Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011.10.30 Keeping Madeleine's Commandment...Continued

The next hurdle I faced in my obedience efforts not to become a little man after I got ordained was what I call the earring crisis.

I started out eager, panicky, and utterly cloying in the first parish I served after I was ordained a deacon transitioning to priesthood. I was all prepped to serve God and the rector obediently—also Madeleine’s commandment.

It didn’t start off well. The rector had NOT told the parish I was coming on board. Or rather he told them by addressing the congregation and asking them if they knew what an ordained deacon was and what role a deacon played in the ministry of the Church. Everyone looked blank.

So he introduced me by name, invited me to stand, and held me up like a poster child for the diaconate. Then he started a round of welcoming applause. The congregation joined in, because how could they not?

I stood there in my shiny new white alb, my face as red as my new Christmas-tree-bulb red deacon stole draped over my left shoulder and down over my left hip (just the opposite of Miss America’s sash!) And me with no ramp to parade!

I don’t know if his passive aggressive way of communicating was about being a man or not but I decided he modeled a way NOT to communicate.

At the coffee hour a statuesque woman came up to me, put her hand on my arm and asked “Did you know we didn’t know you were coming?” I told her no I didn’t know, and she patted my arm in a deliciously matronizing way, smiled and said, “It’s OK we’re all here.” I felt tears puddling up but didn’t let them escape. She became my deacon, my woman minister, and my “mommy” in that parish from then on, a model of how to be gracious and also direct—a woman perhaps.

The next week an epiphany happened. In the parish’s cobwebbed suggestion box there appeared for the first time since forever a handwritten suggestion: THE PRIEST SHALL NOT WEAR DANGLY EARRINGS.

I gave it to the male rector. “This is for you,” I said. We laughed. I was too scared and servant-ish to be more confrontive and direct with him about his wiles, as was my goal. That would take time. After all I was a woman!

I wore dangling earring most Sundays at the altar—a little flaunting and a little pride in proclaiming my femininity.

Or you could say it was a way to keep Madeleine’s commandment.