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The Freedom of Being Finished.

BeFunky-photo

Hello, dear family. Another day, another lesson. We discover, we connect, we move forward.

 

So I’m not a huge fan of devotionals. (*Gasp in Christian*) When I was a kid, my mother and a bunch of other women from the churches I grew up in would gather in all of their puffy-haired, Charlie perfume wearing glory with covered Bibles in tow and discuss it. My mother and father both collectively had countless books of “devotionals” written by numerous authors on our bookshelves. I never saw my parents as consistent in their practice of them, though, and I was no different as I got older. I find it incredibly difficult to connect with what someone else is saying about the scripture, especially in such brevity.

 

When I began attending an Episcopal church and fell in love with liturgy, I couldn’t get enough of it. The beauty of it all was that it was scripture presented to the people. The homily of course (what non-denom evangelicals call the “sermon” or “message”) is a matter of a person’s interpretation, but the rest of the Eucharist Rite is hymn and scripture, prayer and response. In its simplicity, I found restoration, and I was hooked.

 

In a discussion with the Rector (read: “senior pastor” in evangelical-ese), I was told of an app for my iPhone that are called Offices, these are provided daily and taken from the Book of Common Prayer. I was elated, here was all that I loved about attending church in a format I could access every morning and every evening.

 

Full disclosure: There is nothing brief about these Offices, especially not in comparison with typical evangelical devotions, most of which can be completed in less than ten minutes. I’m a slow reader, but with hymns these usually take me about twenty minutes, sometimes more if I take my time. Also, if you’re interested you can find the ones I use by going to your App Store and searching “Mission St. Clare”.

 

All of this is merely the pretext for what I want to discuss today, because as I was going through this morning’s Daily Office, I was reading a portion of Galatians 2 that I know well enough, and always makes me laugh a little on the inside. This is the passage beginning at verse 11 in which Paul opposes Cephas (Peter) and essentially calls him a hypocrite. My brain puts it like this:

 

Uh, hey man. Like, you ate with these people the other day. Why not now?

Oh yeah, bruh. I mean, I just sorta need to–

Save face? Dude, you’re such a hypocrite.

What did you say?

You’re trying to keep some law that isn’t even relevant anymore. What are you, a Pharisee?

*gasp* How dare you?!

 

Look, my brain is its own special place, okay? I almost always reword passages of scripture in a way that makes me laugh, because trust me there’s plenty to laugh about as you make your way through the Bible. (People who can’t laugh at the Bible annoy me something fierce.)

 

In Galatians 2:21, Paul hits us with this gem: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Er, that’s NIV translation by the way, which isn’t my favorite but it’s what I had nearby.)

 

Oh, Paul. You have to love him. (Me in my head: Do I, though?! DO I?!) The mental gymnastics he puts us through while reading his work is unbelievable. My poor ADHD-addled brain usually has to read what he says at least four times before it starts to come into focus. So many people quote the passage just before this verse: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” This verse is important, too, but in my view it absolutely MUST be put in tandem with verse 21 that follows it and in the context of this passage as a whole.

 

(CONTEXT IS SO IMPORTANT WHEN YOU READ THE BIBLE, OKAY?! OKAY.)

 

The death of Jesus is arguably the most pivotal moment of human existence. I believe in the Big Bang (*gasp*), I believe in evolution (*clutches pearls, sweats*), and I believe in the expansion of the universe (*faints*), all of these are critical moments in science and the history of mankind. All of these events are contingent upon one another for us to inhabit the natural world in which we live. But the SOUL of a man, the intangible stuff of his being, it all hinges on this moment.

 

Jesus walks the earth, he is condemned, he is hung on a cross as a criminal, and he dies. Before he dies, he utters some pretty freaking important words:

 

IT IS FINISHED.

 

Let’s stop. Take stock. What is exactly finished here? For so long, I think the shallow interpretation of this passage that I was left to by neglectful spiritual leaders was the interpretation that Jesus was speaking of the tribulations of the final days of his life– the anxieties, the cruelties, the pain, and the suffering. This would make sense, right? Only Jesus never really considers himself in terms of his own pain and suffering. We see human emotion from him quite frequently– compassion, temptation, even anger. Rarely though, does he seem concerned with his own welfare, merely with his message. (Jesus: A Two on the Enneagram?? Discuss!)

 

Why then, would it logically follow that Jesus was uttering a phrase of thankfulness for his death and the ending of his suffering upon his last breath? Answer: It doesn’t!

 

The Greek word used in the Gospel of John to describe Jesus’ last words is “tetelestai”, a form of the Greek verb “teleo” which means “to bring to an end or complete”. Again, I think it’s patently false to infer that what Jesus is bringing to an end or completing here is his own life. No, in his own words while he was still alive, Jesus speaks of a “ransom” (Greek word “lutron” which is translated as “to loose”, found in Matthew and Mark).

 

What Jesus is accomplishing here is the abolition of sin. The complete and total erasure of it, from every human who has ever lived or will ever live. In the moment of his death, we are taught that Jesus becomes sin itself, so much so that even God cannot look at him. Upon his death, sin is finished. It has been conquered, once and for all.

 

THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS WE TALK ABOUT.

 

Why then, do so many congregations today continue to teach that a humans inherent nature is “sinful”? How do we define sin? Through the law? Through OUR law? Through a socially defined moral law? What is the law in a post-crucifixion world? Is it what government determines it to be? What happens when governments change or shift? If we are unbound from Old Testament law exquisitely and painstakingly detailed throughout the Old Testament, why are moral parameters constructed by biblical authors like Paul and not put forth by God himself?

 

Therefore if we cannot define sin as a breach of the law because law is man made and therefore subjective and in flux, and if sin was abolished upon Christ’s death and a breach of human law or social morality does not constitute sin, then what is sin and where does it exist, how is it defined?

 

Reader, it is now that I would like to posit that “sin” is a condition of the mind and not of the heart or the spirit. Jesus, in his life’s work, repeatedly says phrases such as “you deceive yourself/yourselves” and “do not be deceived”. What is the great deceit here?

 

The great deceit is the belief that sin is a present and active condition rather than a dead and absolved one.

 

We continue to believe we are sinners, even after Christ uttered his final words, and so we spend a life struggling for purity and absolution when it has already been provided.

 

It has already been done.

 

But we keep striving, trying to do something that’s already been done.

 

It’s like trying to knead bread dough after it’s already been baked.

