his life with a bunch of foolishness about the Kingdom of God? It’s for sure nothing was happening in history that could have encouraged him. The only conclusion I can draw is he was looking at the same thing you and I have been looking at for some time now: Jesus. I mean, the minute he got people looking his way and splashing in the Jordan and hoping for the Kingdom, the first thing he did was point away from himself and point at Jesus: “There he is. He’s the one. That’s the lamb of God. Listen to him.” For the life of me, I can’t imagine anything else that prompted him but Jesus—and I mean Jesus first-hand.

When I try to figure out John’s motivation, I can’t help recalling the cousins story. I mean, John had to know Jesus, had to know everything you and I know about Jesus and just a whole lot more. He had to know that Jesus was really really different, really really onto something that would change history, would surely change the way people think and pray and live about and with God. All the sweetness and meekness and kindness and irresistible love, to say nothing of the Stand Up Guy Jesus who took on the most powerful people in his world without hesitation, John had to know about, had been drawn to, had talked and prayed and argued with. That’s what young people do, especially earnest young people working out the way they live with God. And years of such spiritual ‘rassling with Jesus had convinced John that . . . well . . . what he said: “There he is. Jesus. He’s the one. Listen to him.”

So, what do you guess it was John saw in Jesus that turned him around. What do you see in Jesus that keeps you turned around? A lot the same things, I figure, though I also figure that Jesus has shown each of you things about himself he hasn’t shown anybody else. I mean, that’s the way God counts, isn’t it? One. One. One. One. Each of us has seen things in Jesus that turned us around, keep us turned around, and those things must be pretty special. What do you suppose?

It’s not as if the world knew nothing about God before Jesus or as if God somehow pupated into something new that Jesus came to announce. It’s not God that needed changing. The Jews knew a lot about God, in fact. Among other things they knew God is the source of life, powerful beyond conceiving, righteous—which means, in the struggle between what we call good and evil (a far more complicated matter than right and wrong, since those change) God’s on the side of good—and that God’s on the prowl, immanent, busy among us, cares about us. The Jews knew all that. And that’s a lot. What did Jesus add to that for John? For you?

I think Jesus sorta kinda re-draws the picture of God and does that just by being himself, who he is. We believe Jesus is God incarnate, that God loves us so much that he became one of us—which is scandalous to many—and that when we look at Jesus we see God whole, all of God. And who, what is God? God is love. That’s a word that’ll slip out from under ya if you’re not careful, but let’s specify at least one critical aspect of God’s being that Jesus announced, lived, was: self-sacrificing love, self-denying love, self-abnegating love. You first love. Me last love. The kind that even the Baptist embodied when he said of his cuz, “That’s the one. I’m nobody. I will vanish. He’s first. I’m not worth taking his dirty shoes out to clean.” The kind of love that in simple terms says “You first” in a busy store and says, “Here, y’all kill me and leave them alone” in more challenging moments. Now, that was new. Isaiah talked of the Suffering Servant; Jesus was that love. That’s one.

Another, I reckon, was the revelation that the way God wants us to serve him is not chopping up livestock on an altar but rather going to the little, the lonely, the lost, the least of “these my brethren,” and giving them the shirts off our backs. Literally. That’s new. Amos warned about mistreating the helpless; Jesus was one of them, lived with them, sought their company.

And another. With the baptism John preached, Jesus shows us that God is not mad at us, indeed that God loves us so much that he’s somehow overcome, forgiven, all the weakness and foolishness and wickedness and sloth we slosh around in most of the time. John’s baptism was not a trick, not something to do so God would do something else. Baptism, Christian baptism, is not the way we elicit a Pavlovian response from God: “Okay, God? Watchin? We’ve got one, right here, about to dunk him. You watchin? Gonna wipe away them sins?” We don’t baptize to get God to do something; we baptize because God has already done something. And that was new. Even more amazing was Jesus’ promise that when we live baptized, forgiven lives and clothe ourselves in that self-sacrificing love that feeds hungry people and loves people who aren’t worth shooting, why, when we do that Jesus binds us to himself and promises that where he is we will be. With him. Forever. Jesus is a walking RSVP invitation to life in the Kingdom of God. Mercy. Is it any surprise John had to tell somebody?

