Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dear Aunt Bostick,

Thirty years ago today, I entered the sanctuary of the church where I served as the associate pastor, dressed in my Geneva gown for my ordination to the Ministry of the Word and Sacrament. It was a Sunday afternoon. My parents were in the congregation along with parishioners and my Commission from Presbytery. I wrote the service with huge chunks from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer interspersed with the 1956 Book of Common Worship of the P.C.U.S. I don't recall all the hymns, but we did sing "Be Thou My Vision". I remember that hymn because I've used it at each of my installations to new congregations since.

I was awed and happy to finalize all the steps taken to ordination. I was sick to my stomach with anxiety and, probably, lack of food. In those days, I didn't eat. Please do not comment that I've been healed of eating disorders "like a miracle!" (as I've heard you say) because I'm aware that I present in human form much differently than I did 30 years ago.

My Seminary professor preached the sermon. He is a Carolinian and his wife graduated from my college so our affinity began at our first meeting. He is at the Seminary still, writing books and becoming more distinguished looking as the days pass. He was kind to come to the Deep South and be with me for the day. I gave him a piece of the pottery distinctive to this area, the one with the black stripe symbolizing the Mississippi River.

I recall that you were there. You looked at me with amazement that I was becoming a pastor. Every pastor you'd even heard of was male and here I was, in your words, "a little girl". You wondered how ministry would be for me since most people found the idea of a woman in ministry odd and somehow upsetting. You were not quite sure if I should be ordained because you couldn't find the place in the Bible where it said I could be. When you told me this, I reminded you of the Biblical cites and that my denomination approved the ordination of women. Still, you weren't sure.

The local newspaper covered my ordination as actual news, not as the natural progression of a child raised in the church who was baptised, educated and given the approbation of God's people for ordination. After the article appeared, I received all sorts of angry letters from people who believed I was going straight to Hell. I saved mail from detractors in a scrapbook. The book didn't survive the 1985 hurricane so it is just my memory of those angry notes I recall today.

I began my ministry as happy as a gal could be. I was so ready, like a puppy, to jump into whatever God placed in my path, or whatever path God led me to walk. I recall joy so piercing that I could hardly stand it.

I am grateful today for all the good influences I've encountered along my way. I'm grateful, too, for my failures and roadblocks which taught me humility, sacrifice and resourcefulness. I thank God for my calling every single day.

Your niece,

St. Casserole


Songbird said...

Thank you for being there, then and now.

Mark Smith said...

There are a few of us out here who also appreciate your call.

cheesehead said...

I can't imagine the Church without you. It would be no kind of Church I'd want to be in.

Singing Owl said...

((((((((((St Cass))))))))))))

Gracebythesea said...

the South, the church, denomination, the world and my world are better for you being in it. Congrats (((St Cass)))

1-4 Grace said...

Thanks for helping pave the way for those of us to follow...those of us (like me) who were little girls to naive to know that girls couldn't grow up to be preachers and not mature enough to reliaze the ground breaking move you did.
Thanks for being there for thsoe who had so desperalty wanted to be pastors and could not in their time and thanks for being there for thsoe who were not yet born (not even a twinkle in their parents' eyes yet) who have had the great pleasure of growing up in a world where women could be pastors...and thanks especially for us Southerners who sometiems still get flack from the good ole boys, but would nto have it any other way!
You are the greatest!

Rev Dave said...

Wow. I've been at this four years now. (And I'm older than you guessed.) Celebrate appropriately, maybe with a Calvin bobblehead or two.

P.S. Get in touch with me; I have a guy who's _very_ interested in helping ya'all with your building problems.

zorra said...

I'm thankful for your calling, too, and for the blessing that you have been and will be in many lives. God's blessing on the next thirty years.

St. Inuksuk said...

Blessings to you St C on your ordination anniversary. How blessed is the church and we by your giftedness and heart of Christ.
I vote for the Calvin Bobblehead as an appropriate and fun marker for this your 30th anniversary!
You're an awesome pastor!
Thanks be to God for St. C!

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

congratulations! what a beautiful reflection...

Kathryn said...

Many congratulations and lots and lots of blessings on this special anniversary and on all that lies ahead too.
I just love the description of being "like a puppy..." - it so characterises how I felt and feel on my most truthful days at the joy of ministry.
Joyous hugs to you...I'm wearing fish ear-rings in your honour! xxxx

Sue said...

Bless you St. C. and thank you for your ministry in God's church.

Love you. Mean it.

Mary Beth said...

Thanks be to God for you and your ministry!

Cathy said...

A beautiful post about your life serving God in the church. Blessings

The Swandive said...

Happy Anniversary, what a joy, what a ride, what a post. Blessings.

Presbyterian Gal said...

But of course you didn't go to hell! You've ended up in Mississippi and it's obviously far more heaven, especially with you serving there!

DogBlogger said...

Happy anniversary. And thanks be to God for you, St. Casserole.

Magdalene6127 said...

Praise God from whom all blessings (including you, St. Casserole) flow!

Love, Mags

Lydia said...

St. Casserole,

Congratuations! You are one of my spiritual mothers -- even though just a few years older.

Although I had sensed "the call" at age 6 and had heard rumors that there were Presbyterian female MOWS you were my first! Although it took me close to 2 decades after realizing that YES women could be ministers,I, celebrated my 10th Anniversary of Ordination to Word and Sacrament this month.

Among the many years of our knowing one another three specific things stand out:

Hearing you preach about your evenings at a local pub where you . . . evangelized. (Wo)man were you ahead of your time . . . actually going out to meet the lost and broken.

As I sat in the congregation and saw you officate, at what I believe, was your first baptism. What a joy that was!

And several years ago when I was going through a difficult time an outdoor lunch where you offered support, encouragement and a valuable resource (Mr. "C") -- he came in handy.

It grieves me that so many of your gifts have been ignored by the local church organization which we shared at one point . . . I remember that one meeting when you were hissed becasue you dared to bring up the elephant in the room . . . the future showed that your suspicions were true!

St. Casserole thank you for allowing God to use you and your spiritual gifts to share the Good News. Thank you for sharing your deep kindness and compassion.

God bless,