 

My loves, my beautiful friends, sin does not mar you, and there is no law against which you struggle, no action that can separate you from the love of God. Rather than torturing yourself into compliance, believe in the depths of you that your redemption does not want for any stringent obedience. It exists, no matter what.

 

Your sin is loosed. You are free.

 

That is the gospel truth. And it’s worth dying for.

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“Pop Art” and the Divine

Hello again, readers! It is your Catholic, pop culture loving friend here. In addition to being a pop culture fanatic ( I crush the Arts and Entertainment category at every Trivial Pursuit game and pub trivia night!) I am also a teacher. So naturally summer is my favorite season and I am very much enjoying the fruits of my labor currently.

When I first started teaching, I had to learn how to best use my time off. Taking a week or two to do absolutely nothing is a must, but one can only binge so many shows on Netflix before it starts to get unhealthy. Something that I have a major interest in (besides all things pop) is art. And so far this summer, I have signed myself up for two art classes and have already made visits to some of my favorite museums and galleries. Experiencing art is something that engages and relaxes me, so I can think of no better way to spend my summer than learning more about it and creating it.

Visual art and faith have been linked since the beginning of human existence. Before we could write, our ancestors created cave paintings to tell their stories and communicate. Art can explain and articulate things that merely words can’t. And while I certainly consider writing an art form, this post will be mostly about visual art.

That being said, I did just finish reading Madeline L’Engle’s literary work: “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art” (which I highly recommend) and she articulated things that I understood about art but couldn’t put into words myself. She essentially asserts that art and the sacred are linked. Whether or not the artist is a religious person, the act of creating connects him or her to the Divine. This explained to me in a very tangible way why it is that I connect to art so much.

In our world today, connection seems to be “easier” with smart phones and social media. Yet, it is very evident in the way that we continue to mistreat one another and the social injustices that still exist, that we need to connect to one another still more.
Here is where my pop culture moment comes in.

In times of political stress, art has always been produced as a reaction to the climate. If you look at the movements of art in the post World War 1 and 2 eras, you get incredibly radical art movements like Dadaism and Surrealism as well as Abstract Expressionism. In times when people do not know how to grapple with what is going on around them, we create.

The same can be said of this political climate and in particularly through the art of video. I think of all of the commercials and tv episodes that have become ways for us to deal with the backlash of this oppressive climate. However, I am particularly struck by the visual art created by musical artists like Childish Gambino and most recently Jay Z and Beyonce.

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Image still from “This is America”, Childish Gambino taken from CNN.com and Google Images

If you haven’t watched “This is America” by Childish Gambino, it is violent, but unfortunately so is our society which it is reflective of right now. Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, makes several statements with this song and also his video. There have been several articles written about all of the symbolic movements and visuals featured in the video. From the Jim Crow poses that Glover makes, to the white horse of the Apocalypse running through the background, to the all too reminiscent police and gun violence scenes- Glover covers hundreds of years of African American oppression in only a few short minutes.

Similarly, Jay Z and Beyonce create visual art with a political statement with their latest video for “Apes**t”. Jay Z and Bey have separately released videos that make political statements while presenting the viewer with beautiful visual art. Take for example Beyonce’s “Formation” or Jay Z’s “Moonlight.” (the latter by Jay Z takes it’s title from a predominately black film that was an Oscar winner in 2016, but was incorrectly announced as “La La Land”- a very, very white film). Both make statements on what it is to be black in America in accessible, visually stimulating art.

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Image still from “Apes**t”, The Carters, taken from Tidal and Google Images

In this new video for this song, “Apes**t” off of their new joint album, Jay Z and Beyonce are dressed in glamorous, beautifully fashionable clothes and shown standing in front of iconic pieces of art in the Louve. First of all, the fact that this couple has the power to shut down an historic tourist attraction to shoot this shows their clout and achievement. The beautiful shots of them posing regally in front of primarily white paintings by white artists is striking and surely intentional. Beyonce gets much of the screen and lyrical time, and at some points, she also makes strong gestural movements, similar to the striking moves that can be seen in Glover’s “This is America.”

Here we have different artists- Glover and the Carters- exploring and emoting what it means to be a black artist in the political climate right now. As a white woman, I cannot begin to understand fully or pretend to explain their experience. All I can do is accept and experience their unbelievable art and attempt to analyze their meaning and what it says about our world today. And to bring this all back to the spiritual, even though these are pop culture artists and art forms, they invite us to connect to our world, our humanity, and ultimately, our Creator.

Art has always been a connection to the Divine as well as a reaction to the culture which it seeks to reflect. I appreciate these artists’ attempts to create so that we as humans might have more connection to each other. I pray that we can see reflections of our Creator in these artists and artworks as well as in one another. And I continue to pray for our country so that these artistic movements may one day be reactions to joy and equality rather than that of oppression.

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Conviction & Swimsuit Season

So, it’s that time of year again when all of the ads start selling the swimsuit body. By now, you’ve likely seen a zillion commercials for fitness programs, meal prep plans and pills that will (maybe) make you look like the ultra thin model they have chosen to promote their product. The barrage of these messages can wear on our nerves and our relationship to fitness, to the point that we find ourselves ignoring them. That is unless, we aren’t. No matter how “good” we’ve been throughout the holiday season, the ad market is constantly telling us we need what they are offering. We all need the impeccably chiseled bodies that prance across our screens. We all walk our own walk when it comes to body image and wellness and some of you may be further along in your fitness journey, rising high above the media influence. Kudos to you. For those of us who aren’t, this one’s for you.

As modern women, the pressure is higher than ever to look the part. Mothers are expected to present perfectly coiffed and polished children, complete with sparkling appliances and hip mom hair. Singles feel the pressure to always be flawlessly manicured, made up and pliant- because how else will you catch a spouse? The emphasis on physical appearance has become so important, that women are actually killing themselves to keep up. Young people between the ages of 15-24 with anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to peers, Journal of Eating Disorders, 2015. Even more disturbing, is the other end of the age spectrum. From 1999- 2009, hospitalizations involving eating disorders increased for all age groups, with those aged 45-65 increasing the most, accounting for 25% of all hospitalizations, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, 2011. So where do we stand as Christian women in addressing this oppression? Are we circulating scriptures to help with weight loss (read: THOUSANDS of pins on Pinterest) or are we looking at ourselves with the love of our Creator?