So this Advent, let’s ponder the Baptist a little, and let’s give thanks for his knowledge of Jesus, for the love that made him say, “Not me. That one.” And let’s thank God for the forerunners who showed Jesus to us. Your walk with the Lord may have started at your grandmother’s knee; it may have started in a brawl in a saloon; it happens all over the place, all the time, right this red hot minute. There is a world not forty yards from where you’re sitting that knows very little about Jesus, lives in a boiling kettle of anger and fear and frustration and violence, and does that world ever need somebody to point it to Jesus.

This Advent ask St. John to fill you with his excitement, fill you so full you can’t keep quiet about it. Hope for the day when you can be the smelly ol’ hide-clad, bug eating weirdo who shows Jesus to someone worse off than you are. Maybe you’ve already had that blessed chance. If you have, do it again. And if you haven’t, as the Advent prayers teach us, be alert, be aware, keep your eyes open. Some day, somewhere, you’ll be the one whose turn it is to shout, “Hey! Looka here! You’ve got options. Forget all you’ve heard about how bad you are. Your sins are forgiven. And look at that one, Jesus, the Lamb of God. He’s the one. Listen to him!”

The Archbishop issues a threat

I never imagined the Archbishop of Canterbury would remind me of my grandson, but then I never imagined the Archbishop of Canterbury would so cave in to threats that he would resort to them himself.

My grandson Gavin is five years old.

Like all young children, one of the biggest events of his young life is his birthday, or more specifically, his birthday party.

To his mind it is the grandest most excellent event one can imagine, and therefore, an invitation to this event is a prize beyond price.

Because we adults who adore Gavin are not idiots, we say “no” to him when he asks to do something that’s dangerous or inappropriate, or wants something of us we are not prepared to give to him.

As a result, Gavin sometimes gets really really really really really angry with us. When this happens, he pulls out his ultimate threat: “If you don’t do what I want, I won’t love you anymore and I won’t invite you to my birthday party! So there!”

Which brings me to Williams’ statement about the historic election of the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan of the diocese. [Glasspool’s election was preceded by another historic election, that of the first woman bishop suffragan in the diocese, the Rev. Canon Diane Jardine Bruce.]

If you have somehow missed this fact, in addition to being a superbly qualified candidate for bishop, Glasspool is also honest and open about the fact that she’s been living in a committed relationship with her partner Becki Sander for 22 years.

Here’s what Williams wrote:

“The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.

“The process of selection however is only part complete. The election has to be confirmed, or could be rejected, by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees. That decision will have very important implications.

“The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold.”

Paraphrased this means, “if you don’t do what I want and refuse to consent to this election, I won’t love you anymore and I won’t invite you my Lambeth party.”

It’s a threat, folks, and interference in our polity that is breathtaking in its arrogance. What’s more, any “bonds of affection” that can only hold if bolstered by threats don’t have much to do with affection and a lot to do with bondage.

The Episcopal Church at General Convention made a very clear statement about where we are on the issue of human sexuality and priests and bishops in Resolution D024. We are committed to the Anglican Communion AND we are committed to following our canons.

So here’s some questions for the bishops and Standing Committees of the Episcopal Church:
Are we going to consent to the election of bishops based on the gifts they bring to the church, or are we going to consent to their election based on threats from bishops in other Provinces, including the Archbishop of Canterbury?
And if we give in to this threat in the guise of exercising "gracious restraint," what kind of communion will we find ourselves part of? And at what price?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Episcopal Church leaders speak out on Uganda

Today is my birthday, and below is one of the best presents I could have gotten. Our presiding bishop has spoken out forcefully and clearly against a bill being proposed by a member of the Ugandan parliamant that would introduce the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," which includes assault against people under the age of 18 and those with disabilities, and propose a seven-year jail term for anyone who "attempts to commit the offence" or who "aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality."

Earlier, Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, also spoke out against the legislation. Her letter is posted below.

I give thanks for two such strong leaders.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
concerning proposed bill in Uganda

[December 4, 2009] The following is the statement of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori concerning proposed private member’s bill on homosexuality in the Parliament of Uganda:

The Episcopal Church joins many other Christians and people of faith in urging the safeguarding of human rights everywhere. We do so in the understanding that “efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (General Convention 2006, Resolution D005).

