Community and the spiritual connectedness I feel with the community. That’s the main thing that keeps me linked to my church.
The first Sunday in January, 1996, i came back to this particular Catholic church for the first time since high school. It was odd and wonderful. A homecoming, so much was familiar, even though no one recognized me.
I remember ~ we do this thing, like lots of churches, where we ask new people to introduce themselves at the beginning of mass. Well, the first week I was too shy to stand up. The second week, I didn’t stand up because I didn’t quite feel like I was new, I felt like I was returning. By the third week, I didn’t stand up because, you know, I’d been there three times already. Too late.
But for the longest time, when the greeter would ask people to stand up and introduce themselves, I felt like they were looking at me and waiting for me to do it. I never did.
The first week we were there, I noticed that when we made the sign of the cross, we said “In the name of the Creater, the Redeemer, and the Holy Sanctifier. The Lord’s prayer was the Our Father/Mother.
The second week, we had a baptism for a baby who had two mothers.
The third week, I noticed more inclusive language built into the mass. And i noticed that the priest didn’t always do the bread at Communion. He was just as likely to offer the wine.
Every week for the longest, i noticed something different. A woman who prayed that the Church would recognize the vocational call to priesthood of women. The way we treated children.
I was thrilled.
I had not realized that a “male” God was an issue for me ~ in fact, i would have insisted that it wasn’t. After all, my mother had always said that God was a spirit. That we referred to God as “He” because we don’t have a gender-neutral pronoun and we couldn’t very well call God “It.”
So i thought i got it.
But exposed to language that either avoided “he,” or that alternated “He” and “She,” when talking about God, I felt something inside me blossom.
I remember being glad that I hadn’t started back to this church while I was still married. I thought that in the context of my marriage there had not been room for the kind of feminism I was feeling now. Or for the image of servant leadership. Or for acceptance of all kinds of diversity in all kinds of ways.
Don’t misunderstand me. It wasn’t about feminism, per se. It was about being able to imagine a God who was as much like me as He was like my father, or my ex-husband.
It opened up all kinds of room for spiritual growth. And joy.