Reader, hear me: I am by no means claiming to have mastered this. I love my pedicures and balyage as much as the next Kardashian and am in no way trying to shame subscription to current beauty norms. What I do know is that the standards perpetuated by our culture that lead 7 in 10 women and girls to report a decline in body confidence and increase in beauty & appearance anxiety (Dove Global Beauty & Confidence Report, 2016), which they say is driven by the pressure for perfection from media are pervasive and REAL. What I want to discuss is our confidence and the source that it stems from.

In Hebrews 11, we are reminded of all the Old Testament stories of those who exhibited great faith and were blessed and/or honored God with their acts. The Message translation spells it out nicely.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. Hebrews 11:1-2

Let’s unpack: If faith in God is the source that makes life worth living, what place do dissatisfaction, imperfection or comparison have in our lives? If we believe that God is all powerful, good and loves us more than we could ever comprehend, how could we possibly allow a commercial to debunk these truths? How could we see ourselves as anything less than divinely beautiful? Dear reader, I know you may be thinking “Get real, Tonia. We live in the 21st century. Appearance matters and last time I checked, God isn’t following me around breathing heavenly dust over me to make me a 10 to everyone I meet, nor is He whispering sweet nothings to me when I roll out of bed looking electrified.” And while I’m not trying to start a fight with you, I would argue that He is.

In Hebrews 11:3, we learn that the world is called into existence by God’s word-what we see is created by what we don’t see. That means you and me and People’s Sexiest are all created in the same spirit of light and love, and regardless of our waistbands or teeth whiteness, we are all perfectly and divinely created. God’s word says we are wanted, chosen, beautiful and more precious than rubies, so who are we to doubt this? So what if those jeans from last year don’t fit. Why does it matter that your contouring technique isn’t perfect? Would you really let the fact that you went to work with eye boogers contradict the overwhelming love that God has for us, flaws and all? NO! As, Christian women, we know better. We know that we serve a God who made us in an image of strength and love. My challenge to you is to live in it.

Resist the urge to compare yourself to the woman in the next fitting room. When you have days of doubt and self loathing, lose yourself in the Word. Open your heart to receiving the loving Spirit of our creator, day in and day out. I promise you 10 minutes of Pinterest spiraling on love/beauty scriptures will change your attitude (DO IT). If all of this seems too fluffy and sunshine-y to break down the spirits of dissatisfaction and insecurity that have been speaking over you, I invite you to sing a new song.

Consider that your identity is essential to the world. You are more than eye candy. God created you for a specific role in His Kingdom, to reflect the light and love that our Creator has for each of us. Any force that contradicts these truths is an enemy to all that God has planned for you, which is greater than you can imagine. Still not convinced? Meditate on this:

We already are what we want to become. We don’t have to become someone else. All we have to do is be ourselves, fully and authentically. We don’t have to run after anything. We already contain the whole cosmos. We simply return to ourselves through mindfulness and touch the peace and joy that are already present within us and all around us. I have arrived. I am already home. There is nothing to do. -Thich Nhat Hanh

You are perfect. You are loved. You are divine. Seek confidence in our Creator. His supply is endless and He gives it freely and without judgement.

wj

My heroes, Wendi & Jessee who love Jesus, themselves and fabulous swimwear

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History Has Its Eyes On You.

Fam, today I have so much to say that I’ve been staring at a blank screen for nearly an hour now, not knowing where to begin. My heart is heavy as I sit here, I spent most of the day yesterday crying and raging at the heavens as images poured in of inconsolable mothers, children, and families being separated and isolated. I will admit, my first instinct always with images like these that feel unbearable is to look away, to tell myself I can’t bear it.

But reader, it is vital that you look. Let it sink in. Let it bring tears. Let it stir up within you righteous anger. If it does not stir these emotions within you, I would urge you to ask yourself “Why?” At the end of the day, this has become a political discussion when it is anything but. It is a discussion of morality, of ethics, and of what we are willing to tolerate in this country.

I have often heard from people that church is a place that “uplifts” them or “encourages” them, a safe place, a place to feel happy, a place to be in community. It is now that I will encourage you that if this has not been discussed in your church, if your faith leaders are not openly and vocally disturbed and heartsick over this matter, please find yourself a new church.

In a coming post, I discuss the law and those who, in Jesus’ time, lived their lives according to the law. Jesus often condemned these people, he called them “hypocrites” and “vipers”. He said on more than one occasion that these leaders looked for their salvation within the law and that they would not find it there– for this, he was put to death. My loves, this is not a new story. Ascription to the law and the seeking of salvation within the law is a tale as old as time. As human beings, we often delight in the law.

Laws have order.

Laws make sense.

Laws give us a sense of right and wrong.

Humanity is messy.

Humanity is corrupt. (So we’re told.)

Humanity needs a standard.

I don’t like throwing around talking points– we’ve all seen the discussion and the debates on social media, I’ve engaged in several myself. I am baffled by the total lack of compassion and common sense that I am seeing before my own eyes; bigotry and racism justified under laws that are distorted and twisted, believed by individuals with very little context or understanding.

There is, however, one suggestion that I would like to make.

The law is fallible. It is flawed. It is vulnerable to the usurpation of its righteousness by evil men who have traded their compassion for power, men who have systematically torn down their empathy and their humanity to construct greed in its place. As I’m sure many of you have seen, the atrocious acts committed by Adolf Hitler in Germany during the second world war were upheld by German law, perfectly legal. Now, nearly eight decades after the fact, history abhors Nazi Germany. It is a subject that makes people uncomfortable and rouses that righteous anger within us.

Germany did not become Nazi Germany overnight. A long stream of sociopolitical events preceded what it ultimately became. It started with a country with a collapsed economy, poverty and hunger running rampant everywhere and no ability for people to provide for their families. (Sound familiar?) It continued with charismatic and boisterous politicians who told the common people that their livelihoods had been stolen from them, and that their country was destined for greatness, ordained by God to be the greatest nation on earth. (Still sound familiar?)

As many survivors of the Nazi regime have attested, the horrors of mass graves, concentration camps, the euthanization of whole families, and the ruthlessness known by history did not appear instantaneously. It came about gradually and then all at once. It was allowed when feelings of disenfranchisement created by social privilege allowed those in power to demonize, dehumanize, and ultimately torture and murder millions of innocent lives.