This has been the repeated and vehement position of Anglican bodies, including several Lambeth Conferences. The Primates’ Meeting, in the midst of severe controversy over issues of homosexuality, nevertheless noted that, as Anglicans, “we assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship” (Primates’ Communiqué, Dromantine, 2005).

The Episcopal Church represents multiple and varied cultural contexts (the United States and 15 other nations), and as a Church we affirm that the public scapegoating of any category of persons, in any context, is anathema. We are deeply concerned about the potential impingement on basic human rights represented by the private member’s bill in the Ugandan Parliament.

In the United States and elsewhere, we note that changed laws do help to shift public opinion and urge a more humane response to difference. The Hate Crimes Act recently passed in the United States is one example, as are the many pieces of civil rights legislation that have slowly changed American public behavior, especially in the area of race relations. We note the distance our own culture still needs to travel in removing discriminatory practice from social interactions, yet we have also seen how changed hearts and minds have followed legal sanctions on discriminatory behavior.

We give thanks for the clear position of the United States government on human rights, for the State Department’s annual human rights report on Uganda, which observes that the existing colonial-era law on same-sex relations is a societal abuse of human rights, and for the State Department’s publicly voiced opposition to the present bill. We urge the United States government to grant adequate access to the U.S. asylum system for those fleeing persecution on the basis of homosexuality or gender identity, to work with other governments, international organizations, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide adequate protection for these asylum seekers, and to oppose any attempts at extradition under a law such as that proposed in Uganda.

Finally, we note that much of the current climate of fear, rejection, and antagonism toward gay and lesbian persons in African nations has been stirred by members and former members of our own Church. We note further that attempts to export the culture wars of North America to another context represent the very worst of colonial behavior. We deeply lament this reality, and repent of any way in which we have participated in this sin.

We call on all Episcopalians to seek their own conversion toward an ability to see the image of God in the face of every neighbor, of whatever race, gender, sexual orientation, theological position, or creed. God has created us in myriad diversity, and no one sort or condition of human being can fully reflect the divine. Only the whole human race begins to be an adequate mirror of the divine.

We urge continued prayer for those who live in fear of the implications of this kind of injustice and discrimination, and as a Church, commit ourselves anew to seek partnerships with the Church of Uganda, or any portion thereof, in serving the mission of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That Gospel is larger than any party or faction. It is only in mutual service and recognition that we will begin to mend our divisions.

We are grateful for the willingness of the Anglican Communion Office and Lambeth Palace to hear this plea on behalf of all God’s people, and urge their continued assistance in seeking greater justice. We note the impediments this legislation would pose to the ability to continue a Listening Process in which all of the Anglican Communion is currently engaged.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

_ _ _

The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 16 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Earlier President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson wrote this letter:

November 25, 2009
To the Co-conveners of the Chicago Consultation:

Thank you for your letter of November 19, regarding the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently under consideration in the Ugandan Parliament.

As deputies, you know that in 2006, our House overwhelmingly passed Resolution D005, condemning the criminalization of homosexuality. The House of Bishops concurred. I believed then, as I believe now, that in passing this legislation we were being faithful to our Baptismal Covenant, in which we pledge to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”

The Ugandan bill not only makes consensual sexual activity punishable by death, it imposes a reporting requirement on those who know about such activity. It is a terrible violation of the human rights of an already persecuted minority. More egregiously, it is an attempt to use the authority of the state to deprive individuals of their God-given dignity, and to isolate them from the care and concern of their fellow human beings.

The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church is scheduled to meet by teleconference on the afternoon of December 7 to discuss our Church’s response to this hateful legislation. I hope and believe that a vigorous statement will be forthcoming, and that I will be able to support this statement wholeheartedly.

In the meantime, please know that I appreciate your efforts and those of the other committed people who have brought this issue to the attention of our church.
Bonnie Anderson, D.D.
President, The House of Deputies

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

More cause for rejoicing

ClayOla Gitane had to leave the diocese
in order to pursue her call to ordination

The rejoicing continues in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as preparations are made for the ordination of Deacon ClayOla Gitane to the priesthood at 10 AM Saturday Dec. 5 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive South, Fort Worth, 76109. She will be the second woman ordained to the priesthood in this diocese.

