Women and the Church

Community Church called its first female minister, Rev. Evelyn Walsh, in 1930.  But it was our second female minister, Rev. Harriet Louise Patterson, called in 1944 and who later left congregational ministry to teach lead groups in the Holy Land, who revitalized our nearly dead congregation.  I imagine, following her example of strength as well as others, many of our female members went on in the 50s-70s to be socially engaged in diverse issues such as fair housing, civil rights, the Farm Workers Movement, Domestic Abuse, etc... and to create a culture of social justice that still defines this congregation today.  I mention this, because it is important to recognize the role of patriarchy and sexism in our sacred texts, our ancient and more recent Christian history, and even still today in our Churches and our society.  Like many Churches, our congregation is made up of a strong majority of women, with women leading and serving in incredible ways.  As the male, white, minister who happens to be minister of CCC today, I am reminded by the quote from the Buddha that was engraved over the front door of our Church in 1960 that reads: "Let us leave anger.  Let us forsake pride. Let us overcome all bondage".  The inscription originally proposed the use of masculine words, including: "Man and Him".  However, somewhere along the way someone was wise enough to change this quote to use gender inclusive language, recognizing that this Church is a sanctuary for both men and women.  Today in worship, in our hymnals and song books, in our variations of the "Lord's Prayer", in our prayers and liturgies, we do our best to represent the diversity and mystery of God--a God that transcends gender.  Of course sometimes God represented as Father.  And sometimes God is Mother.  And sometimes God is Creator and/or Spirit.  But as a minister and as a congregation we always have to be mindful of being a gender inclusive community of faith because we do not live in equal world for women.  For me, as the minister, I regularly try to read interpretations and reflections on scripture by women, and especially women of color.  I try to pay attention to the patriarchy that is intuitive in my own actions and words, as well as in our society around us. And together, we seek to be inclusive of people of all genders as well as those who choose not to be identified by gender.