I have been an active member all my life and have accepted the patriarchal structure of the church until recently when I noticed that the oppressive gender inequity so often serves to elevate the men and suppress the women. Time after time I have seen men lead by virtue of their position, not by inspiration.
I did not feel the need for ordination of women until I witnessed one of the most beautiful acts of service by a female chaplain in the nursing home of my dying grandmother in September of 2014. I went to say good-bye, with all of the regrets that come with end of life change. I was overwhelmed by my own grief and barely able to articulate my needs in my mind. As a hospital social worker, I have been a witness in the passing of patients with their family present, so I thought “I’ve got this thing”, but, it is different when it is personal. A chaplain came to sit with me for a while and did not say much, but was present while I cried, and cryptically expressed my regrets. I mentioned that my uncle, who made all of the decisions regarding her care, would not allow any expression of religious belief, and how this was another source of pain for me. She asked if she could bless my grandmother for me. I nodded and watched her place her hands on grandma’s head and invite God to welcome her home and to ease her passing. I felt my grief eased as I watched this gracious act of love. I also felt envy for her knowledge of how to act in this way, and I felt a loss of power and inspiration. In her act of love for my grandmother, I was also blessed.
As I thought of the many times I have served, but without priesthood power, I could identify praying for and with my sisters, or times when I took them food, or cared for their children. I then remembered about 7 years ago when I visited my dear friend Darcy as she approached her death. She had received her 2nd lung transplant 12 years after her first one. The whole ward joined in fasting and prayer, and she was granted about 3 weeks without her oxygen tank companion. Then her body began to get sick, rejecting the donated organ, and she went back into the hospital for the last time. Her body was bloated almost beyond recognition from the medications, and she was in a cloud of confusion. I had brought with me fragrant lotion, beautiful music and my love for her. I asked her mother if I could give Darcy a foot massage and she said yes. I put on the music, washed Darcy’s feet, and put the lotion on her, hoping love could be absorbed through her skin. I massaged her feet, the ankles, the legs, then her hands, her arms, and her face. I looked in her eyes and saw her eyes recognize mine, though she could not talk with the vent. We both cried and I knew that she felt the love I brought for her.
Her mother mentioned this act of love at the funeral, and I remember feeling I was filled with love in a way never before felt. This was a moment when I was anointing, praying, and beseeching the love of the Lord to bless my dear friend. She died a few days later.
If we were permitted in this church, to serve the Lord as our brothers do, what power would fill our midst? Perhaps we would shed the hypocrisy, the judgment, the pride we exhibit and we would truly bless each other in ways that don’t come in a casserole or in babysitting. I long for a way to more fully share the gifts given by my heavenly parents.