After the 2016 election, I was told countless times to “just give him a chance”, “we don’t know that it will all be bad”. Things began to increase slowly, but I saw signs to hope– marches and demonstrations that drew thousand (even millions) of protesters, petitions and town hall meetings that were overwhelmed by people demanding justice, action, and accountability from their lawmakers. In my own part of the state I live a Congressional Representative refused to hold a town hall on healthcare and the Affordable Care Act because he knew he’d be overrun by righteously angry citizens with questions.

In 1999, after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, Al Gore gave a speech in which he said: “The young killers at Columbine High School do not stand for the spirit that is America”. Well reader, I’d like to take my inspiration from Mr. Gore and say to you that this administration and its participants in Congress do not represent the spirit that is America. I have been disheartened by the massive support thrown behind outrageous policy and enforcement at the hands of this administration, and most of this justification and normalization taking place within the evangelical church.

I could go talking point by talking point and deconstruct it, correct it, point out its flaws and errors. I could talk about logical fallacies (and boy, are there a lot of them), I could talk about immigration law that is being massively manipulated and misunderstood for the benefit of those in power, I could talk about all of that.

Rather simply, though, I will say that this is not an issue of law or politics. To make it so is a deflection that removes an individual from the responsibility that humans have to each other to provide care for one another with empathy and granting of dignity and basic humanity. We cannot teach this morality– what we can do is demonstrate it. I find it nearly impossible at times to have sensitivity or consideration for those who are trading their human soul to the talking heads at Fox News, ruthless individuals who thrive on incendiary claims and the money it makes them. I wring my hands at the disappearance of critical thinking and analysis and the deconstruction surrounding intelligent media within itself. Many times, I simply want to scream that I cannot understand how anyone can look at the images I’m seeing and read the accounts I’m reading and propagate it with any single justification.

Reader, it is indefensible to separate a mother from her child. It is appalling to place families and humans in the conditions we have been placing them. It is antichrist to see a family with children fleeing from persecution, political turmoil, rape, and imminent threat of murder, and to tear their children away from them, detain them, and send them back to their war torn countries without their children in their arms. From the countless Biblical passages in both the old and new testament that speak to the treatment of immigrants and refugees, I remember a time when Hebrews 13:1-2 came into sharp focus for me.

At the time, I was living with my grandmother and she told a story of a woman who came to stay with them for several evenings. They knew only this woman’s first name and none of her story or where she came from. My grandmother said she had an accent, but she couldn’t quite place it as this woman told colorful and vibrant tales of her journeys and her struggles. During this time, my grandparents were struggling heavily. It was during the financial collapse of 2008 and my grandmother had lost her job and foreclosure on their dream home was imminent.

During her brief stay in my grandparents house, this woman told them countless times that everything would work out, that struggle was needed to rise higher, that they would yet see the fruits of their labor. My grandparents did lose the home they had worked to build. They saw hard and dark times. They toiled. They took care of my grandfather’s ailing mother. When she died, she left them an inheritance. They have a home again, they are retired, they live happily and comfortably. My grandmother wholeheartedly believes this woman was sent from God.

As she told me this story, she quoted Hebrews: “Let thy brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Hospitality is not baking someone a cake when they’re sad. It is not a fellowship brunch for the Womens Auxiliary on Sunday evening.

Hospitality is much more gritty. It is opening your home when you feel you have nothing to give, when you are in scarcity or want. It is bringing in those who have been cast out by the social caste that tells them they are unfit to exist in their clean and morally superior society. It is risking name, reputation, livelihood, and life in pursuit of putting on the skin of Jesus Christ and opening your arms and your hearts to all who have been deemed the least of them by an abhorrent, law-obsessed culture.

Hospitality is the heavy stuff of love. We cannot do it alone. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes even more to raise the oppressed out of their oppression. Sure as I sit here typing, I know it will ask everything and more of me, and I know that it is worth my everything and more that I have to give. Because when we entertain the broken, the immigrant, the refugee, the homeless, the outcast, the demonized, we entertain angels.

I hope with a hope beyond what I can comprehend that I am not alone in this fight. We are tired, we are browbeaten, we are discouraged, but my dear, beautiful family:

We are not defeated.

We will win.

History has its eyes on us. And love wins. Every single time.

 immigrants
*Image courtesy The Washington Post
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Genesis 1-25: In The Beginning

Hi everyone! Quick disclaimer before we start. The only person I speak for is me. Nothing I say is the official opinion of Grace and Feminism, Anamchara Fellowship, or any church in particular. I know plenty of people have different interpretations of Scripture than I do, and that’s great- all are welcome here! Now…

Genesis 1-25 picture
Credit: NewAtlas.com

Let’s begin in the beginning. It’s one of my favorite parts of the Bible, these opening verses. I love the ebb and flow of the days and nights and the poetry in the repetition of the words. “…And there was morning, and there was evening…” those first days, and every day since.

The words ground me in time; they make me feel the passing of the days and the seasons. The church year itself has some of the same effect on me, with Pentecost feeling like the end of school before summer break and Advent giving me the feeling of coming back home and settling into the year again. As we recount our Creation story, I feel the wonder of our world, brand new and opening up to life for the first time. I feel the amazement at what God has created for us. Never mind that I don’t take the story literally- the truth in it is that “God created”, now how many calendar years it took to do it.

I only read the first half of Genesis for this week. It’s a 50-chapter book, so I’m doing us all a favor and splitting it into two weeks.

I’m glad I did, too. There’s so much ground to cover- literally generations of people and accounts of some pretty wild events. I stopped at the end of chapter 25, right after Esau sells his birthright to Jacob. This comes on the heels of a lengthy list of begats which, if you follow it straight through, probably gives you a nice, broad family tree (I did not get out paper and write one up, but I bet you can find them online).

I have a hard time picturing these stories happening; part of that is because I don’t believe in them literally. For example, archaeology tells us there was some massive flooding several millennia ago, so the story of Noah and the ark may be the survivors’ explanation for why they (or their ancestors) were spared. But I don’t think some guy built a boat and gathered up the animals- except for the unicorns, according to that song- and floated with them for six weeks.

The other part of it, though, is that it’s just so far removed from my own time and place that, even when I try to picture the events, I just don’t know what it is I’m supposed to see. I could research this and learn more about it, of course. We do know some things about how people lived in that place, about the time Genesis was written down and in the preceding centuries.

But as often, what I find myself doing is filling it in. Take the story of Adam and Eve, for example. They’re naked in a garden, so that’s enough information for a mental image, if you’re comfortable having one. But because I’ve read the book Good Omens so many times, I always picture the serpent wearing sunglasses and snakeskin shoes (or at least presumably they were shoes, as the narrator says). And I imagine the angel with the flaming sword giving it to Eve and having to explain himself to God.

