Friday, July 31, 2009

by Rachel

Hi, my name is Rachel. I'm a 19 year old college student at Oklahoma Christian. My father has been a preacher and teacher in the Churches of Christ since I was born. That event actually occurred in Abilene while my dad was in grad school and my mom was teaching special ed. I grew up in New Orleans and I went to high school in Canada and I have a love-hate relationship with the Churches of Christ.

I can't say there was any one moment when I realized that being a girl in my church was significant. In New Orleans things like that are handled differently. That city just doesn't dance to the drum beat of the rest of the South. Women in my childhood church said what they felt like saying and sometimes it helped and sometimes it didn't. This was an urban church and though I'm mostly white and technically middle-class that's not the culture I identified with. In that culture to be female was to be vocal and opinionated and strong because men were just not around. Besides all that... I knew early that I was very much like my father. I had deep convictions at 10 that I wish I could feel as deeply now, a deep passion for justice and those that are suffering. Then we moved.

I arrived in Canada angry and angsty about moving from everything that I held familiar. It didn't help that I was 13 at the time. Even at this point I don't remember ever feeling disappointed by the church or frustrated. But the Church of Christ in Western Canada struggles with conservative legalism at the expense of the gospel about as much as the churches of the Bible Belt. Needless to say...though I had not felt hurt by the church before that point I certainly do now. The CofC in such a post-Christian country is small and interrelated but even though the church I went to was full of men who were overworked and drained they wouldn't let me serve communion. I was having severe culture shock and they refused to incorporate me. I went from being a strong leader in my old circle of friends to someone everyone acknowledged was intelligent but no one would follow.

I graduated from a Church of Christ affiliated high school as the salutatorian. I took a year of bible college at the same institution where my dad was the Academic Dean. He got to teach me my first year of Greek; it made him very proud. I think if I had never taken those classes that first year I would have no idea what God is about. Intro to the OT and Theology refreshed all those things I intrinsically knew as a child; all those things that ostracism and self-doubt had melted away. I haven't gotten everything back yet. I've since transferred to OC as a History/Bible double-major and I'm going into ministry... I'm just not comfortable saying that when I meet new people.

OC doesn't enjoy the scholastic freedom that ACU does. Earlier this summer I sat in awe at the Graduate school of Bible's worship service before my father graduated with his DMin. There were women in this graduating class! They led singing and read scripture. I can honestly say that was the first time I'd heard a woman lead singing from a pulpit (we all know women usually lead singing from the pews!) I felt inspired but somehow small. Somewhere along my journey I've been told that I'm not quite good enough, that I would have something to say if I just worked a little harder. It didn't come in the form of blatant comments or rebukes... just from my own head and the fact that no one in church ever asks for my opinion anymore.

One Sunday a few months ago my father was invited to preach at a tiny congregation of the United Church of Canada and I decided to go along to experience their worship. During the potluck following the service I had three older members ask me point blank if I was going to become a minister. No baggage. No whispering. Just "So are you going to be a minister?" I knew from the beginning that ministry was a way of life and there are moments when I'm so excited to go to grad school and learn and debate but there are some moments, like right now where it seems I'll be forever stuck. To be at a university where people are unwilling to talk about women's roles in public, where bible professors only encourage behind closed doors, at a church (out of lack of transportation) that would never dare to point out that maybe they might be doing something wrong... I'm the only female Bible major that I know of at OC, though they tried to encourage me to take a Vocational Ministry major instead. I'm so discouraged and plagued with doubt. I wonder why God didn't send me to ACU, why he would make me sit through sunday night services that always leave me flustered and teary eyed. I know there are moments to speak and moments to keep silent but for some reason all mine are for silence. I thought coming back to America would be like homecoming but its more like a second exile.

7 comments:

JTB said...

Rachel, it is not a small thing that I was led to your post. I have been praying for you since May. It is not too late for you to make the changes we talked about that day. I don't feel comfortable writing much on this post, but you can e-mail me. Just know that I care deeply about the things you have written.--Jeanene Reese

Karen Luttrell said...

Rachel - If you can, transfer. I'm speaking as a graduate of a CoC university and wish I had gone somewhere else.

TKP said...

Rachel,

I would agree with Karen-transfer if at all possible. You should know, however, that ACU is not a complete sanctuary that you may be desiring. You will find a lot more people in your corner there. I graduated with a bunch of debt. I'm going back this fall for my MACM through the distance learning program. Know that if you do transfer to ACU, I will see you when I can and give you a hug and hook you up with some awesome people!

-Teresa

JTB said...

Rachel, I said most of what I wanted to by email. But I think it's clear that, regardless of what you discern as the right option for you at this point, you need some other voices in your head, voices affirming your worth and your call. Hear these comments as those voices of affirmation--because that is what they are. I think it's fair to say that every one of us has been at a similar place at some point; but similar does not mean same, and our choices, or the choices we maybe wish we'd made differently, aren't a template for you. Whatever it is that you choose, make it the choice that is good for you. That is the spirit of affirmation animating all of these comments--and you will find support here for you in your path, wherever it leads.

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

I really appreciate all your comments, and special thanks to you, JTB for giving me a place to post this little life confession. I've decided not to transfer to another school. Though being at OC is often frustrating (to put it lightly), I know that there are people who love God and are asking questions. I want to be a part of that. I feel that God has placed me there intentionally, I dunno whether I'm to learn or to teach (or both) but in my life I've noticed that the hard road has often been the right one. I've also decided to pursue a masters in theology once I graduate. All of your feedback and my own searching has lead me to this and I want to say thanks. Thanks you also for your prayers Jeanene and others. I want to ask you to pray that bitterness doesn't cloud my witness this next school year. May God bless you all richly!

AM Kingsfield said...

"I wonder why God didn't send me to ACU."

Rachel, you are an intelligent, free-thinking individual. God will be with you wherever you choose to seek your education. He has given you gifts. The world will benefit from the sharing of them, whether or not you choose to remain within the small confines of the CofC.

I grew up in one and left when I was 39. Life has only gotten better. You won't know how limited you've been until you've really had a chance to spread your wings. And then there is so much more to talk about than "role of women."