Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Part 1: dressed up, with no place to go

One time, very young, seized with a sudden inspiration during Sunday school while singing the "The B-I-B-L-E," I literally took my stand on the Word of God by putting my Bible on the floor and standing on it. I was aware that this wasn't what the song really meant, but I thought it would be funny. It was.

I learned to sing harmony and read music sitting in the pew (second row, on the left) next to my mom, following her strong alto and watching my dad lead the singing from the pulpit.

I would listen to sermons until they got boring, and then pass the time by reading Proverbs or Song of Solomon. And Revelation 12: I didn't understand it, but I liked picturing the woman "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."

In high school my dad led our small "youth group" in a study of the gospel of John. I can still remember the fascination of delving into the meaning of those first words: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. I can remember the thrill of the realization that here was something huge, so much packed into these words, something that just kept getting better and richer the more I thought about it. No one else seemed to get excited about that, though everybody was polite. Just my dad, and me.

In college, I took "Religious Speaking for Women," and first year Greek, for fun. My senior year a well-known CofC author visited Harding's campus to give a series of lectures on his new book. On the slight strength of a rather extended family relation, I decided to introduce myself to him afterward, and tell him I was thinking about studying theology. His answer was very kind, and sincere, and direct. He didn't tell me not to. He just said, "I think you'd be getting dressed up with no place to go."

He was telling the truth; and nowadays, there are a great many of us, well "dressed up," with MDivs and MAs in missions and theology and Christian education and even PhDs in Old Testament and ethics and church history and philosophy. And we have "no place to go," still, unless we choose to leave the church that inspired to study and devote our lives to these things. To leave the church we started out inspired to serve. Because that church refuses to make "a place to go" for us. That church refuses to hire the talented ministers who graduate with the same MDivs as their male colleagues. That church refuses to recognize their readiness, their ability, their gifts, their willingness to make the work of the church their life and calling. That church continues to say, "you look real pretty all dressed up, too bad you have no place to go."


Carolyn said...

Even though he was telling the truth, I'm glad you didn't let that deter you. It did deter me from ever even considering theology as a vocation (not because anyone spoke so plainly to me, but just because it seemed apparent that there was no place for me, and I didn't have the examples to follow). I pray it will be different for our children.

TKP said...

Arugh, Jennifer, look what you are doing! Last night I woke John up at 3 in the morning babbling on about dreams of church leadership and my response to your blog posting. I'm fairly sure he couldn't understand what I said, mostly because I was talking too fast and had just interrupted his REM cycle. Tricksy tricksy. I think I will have to blog about this now.

kel said...

It is startling to me to read this.

Learning harmony and sight reading in church…check
Alto mom…check
Song leader dad…check
High school bible studies taught by dad…check
Sharing a ministerial interest and experience with dad…check
Religious classes in college specifically focused on women’s role…check
Well-known extended-family missionaries…check
Polite words of exclusion…check

i'm posting dinosaur jr's "we're not alone" on fb in honor of this.

Quiara said...

I was always told, re: my theology studies, "You'll be a good reference for a husband someday. Are you wanting to marry a preacher?"

Reference? I'd never before felt so reduced to subhumanity as I did when I realized how so many in the ever-so-aptly called "brotherhood" really felt about us as women.

Thanks for your posts.