None of that is in the Bible! But Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (GNU) wrote such an engaging account of it that, even though I know the Bible story, it’s their account that I picture. And if you think that’s bad, wait until we hit the Gospels and I tell you about a book called Lamb…

But I think what we learn from Genesis doesn’t have to be literal stories. When I read Genesis and repeat the stories that have been told for millennia, I find beauty in the tradition of them. I love thinking about how I’m just one more person in a world’s worth of people to hear these stories and learn from them. I’ve got thousands of years worth of people who wondered how the giraffes like the ark, or how long it took Isaac to figure out that he was the sacrifice- and what the conversation in their home was like afterwards! Just like the opening verses of the chapter, the stories of Genesis help me find my place in the history of my faith.

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It’s About Time!

Hi everyone! I’ve got a project I want to start with you all. See, last week in church, the kids’ choir performed their spring musical. It was so great! It was called The Old Testament Fast Forward, and promised to give us the entire Old Testament in 10 minutes or less.

Well… they came close. The “Producer” came onstage about ten minutes in to let the audience know that we should scratch out “ten” and write in “twenty”. When she came out again to let us know that it was going to be more like half an hour, maybe longer, one of the other kids asked, “How much more do we have left?”

“About 900 years!”

And then they sang a song, to the tune of the William Tell Overture, wherein they named a lot of prophets really quickly.

And after that, one of the kids made a suggestion: If you felt like you were missing some details, maybe you could go home and read your Bible for ten minutes a day? Then it would be like reading the entire Hebrew Bible in ten minutes!

I’m not sure I buy the logic, exactly, but I love the idea.

Here’s my big confession: I haven’t read the entire Bible. Large chunks, sure, but not every word. And I think it’s more than time that I changed that. So my project is this, and here’s your formal invite to participate: I’m going to read one book of the Bible every week. If it’s a long book, or a rough week, I might get halfway through. I’ll be giving myself whatever grace I need. And once I’ve read, I’ll blog about it.

I’d love for you (yeah, you!) to read some or all of it with me and I’d love to know what you think in the comments here or on our facebook page.

Here’s the caveat: I’m not a theologian. I’ve never taken any classes, I don’t know a lot about translation, and I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time studying other texts for context. (I may use the study Bible my priest gave me, however, because I think footnotes are just the right amount of additional information for me right now.) So the responses are going to be my thoughts, my gut feelings, and my opinions.

I don’t speak for the Grace and Feminism team as a whole (none of us does) and I don’t speak for the Episcopal Church or Anamchara Fellowship, either. The only person I speak for is myself, and I want to invite you to speak for yourself, either in the comments on this post or on our facebook page. Talking and sharing our own traditions, interpretations, and ideas are all great ways to put real thought into the Bible and our faith!

The Bible isn’t like other books; I don’t expect the novels I read to be divinely inspired and I don’t expect to live the rest of my life according to the things I learn from them. It’s great when God speaks to me though something I read, or when an author says they felt that the Spirit inspired their writing, and I do get a lot of really solid life lessons from books, but… the Bible is so much more than that. That said, because I can’t give you deep theology for everything I read, sometimes I’m going to respond on a basic, personal level. There might be weeks that we talk about history, or culture or language, but there will also be weeks where I just write about whether I liked the stories or not.

If you’re up for responding, I invite you to do the same. It’s okay not to have deep theological conversations about every passage. We’ve got a whole lifetime to read and re-read and we’ve got to start somewhere! So I invite you to check back every Sunday for a post from me and I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say!

Happy reading!

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“Is It Like In ‘Sister Act’?”

Hi everyone! Sister Mark here. I’m Grace and Feminism’s resident Religious Sister. I’ve been a Sister since taking my vows in January, 2017. My dispersed order, Anamchara Fellowship, was formed in 2000 in the traditional Celtic style. Back when there were only three digits in the year, the Christian church in the British Isles had a different style of Religious Life than most orders you see today. Their monastic communities sometimes included men and women in the same order, women in leadership, married members, and a unique style of spiritual formation.  “Anamchara” means “Soul Friend”, and exemplifies the way that Brothers and Sisters of Anamchara Fellowship are meant to live within the world, as Anamchara to everyone we meet.

I’ll post more (a lot more!) about Religious Life in the Episcopal church, but I want to start with a question a lot of people have asked me over the last couple of years as I began the spiritual formation process and prepared to take my vows. In fact, people still ask me all the time- most recently, I was cornered by a middle school kid at our church youth retreat. H wanted to know: “What’s it like being a nun? Do you like it?”

Taking vows
Here I am taking my vows. The filter hides the terrified look on my face.

 

Whether I like being a nun is a fairly straightforward question- I do like it! It’s fulfilling and peaceful to do God’s will and I get a lot of satisfaction and beauty in feeling that I’m exactly where I’m called to be. And I like my community of Brothers, Sisters, and Companions. My life is better for having them in it- there’s even a weekly DnD game a bunch of us play!

I think this would be different if I had somehow ended up in Religious life against my will, or against God’s call in my life. I think that if that were true, I would find the responsibility oppressive, the community stifling, and that sense of peace and satisfaction missing. I once heard, or possibly read, the observation that your calling is “where your great joy meets the world’s deep need”. I find great joy in living as a Sister, and it is the place God is calling me to fill a need.

I don’t always know where that need is, and sometimes I think that this might be the fulfillment of my call, simply to be present when and where I find myself. Some people find the fulfillment of their own calling in a job or ministry. I think maybe mine is to be available at all the odd times, when there is nobody else. To stand in the middle of difficult questions and the moral decisions nobody else wants to make.

And that’s terrifying. I am so little in control of that- I have been approached in the grocery store, in museums, and in churches. I have heard stories of health disasters, miracles, questions, faith, and doubt. I have no formal training in ministry or spiritual direction or therapy- I just say a prayer and hope God will give me words. I think about Moses a lot.

As scary as it is, I love that this happens. It’s so special to be able to be there for someone, to know that their step is a little lighter and their heart a little brighter because you cross their path.

Of course, I haven’t answered this question in it’s most basic form, which is: what do I do all day? I don’t wander around in my habit waiting for someone to need God, and because of the way my community functions, I do need to hold down a job.

