When I was in the midst of my parish discernment committee, one of the members, the only other woman in the group, noted that perhaps I wasn’t called to ordained ministry at all. Instead, perhaps, I was merely “seeking another notch on your belt”.
Just as Paul told the church in Corinth that women should be silent in church, be subordinate in all things, the woman’s statement about the notch speaks loudly as to what it does not say.
Why would Paul tell women they should be silent? They must have been creating quite a ruckus for him to have had to write a letter from so far away telling them to shush it. Or rather, what the heck did Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 14:36? That, too, speaks volumes in what it doesn’t say. But I digress.
So what had I done in my past that made this woman feel I was seeking yet another “notch” on my belt? In many circles a “notch on the belt” means that one has scored a sexual triumph. I am sure that this woman more sincerely meant that I had past successes or achievements; nonetheless…
Considering the fact that I am 57 years old, have worked possibly 15 years of that time as a paid employee, regardless of the fact that I have two degrees, three, actually when one includes the associate’s, I have attained no great heights of success, at least not from our present cultural connotations of success. I am not financially successful, although I owe relatively little in relation to my income. I have no insurance (other than full comprehensive for my vehicle). My retirement plan reflects (foolishly, according to many) my financial plan of the moment, which is, if the need is there, God will provide. Yet, I have far more than enough. My assets outweigh my liabilities by a good piece.
However, to our culture, secular and in many cases, the church, I have failed to take care of myself. Worse yet, if I am wrong about God, then that society of which I am a part will be forced to take care of me. Grudgingly so, as far as the current political scene is concerned.
One can imagine the concern of the ministry commission when asked about my finances and my reply was, “I have come thus far trusting that God will provide as needed. I cannot stop doing so now.”
I can say I have and will continue to be a fool for Christ.
I will be foolish yet once more and proclaim that as long as we measure success in material things, we cannot continue to aver that the orders of ministry are full and equal orders and we will continue to have problems discerning the difference between lay, deacon and priest.
We can loudly protest that happiness is not measured in big houses, nice cars and big parishes and isn’t it nice that poor people can sing so loudly and joyfully in their churches but as we sit in our air-conditioned homes and drive our fossil fuel driven vehicles and seek status and privilege through our employment, we will continue to live within one very large lie.
We should be able to be joyful in our poverty yet, that is easy to say it and much more difficult to live it and be the “fool for Christ”.
I will go one step beyond and say that as long as ordinands to the diaconate have far less education to achieve, no GOE requirements and few or no prospects of being employed (that means paid, not used) by the parish they serve, the church will continue to have a mis-understanding of full and equal. As long as we live in a culture that says more is more and the church adheres to that idea (more education, set salary for priests; less education, no wage for deacons), there is no full and equal. As long as it takes money to be a priest or the willingness to put oneself in deep debt, we will not live into the idea of a radical priesthood. We are just too human to make it so. “Radical” becomes a four letter word.
One cannot desire or even perceive of one more “notch” on a belt of life when seeking to follow God in discerning our role to the people of God.
Either we are seeking God or we are serving a lesser god.
Let’s call it what it is.