She is one of more than fifteen women who over the years have had to leave the diocese in order to be ordained priests because all the bishops of Fort Worth prior to 2009 opposed the ordination of women. With God’s help, she will be the last.

She will become priest in charge of two congregations that have been temporarily displaced from their buildings – Christ the King, now worshipping at St. Giles Presbyterian Church (Fellowship Hall), 8700 Chapin Road, Fort Worth; and the Episcopal Church in Parker County which includes members from St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church (Willow Park), All Saints' Episcopal Church (Weatherford) and the Church of the Holy Apostles (Fort Worth). They worship at McCall Elementary School, 400 Scenic Trail in Willow Park.

This also is a significant event for Trinity Episcopal Church, because the Rev. Gitane was a member at Trinity in 2001 when she resumed her exploration of her powerful call to the priesthood. She eventually had to leave the diocese, first to go to Dallas and then to go to the Diocese of Olympia [Washington] to pursue her call to ordination.

She will be ordained by the Rt. Rev. Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera, who was elected in May 2004 as bishop suffragan of Olympia. Bishop Rivera is the first Hispanic woman bishop and the 12th woman bishop in the Episcopal Church. In May 2009, she became the Provisional Bishop of Eastern Oregon. The Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, provisional bishop of Fort Worth, also will participate in the ordination.

What has this years-long process and exile meant to Deacon Gitane?

“It meant learning to stand with others who are outcasts. It meant seeing the Gospel as intrinsically inclusive and standing on that knowledge. It meant learning how to live as a Christian witness and learning that I am willing to seem `different’ as I live out my faith. It meant learning just what I would give up for my vocation. It meant feeling the worst I could feel, but also having some of the best fun of my life. And it meant rejoicing in the grace and miracles worked by God,” she said.

ClayOla Gitane
ClayOla Gitane grew up in the Episcopal Church and was confirmed in 1969 at the Church of St. Mary in Lompoc, California. Some of her earliest memories are of that church.

“I remember kneeling in the pew, caught up in the reassurance and complexity of the liturgy, watching dust float down from the windows, smelling the incense, looking at the light fall through the stained glass. I loved the freeing and fulfilling structure, the round of seasons and ceremony that offer a joy that will weather any heartbreak or confusion. I learned that our Anglican faith can form the infrastructure of a lifelong intimacy with God,” she said

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women to the priesthood in 1976 and the first women were ordained in 1977. [The eleven brave women ordained in Philadelphia and the four in Washington prior to the 1976 vote were soon “regularized” by the church.]

Deacon Gitane began to perceive a call to priestly ordination in the early 1980s. She was out of college and living in Arlington. She went to see her priest at the Arlington Episcopal church where she was a member.

“I told him of wanting to serve God, to pass His blessing and grace to others; of loving all that is Anglican. I told him of dedicating my life to Christ, and wanting to serve Him in the Church. I told him I thought I was meant to be a priest. I felt I was telling him that I had fallen in love. I felt that giddy, bubbly feeling of delight, when it is so wonderful that you feel shy talking about it. Words don’t quite express it,” she said.

The priest said, “No, dear. No. You are mistaken. There are many ways to serve God and His church, but not that way. Not for you. Perhaps a family…”

It was devastating. She clung to her faith, but eventually married a Roman Catholic and converted. They had children, but the marriage eventually ended in divorce. It was another blow, and again, she leaned on her faith.

“I cried out to God. I had given my life to Him. He had called me to be married to this man . . . Had I heard wrongly?” she said.

Upon reflection, she realized “that I had no ears to hear any longer. It wasn’t for lack of asking for help at that time, but because of long practice at not hearing when help was offered. Not for lack of fervency, but for lack of habit.

“And how not? At the center, where the truest distillation of my soul lay, I had put away God. The priest had said no. I could not base an entire life on not being who I was meant to be—but that is what I was trying to do, having accepted that “no” completely, unquestioningly. I began to listen to God and learned about repentance. As soon as I began to turn to Him again, I found Him waiting. I learned about grace.”

She joined Trinity and trained as a Stephen Minister, lector and chalice bearer, but the old longing returned. She enrolled in the Anglican School of Theology at the University of Dallas and, encouraged by her parish priest, the Rev. Fred Barber, and Deacon Janet Nocher, took a Time of Discovery course offered by the diocese to discern a call to ordination to the priesthood.