So, that’s a lot of what I do. I have a secular job that I enjoy very much! A lot of the folks in my community work in a helping profession or a church- we have a lot of priests. My own job is very secular, but I don’t see that as separate from living a life in which I bring God wherever I go and remain available for whoever needs Him.

To give you a sketch of what my life is like day-to-day, I got up a little after six this morning and made faces about having to get out of bed. Then I showered, dressed for work (in a nice pant-suit type thing; I don’t wear my habit to the office) and drove the half hour or so that it takes me to get there. I usually sing loudly into my steering wheel while I drive.

Once I was settled at my desk, I checked my work email and then my personal email. Morning Prayer in my community comes daily by email. One of the Brothers writes it up every morning, so each day we say something a little different. We work our way through a couple of prayer cycles so Morning Prayer includes, each day, different members of the community and other orders.

Given the time that Morning Prayer comes out, I usually pray it sitting at my desk. It takes a relatively short time and then I get to work. There’s a break mid-day for lunch and some time here and there to chat with my co-workers. My office likes to talk about hockey and movies, and argue about food- usually cake vs pie or triscuits vs wheat thins. I’m hungry at work a lot!

When my workday is over, I head home or meet with friends. One night a week is DnD night, another is a standing dinner date with my best friends. We do all the normal stuff- watch movies, go out to dinner, and talk for hours. Sometimes I go hang out with my Mom and Dad and our cats, who all live nearby. Sometimes I have chores to do- laundry and dishes, the same as anybody else.

At some point in the evening, I say Evening Prayer and depending on which friends I’m with, sometimes someone will join me. I really enjoy having company while I pray- but even when I don’t, I know that my Brothers and Sisters around the world are praying with me.

After we’ve hung out for a while, or I’ve watched a movie or done my chores or read a book, it’s time for lights out. I finish the dishes and brush my teeth and say Compline before I turn off the light and listen to podcasts until I fall asleep.

This often raises the question (and it’s not a bad one) how is this different from anybody else’s life? Lots of people pray a lot and go to work and hang out with friends. Why bother to be a nun if you’re not going to move into a monastery and work for the church?

It’s a really good question and honestly, one that can be really hard to answer. In style, my life isn’t very different from what it was before. I do a lot of the same things. It’s the substance that is changing and, with God’s help, will continue to change. Others’ mileage will vary, but for me, the difference is in my approach to life, the all-in, ride-or-die work to focus on God and being God’s hands and feet in the world. The difference, then, might be the intensity and constancy of the commitment.

That means that I work every day to be more patient, more kind, to embody God’s love more deeply. Because I am visibly religious, I have taken on a burden that I think many people do not feel to represent Christ in everything I do, without exception. This is really hard and I am nowhere near as good at it as I would like to be, but it is that growth to be more and more like Christ that is the substantial change you should be able to see in me.

So, what’s it like being a nun? In some ways, that’s a question God answers for me every day in unique ways. What can I do today to be a good nun? How can I serve You? And He always has an answer, whether it’s immediately clear or not. As for whether I’m happy in this life, here’s what I’ve learned: following God’s will is the outcome that will make you the happiest, even when it’s difficult or frightening or a lot of work. I would recommend it to anyone.

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What Do We Mean When We Say “Pride”?

FBD54A23-B02E-4557-928E-3714EDB49AA9Well hellooooo, Fem Fam! Salutations from your new favorite Christian lesbian feminist. (Not always in that order. Just keepin’ it a hundred.)

Don’t worry, I don’t bite. Without consent anyway, because consent is critical, kids.

TODAY is one of the most glorious days of the year for me, the first day of PRIDE MONTH. If you’re unfamiliar, Pride Month is the time of year when Madonna comes out of her hole and if she sees her shadow, Mike Pence gets another piece of legislation passed.

I’m kidding. Sort of. Anyway!

Pride Month is historically set in June because June is a very gay month. You can trace the roots of Pride back to June 28, 1969. In those days, the countercultural revolution was in full swing, but the LGBTQ+ community was still largely kept out of it. (Some day, Fem Fam, we will have a talk about MLK’s right hand man, Bayard Rustin. Some day.)

There is this bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village called The Stonewall Inn. Traditionally, it was where gay men and women as well as our trans peers and also our drag queens came to socialize and be themselves in a world where it was incredibly dangerous (and illegal) to do so. The police would routinely raid Stonewall and arrest people, but on this night, the people fought back.

The police tried to arrest Stormé Delarverie several times and lead her out of the bar and into a waiting wagon as she broke free and asked the patrons what they were going to do about it. This combined with the burgeoning crowd outside sparked a riot that soon grew violent. Stormé was a butch lesbian and Drag King and she’s a name that’s largely been lost to the echoes of history. I am incredibly honored to count her among my own.

Let’s unpack this, guys. Stonewall marks a watershed moment in my community’s history because for the first time in modern history, my community had had enough of being brutalized, hunted, and tortured. Traditionally, we were thought of as a community that was too timid or fragile to fight back. So when we did, the world stood up and took notice. 

Pride takes its origins from Stonewall, it is first and foremost a commemoration event to mark the anniversary of the day when a restless and beleaguered people finally used their voices in tandem to say “fight back”. The anthem became “Stonewall means fight back”. 

This is the blood that runs in my veins, you guys. This is the stuff I am made of, the legacy I come from. A marginalized group who has been excluded from human and civil rights movements, removed violently from their homes and churches, beaten and homeless and murdered, encouraged to take their own lives in massive numbers.

And yet.

And yet.

We are a strong people. We are a diverse people. We are a progressive people. We have been at the forefront of every justice wave this country has known, taking names for ballots and organizing details for marches and demonstrations. We are the rebel yell that refuses to be suppressed no matter how hard they try to silence us.

And at the same time, we are soft and gentle creatures of an Almighty God. We have learned through our history and our experiences that love always wins. It is the mighty wind that sweeps through and stirs up the dust of compassion, evil cannot stand against it as it works it’s way through the streets. Love continues to be our message as it always has been, and we fight for our right to love every day we leave our homes and our closets and declare: We are here. We are valid.

I wish I had the time to explain to you the harm the church has done to their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, family, friends, and loved ones. I wish I had hours or days with comfortable couches and warm candle flickers and something hot to drink to tell you all of our stories so you could see the pain and the hurt mix with the tenderness and fondness like different colors of acrylic paints in my eyes. 

