Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Forty Years

The Rev. Allison Cheek after the first public celebration of the Eucharist by a woman
Nov. 10, 1974 at St. Stephen's and the Incarnation, NW DC
Photo by the Washington Post

Today is a big deal, at least for me, anyway. Today is a big deal, because forty years ago, the first women priests in the Episcopal Church, the Philadelphia Eleven, were ordained at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, PA. They were irregularly ordained, which means they were ordained outside of church law, which only caught up with them two years later. These women, and the male bishops who ordained them, risked their vocations (and, I'm assuming for the bishops, their pensions) in order to live out what they believed to be true -- that God does not discriminate by gender when God calls someone into the sacramental priesthood, and that God was calling each of these women to serve God as a priest in God's church. It's beautiful, and it's true.

I love these stories, these stories about the first women priests in the church. I love hearing about them, I love to read about them. (If you are interested, Grace in Motion by the Rev. Dr. Judith Maxwell McDaniel is a great place to start.) I love these stories because I feel like they are my stories, and because even though I was born eleven years after the Philadelphia Eleven, and even though I began to seek ordination thirty-one years after the Philadelphia Eleven, I was told, when I began my process, that my priest would not be supporting me for ordination because I was a woman, and he did not believe that woman should be priests. This set off a series of chain reactions in my process.

It took me nine years to be ordained to the priesthood.

There are many things I could say about that experience, but what I'm thinking about today is the enormity of the courage, effort, prayer, persistence, tenacity and sheer grit it takes to make a change toward justice in an unjust system. Women and their male allies had been fighting for decades before 1974 to see this change happen, and when women finally were ordained, they had to find jobs that would hire them, deal with belittling, sexual assault, physical violence, death threats, the never-ending balance between family expectations and work, and not to mention the nearly inevitable sacking after becoming pregnant, at least in the early days. I've heard these stories from some of the women who have experienced them.

What astounds me now is how easy it was for all of those decades to be flippantly dismissed with a few offhanded words from one person in authority.  But do you know what? That didn't stop the Eleven. It didn't stop women from becoming professors and deans of schools or cathedrals, from raising families while running churches, from serving the poor or the sick, or from becoming authors and world-renowned preachers and not least, bishops. And with their help, it didn't stop me.

So, today is a big deal. I'm so grateful for those women, and all that they've done, and continue to do. I can't wait to see what the next forty years has in store.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Holy Curiosity

I wrote a piece for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's blog about Holy Curiosity. In it, I talk about how curiosity might help churchgoers rekindle their interest in Christian formation. 

But when I think about the same topic from a perspective outside of the organized church, I think about curiosity as one of the sole reasons that secular adults turn to faith. There's a curiosity within them that wonders what is out there in the wild universe, a curiosity about what is within one's self, and a curiosity about the possibility of a new sort of hope, a new way to be. This curiosity can be  prompted by a crisis or an inexplicable experience, but more often, it is a slow process, a little pique of interest there, a ever-growing hunger to get another glimpse of what is mesmerizing and mysterious, an unfolding invitation to go deeper. It's a beckoning, really. But it starts with the capacity to wonder. And to me, that is a wondrous thing. 

What do you wonder about?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Linden Place Cleanup

Tomorrow is Linden Place Cleanup, organized by our neighborhood association.  We'll be sweeping, pulling weeds, cleaning out drains, and if I get to Home Depot this afternoon, I'll be replanting the flowers from this post. (I did mention that they might die... well, the heat last week finished them off.)

9:00am-2:00pm, drop in, drop out. If you have them, bring gloves and tools. The more, the merrier, and it's fun to work together. I'll be doing this sort of workout in lieu of yoga. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I've been doing some thinking about the Post's coverage of a recent study on civic health in the District. Some of the indices bemuse me, such as the 72.4% of Washingtonians who have "some or a great deal of confidence in the media," because, I'm presuming, 72.4% of the District works in Media, or the 46% who "talk about politics frequently."  One in five Washingtonians have contacted a public official. Yup, that's kind of what we do here in Washington.

But some of the data, as the Post points out, is troubling. There's a lot of distrust -- only one in three people trust some or all of their neighbors, as well as a lot of reticence to ask for help, as only one in ten people regularly exchange favors with their neighbors.

I'm not going to turn this into a preachy post about how we should all get to know our neighbors, and actually talk to them, and if we did this, everything would be awesome. Nope. I understand high turnover in buildings and neighborhoods, the transitoriness of your twenties, the busyness of your thirties, and the ever-present crush of work that tends to overrule our lives here. Keeping up with all of your neighbors, only to have them move in three months, is exhausting and unfeasible. Should you know and trust at least some of them? Absolutely. But all of them? No, that's a superhuman effort. Instead, I'm more interested in the other part -- regularly exchanging favors with a neighbor. And not for the reason you might think.

Giving favors is great. You feel good about yourself, and you feel useful. But I think it's incredibly important to ask for favors. Apart from the political sort, it seems to me that Washington hates asking for favors. (And not even much of that's being done these days.) Asking for help, even for little things, is hard, because it implies that you aren't entirely in control of your life. It implies that you can't do it all yourself, that beneath your professional and polished veneer, you are human. And to be human means that we need to be vulnerable and ask for help sometimes. And that's not only okay, it's actually a good thing.

This spring, I was walking my dog when I discovered that I had locked myself out of the house. Husband wouldn't be home for at least another hour, maybe more. Okay, I thought, I'll just hang out here on the stoop. But then it started to rain. And it was getting kind of cold. So I called one of my neighbors that I sort of knew well, and I awkwardly explained what happened. "Come over, and bring the dog!" he said. So I did. And we drank a bottle of wine, and we laughed, and I got to know him even better, and now we're real friends, because instead of sitting outside in the rain, shivering, I owned up to what a dork I actually was and asked for a favor.

If not many people in Washington are exchanging favors, it means that not many people are asking for them. And that's too bad, because who knows what can grow if we could all started showing a little bit more of our human side.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beautifying God's Earth

Trinidad --  July 11, 2014

While I don't agree with "Get a life loser" the sentiment is otherwise lovely.

[Text: Whoever keeps stealing my plants / you will not stop me from beautifying God's earth. Get a life, loser!]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The worst part about living permanently in DC is dealing with the fact that inevitably most, if not all, of the friends you make will move away. It's part of the fabric of the city -- people come to DC for education, for an administration, for government or non-profit work, but then move on.  Most of the reasons to move to DC have a natural conclusion, either graduation, a lost election, or gaining enough job experience to make good back home. Some not-so-natural conclusions are job cuts or just simply getting fed up and leaving, but they happen, too.

And for me, the DC cycle continues. This month has been particularly hard, with two very dear friends departing to go do really exciting work in the Southwest and Midwest, another beloved friend taking a new job in Philly, and the whole batch of seniors who have left VTS, scattered over the country and globe. I have been a little mopey lately, which must be getting on Husband's nerves, because I'm starting to get on my own nerves. I know no one is further away than a phone call, and the ties we've made won't unravel, but it's not quite the same as melodramatically flopping on someone's couch when you've had a bad day.

But one thing I've learned about living in DC is that while everyone inevitably moves away, every day more people are brought to DC for their own reasons. Those very wonderful friends? I met every single one of them because I moved here, and they moved here. While they have moved on, I'll stay and see who else comes my way.

Fabulous and Fun Clergy Friends -- (I get to keep one of them in NoVA!)
Fourth of July, 2013