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.