Dear ones, I beseech you: Move closer to the heart of Christ. Know that his heart is unadulterated and unfettered love, that He made me in his image just the way he made you. I have been made new and clean before my God because Christ took my sin upon his shoulders on that cross and declared that it was finished. 

Finished.

I take pride in who I am just as my Jesus does, I revel in my indomitable spirit and the unquenchable flame of hope I have to see a fully affirming church before the end of my life. Don’t think it’s possible? 

Three years ago, I sat at my desk. I was so frazzled from insomnia and job stress, I had totally forgotten what this day was. My phone buzzed just before I clocked in with a text from my sister:

You ready for today?

And that’s when it dawned on me: Today was SCOTUS’ decision on marriage. Obergefell v. Hodges had finally made the federal government get involved after a tedious state by state battle. Generations of my community had fought, bled, and died for a day such as this, and I waited in nervous anticipation along with crowds outside of the Supreme Court and people watching all over the world. 

As I was speaking to a customer (working in a call center sucks, y’all), my phone began to buzz itself off of my desk, calls and texts pouring in too fast for the poor little machine to keep up with them. My heart jumped in my throat.

This was it.

My community, two decades before, had still been picking up the tattered pieces of ourselves after AIDS ravaged us. With little to no help or assistance from a government that had turned a blind eye, we were too busy keeping our men and trans folk alive to give attention to equality under the law. But finally, finally. The day had come.

With a deep knowledge of it in my bones, I ended my phone call, asked for a quick break, got up and walked to a secluded area, took a deep breath, and turned my phone on.

Rainbows everywhere. People celebrating. Partners crying in each other’s arms. Texts from all of my friends and my sister and my girlfriend at the time.

We did it. We won. The world turned upside down. 

And listen, if you’ve never read Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion resultant from Obergefell, please do yourself the favor and Google it. It is strikingly poignant and beautiful, and it eloquently summarizes the endeavors of the petitioners in the case as well as the LGBTQ+ community around the world. 

Coming out continues to be one of the scariest things I have to repeatedly do in my life, but that day made it entirely worth it. Every time a friend or someone close had closed the door on me, told me I was bound for hell, it all felt justified in that moment. Love had won, it had conquered all of it, and I was alive to see it.

So my dear Fem Fam, remember this: You will be alive to see great change in this world. And what’s more, you will be the cause of great change in this world. All I ever dared to do was speak my truth to the power that told me I was wrong. The world changes when people claim their truth, when they know deep in the stuff of their spirit that their truth is affirmed by Most High God, they become unstoppable.

They become world changers.

They find Pride. 

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Male Clergy Don’t Need to be Speaking about #MeToo.

Hello, Fem Fam! Today, I want to talk about a topic that is not a “fun” topic. It’s not light hearted (though if you’re like me, you use humor to diffuse tension). This is not me saying: “Let’s have coffee and chat, girlfriend!” Nope.

Today, I want to talk about the #MeToo Movement. Specifically, why I don’t think it is appropriate for a man to speak on it.

So at the heart of active feminism is the idea of patriarchy, right? The very construct that places men in positions of social privilege over women. Feminism is not about equality. Oh what, you thought it was? Oops. I hate to be the bearer of bad news.

Okay, okay. Technically the dictionary definition of “feminism” is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes”. So you’ve got me there. But the working definition of feminism, the actual boots-on-the-ground idea of feminism that is ever changing and growing and alive, is not at all about equality.

For equality, we often look to softer ideologies that converge with feminism, such as egalitarianism. I could spend weeks -genuinely, weeks- on my issues with egalitarianism in a post-modern society. You have places to be though, so suffice it to say that egalitarianism is the work of the privileged.

Don’t believe me? Think of this: Many churches who seek to be “progressive” or at least evoke an illusion of progress, happily espouse egalitarian ideology. Look at most of the people in those churches and you will see myriad privileges— predominantly white, relatively financially secure with few exceptions, largely led by male pastors or clergy. All of these give themselves easily to a personal belief in egalitarianism because it doesn’t challenge anything. You can spout the ideas of equality for your entire life and never really do anything about it. Egalitarianism lets people stay comfortable in their privilege

#MeToo is a movement founded by a black woman, Tarana Burke. It is a movement that seeks to speak truth to despicable abuses of power by men in our society, men who have been privileged to receive very little consequence -if any at all- for their criminal behavior. And you can find this in abundance no further than the pews of a church house.

In the wake of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, the Larry Nassar trials, and dozens of powerful men in Hollywood, Washington, and beyond being revealed for their abuse, many faith organizations and churches felt compelled to speak on the movement and contribute their thoughts to the national conversation.

Let me be clear here: I have no issue with faith groups and churches speaking on this movement. In fact, doing so is an important key to opening the door and shining light on the abuse that is perpetuated through established patriarchal power within the church. It is this privileged power that has allowed countless men in positions of trust and authority to wield that as a weapon to prey on innocence. It is time the church speaks not only to issues “out there” but to their own roots of systemic and propagated physical, spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse and the coercion that comes with it.

Ninety percent of the abuse I have suffered in my life has been at the hands of religious authority throughout my childhood and adolescence. Most of it was coercive or suggestive in nature, that lovely gray area that had me spurning after the accusations against Aziz Ansari came to light and America learned just how poor their definition of “consent” was.

I don’t owe anyone that story (and by the way, if you are a survivor you don’t owe anyone your story either), but what I do know is that when I see male preachers, pastors, and other clergy speaking authoritatively on MeToo, it makes me see some red at my visions edges. For centuries, since before our modern society was even a twinkle in the eye of settlers, men have had the dominant voices in this world. They speak with authority on pretty much any subject you can find. Because of the nature of patriarchy, they are more easily trusted and believed in everything from credentials and experience to knowledge and intuition. They speak even when it is not their place to speak.

MeToo is not a man’s time to speak. Indeed, it is antithetical to the movement itself. Hearing men -and organizations led by men- speak on this time in history is strikingly poignant because it is representative of exactly what the problem is— men have usurped women’s voices thereby silencing them, and when they are asked to step aside and let us speak to our own experiences, they grow uncomfortable. Therein lies the perpetuation of egalitarianism and trusting men to speak powerfully to experiences they have not lived and cannot know: the root of it, always, is patriarchal privilege. The church MUST confront this power structure and endeavor to dismantle it from the top down.

To do that, they must stop being afraid of women. They must be willing to believe women. They must be willing to stop talking and start listening to women when they tell the stories of their experiences. They must cease allowing male authority to go unchecked and unaudited; they must stop silencing women who dare to come forward and speak truth to power.

