When I planned last week's installation service, I goofed. All the clergy participants were women! We are supposed to attempt balance in such things, but the combination of being in an unfamiliar presbytery and dealing with medical issues on a daily basis meant that my planning capacities were somewhat taxed.
This morning after church a woman in our congregation approached me to ask whether she could tape one of my sermons. (We are not a high tech place; we don't record services on a regular basis. Or on any basis.) It turns out that one of her family members belongs to the Church of Christ (not !!! to be confused with the United Church of Christ), a hyper-conservative denomination that prohibits female leadership and also musical accompaniment of singing. ( Perhaps there's a connection, but I have no idea what that might be. A particularly unusual reading of the Bible, perhaps?) This person frequently denounces church practices that do not comport with her own, and is thereby creating some tension in her family.
"I told her that I wish so much that she'd been at your installation service," my parishoner said. "I wish she could have heard and seen those women and all their education and training, all their gifts." This woman is on the older side, and no doubt did not grow up with women as her pastors. But she seems to have moved on with ease.
I was reminded of the words of a Catholic friend of mine after my ordination service last October. "Not only were there so many women clergy," she said, "but it was so ordinary. Accepted. Not a big deal."
We don't have all the answers in the PC(USA), not by a long shot. We definitely don't have all the answers where matters of gender and gender-related language is involved, especially where God is concerned. We have a long way to go in terms of women's leadership in so-called "tall steeple" churches. In contexts other than those in which ordination is required, the Catholic Church has a much longer and far more illustrious history than we do in the development of women leaders.
But at least half the students in my seminary are women. Most of the presbytery executives and administrators I know are ordained women. Many of the pastors I know are women. We are used to hearing the good news proclaimed in both feminine and masculine voices.
Somewhere, Mary Magdalene is smiling.