Today, the Episcopal Church House of Deputies begins a Lenten series focusing on experiences and reflections surrounding the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment and exploitation in the church.
From today’s Litany of Penance for Ash Wednesday, written by the Reverend Laurie Brock and the the Reverend Megan L. Castellan (bios below):
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work.
My bishop called a meeting with me to discuss my involvement in diocesan activities, in order to warn me that “I appeared too ambitious.”
I was told by a female colleague that my experience and knowledge in the church were a problem because they made our male colleagues look weak.
A member said to me, “How am I supposed to concentrate on the Bible when there are breasts in the pulpit?”
Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us.
The time the archdeacon slapped my ass at the West Door to celebrate a successful end to a beautiful liturgy.
Being told by the rector to apologize to the parishioner who was angry that we had only women on the altar during a Sunday morning service. I’m sorry, sir. We won’t do that again.
The time I got called into the rector’s office for using the feminine pronoun for God in a sermon and told suggesting God was a woman had no place in the church.
An elderly male member harassed me for months. My rector’s response, when I expressed my anxiety and distress, ranged from, “He does this to all women, even old ones,” to “Other women all just handle it. Your response is about you,” or, “He’s just an old man.”
The litany is followed by a reflection and invitation to reflection:
Ash Wednesday calls us to put names to our sin, to recognize that our sins of omission and commission, of things done and left undone, have real-life consequences for beloved children of God.
Ash Wednesday, however, does not leave us in our sins. It reminds us we are capable of more than the acts and omissions that diminish love. Ash Wednesday calls us to be restored to mercy and, in this restoration, to accomplish works of love.
This Lent, how can we all hear the words of women who have been damaged by the sin of pride in the church? How can we allow those words to witness to a truth of our church, that we are, at times, overcome by this sin?
And how can we be restored to the wholeness that is the Body of Christ, the body that is both male and female and all the genders in between? How can we be restored to a Body that honors the gifts God expressed through our embodied beings? How can we remember we are all equal before God, and we have all covenanted with God to live this equality in our daily lives?
The Rev. Laurie Brock is an Episcopal priest serving as rector of St. Michael the Archangel in Lexington, Kentucky. She is a deputy to the upcoming General Convention. She is a frequent contributor to various devotional books and online resources and blogs at www.revlauriebrock.com. Her upcoming book, “Horses Speak of God,” will be released in the spring from Paraclete Press.
The Rev. Megan L. Castellan is the assistant rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City currently. By the end of Lent, she will be the rector at St. John’s, Ithaca, New York. She blogs at redshoesfunnyshirt.com, tweets too much at @revlucymeg and throws jelly beans at politicians on TV.