Furthermore, they absolutely must begin responding to accusations of criminal sexual misconduct for exactly what they are: criminal. No more “grace counseling”. No more “rehabilitation”. No more “but I know him, and I know he wouldn’t do this”. Thousands of addicts who would benefit from rehabilitation suffer and die in our jails and prisons every year while men (and yes, including men in the church) are “rehabilitated” with the only end result being that they are free to commit their crimes again.

I don’t want to hear men in power speak to an intrinsically female founded and lead movement. I want to see real, practical change and a steadfast, unwavering commitment to the protection of women, a devotion to their safety and flourishing in faith based environments, and a cry for justice when ever and where ever they are abused. Most importantly, I want to see women speaking truth. I want to see and hear women leading the battle cry that brings irreversible change to the Bride of Christ.

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*Photo courtesy of clydefitchreport.com retrieved from Google Images.

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Royals Got Married and God Was There

Hello, good readers! As I am writing this, it is the feast of Pentecost- the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. It is also known as the “birthday” of the Church! It is the day that the apostles were finally given the Advocate that they needed to come out of their hiding place and spread the Gospel with the world. What better day to come out of our own “hiding” and launch this blog?!

In case you were wondering where we have been, the nine of us have been getting to know each other and forming community- much like the apostles did after Jesus initially called them together. We’ve been chatting and sending videos and praying for and with one another. I won’t speak for the rest of the ladies, but by the end of 2017- a year that seemed to take us back in time rather than progress in many ways- I was really questioning my Christian roots and state of the world. I needed a solid, strong, female Christian community. It has been a gift to get to know these ladies and I look forward to what we will be able to share with all of you!

Now let’s get down to business. Today is the day. By the time that this is published, it will not be Pentecost any longer, but it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit isn’t any less present. We do need reminders like the Feast of Pentecost to remind us of the Spirit’s power, though. I love the feast of Pentecost because it has been a time when the Holy Spirit has moved in a very real way for me in the past. When I was in college, I celebrated this feast day by doing mission work in Guatemala and for the first time, I put together what this feast is about: the Holy Spirit moving the apostles to action. The Holy Spirit takes over them and they finally have the courage to go out and do Christ’s work (it should be noted that the female disciples came out of hiding much sooner, however. Women were the first ones at Christ’s tomb and Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Lord!)

A few years later, I would make the decision to enter a convent (I’m Catholic, y’all. Don’t let that scare you! I’m chill, I promise!). And after a year of giving it my best, praying hard, living in community, and surrendering much, I decided that it wasn’t for me. It was on Pentecost that God sent me out into the “world” again. It was scary, but I knew that it was right.

But this first blog post isn’t about me. It is about Pentecost and how the Holy Spirit can move in any way that we let it.

This post is also a little about another important event that happened this weekend: The Royal Wedding.

Okay, so you may be thinking. They’ve let a Catholic onto a Christian Feminist blog and now she is going to start by writing about something as archaic as a royal marriage?! I know that we don’t really know each other yet, readers. But you will find, that my forte may not be in interpreting historical feminist texts, but that I am your girl for interpreting Scripture, rituals, and pop culture. Please bear with me.

If it means anything, I had no intention of watching the thing, to begin with. What you will also learn about me is that I am an early riser (I’m a teacher and I can’t turn off my internal clock, even on the weekends. I’m super fun at parties with my ten o’clock bedtime). I haphazardly ended up watching Will and Kate’s wedding a few years back for the same reason: it was on and I was up.

I was excited to see Meghan’s dress, I will own that. I was also excited to see all of the hats. (Oh, the hats!) I think a lot of us tuned in to see those things and then got something we weren’t expecting: even though the event took place in a church, we were all “taken to CHURCH.”

I was anticipating the ceremony to be a little different than what we have seen in the past. Harry has made waves and headlines in his day as a young royal, and it was, of course, historical that he was marrying a bi-racial American.

He was also marrying a grown ass woman. She is 36. She has been married before. There was a bunch of nonsense in the media if her father was going to attend the wedding or not, let alone walk her down the aisle. When I saw her step out of the car, I thought she did look happy and beautiful. But when I saw her walk down that aisle mostly by herself (until Prince Charles came to meet her halfway), I saw an independent woman.

And then there was the sermon. This is where I believe the Holy Spirit really began to move. Bishop Michael Curry and his “The Power of Love” sermon got as much media attention as the happy couple. It was really his sermon that prompted me to write this post. If you haven’t seen it or heard it, I encourage you to google it and watch a video or read the text of it. He quotes Martin Luther King and the Gospels and African American spirituals to name a few. But the reason I believe that it captured so much media attention is twofold: 1.) his convicting delivery and 2.) it was about love. Real love.

Love and joy are what we need right now. I saw so many tweets with pictures of the couple saying things like: “we needed this.” And it’s as simple as it is true. We need to celebrate love. And we shouldn’t need an archaic royal wedding to do it, but our world, as we have found, is suuuuuper slow moving as far as the reality of progress is concerned. The Holy Spirit can move through anything, any moment, any person if we let it, even something like the Royal Wedding that may seem more like a cultural moment than necessarily a spiritual one.

In Bishop Curry’s sermon, he talks about the power of fire, which I found appropriate with Pentecost on my brain this weekend. He mentioned that fire is a life source for us. We would die from cold or starvation without it. Our industry and economy exist because of it. And to tie this all back to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit made itself present in tongues of fire to the apostles so that they would have the courage to live out their mission.

So many people were captivated by the Royal Wedding, but I don’t think it was just for the usual reasons. I think that we allowed the Holy Spirit to break through a little bit. The Spirit was present through Bishop Curry, through the awesome gospel choir, through the breaking of some traditional boundaries. The Holy Spirit cannot be contained. We try to box so many parts of ourselves and our world in, and for a couple of hours, we got to witness that it is okay to marry the old with the new- literally and figuratively.

I could say so much more, but hopefully, I’ve just started a little spark here and my counterparts can take over and continue to fan the flame. Oh, and if you were like me and still aren’t quite sold on the feminism in any of this, do yourself a favor and google Meghan Markle’s Nickelodeon News interview from when she was like 12. Her little feminist insight gives me a glimmer of what kind of Duchess she may be!

Thank you for starting this journey with us

Peace,

Julia

*Photo credit: Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images