“I felt so much confusion at that time. I longed for God, for this service, to follow this call. I’d explored the idea of a call to the priesthood for months, with Father Fred and Deacon Janet, but I was afraid to move forward,” she wrote.

But by now, the burden of not following this call seemed greater than anything she might have to go through to become a priest.

“I remember once during a discussion in my Intro to Theology class at Perkins during the first semester I was there. A woman (Methodist) protested the time we were spending on women’s issues. ‘Haven’t we worked all this out by now? I mean, look at the number of female clergy we have!’ she said. I immediately raised my hand and was called on. I told her, ‘I got up at 4:30 AM to take the train over here this morning because someone still believes that women shouldn’t be ordained. We have not ‘worked this all out!’ The moment we stop discussing these issues, we will begin to lose women who are rightly called by God. Once that happens, we start losing the Gospel itself.’

“By being ‘cast out’ I learned to stand with others who were outcasts, to articulate always the social justice side of the Gospel. As my wise Word and Worship teacher, Mark Stamm, used to say, `Sometimes we should look around and ask ourselves, ‘who is not here?’ This is true in worship and it is true in the whole life of the church,” she said.

During those train rides, she would say Morning Prayer with her Book of Common Prayer open on her lap. Over time, many of the other commuters began asking her for prayers.

She said, “They wanted prayer for family, jobs, worries; I learned that a simple habit of life, seen by others, could be a witness.”

While at Perkins School of Theology at SMU, she was the 2007 winner of the Jerry R. Hobbs Award in Liturgics, awarded to the senior student “who has the greatest impact on the worship life of the Perkins community.” She served as assistant chaplain at Perkins Chapel for the 2006-7 academic year. She also co-founded a neo-monastic order for students based on Rutba House, allowing students to grow spiritually and to learn about living in a neo-monastic community. Rutba House is a Christian intentional community in Durham committed to the “new monasticism” movement.

She graduated cum laude with a Master of Divinity from Perkins in 2008.

The fact that she had to leave home in order to pursue ordination is not so odd, as that happens in other places as well. What set her apart was that she was not going to be able to come back to Fort Worth to work as a priest.

“I knew I would never be able to work at home. A person who follows a vocation into the priesthood expects to have to leave their home parish, and we hear over and over that we are ordained `for the greater church and not for one parish.’ But for me, it meant leaving my hometown, my neighborhood, my career, friends, family, as well as my church. It also meant being something of an outsider because, unlike other ordinands, I could never return. Many don’t, in actual fact; but they could. Leaving helped me learn to tolerate seeming odd or different for my faith,” she said.

She left in stages. At first, having to go elsewhere meant commuting to Dallas every day for school.

“I had a daughter in high school, a home and family here, and I was not in a position to just relocate, but I was able to work towards ordination through the Diocese of Dallas. Later, when I transferred to the Diocese of Olympia, Bishop Rivera said she wanted me to go away to live at seminary for a year.

“So I packed up my house, cashed out my retirement, sent my dog and cat to be fostered, and drove alone across the country to California. That was the hardest of all. I will always remember the morning I left for Berkeley--watching my oldest grandson’s back as he skipped into his house after we said goodbye for the last time. It was the emptiest I had ever felt in the whole process. I thought I would not be returning, but going on to the Diocese of Olympia to live and work after school. I think I cried all the way through New Mexico! But I learned how far I would go to follow my call,” she said.

In California she studied with renowned scholar Louis Weil and others at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

In November 2008, Bishop Jack Iker left the Episcopal Church and the diocese reorganized under the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. [Ted] Gulick. Almost immediately women priests began functioning here. On November 15, Deacon Susan Slaughter became the first woman ordained a priest in the diocese by a bishop of the diocese.

Now, Deacon Gitane has come home.

“Here I am back at home again, where I never thought I would be. The long and short of it was that there were no jobs in Olympia; but God’s grace in doing “a new thing” in the Diocese of Fort Worth meant I was able to return to home and family. One of the most gratifying things of all is to know that others will be able to do the same—leave as appropriate to form in the ways they need to be formed, and then return to work and minister here. We will always have to reach out to bring everyone into the community of faith; but it is glorious that some who were outsiders are now welcome,” she said.