When I began training for the priesthood the Church was still unwilling to accept women into this ministry. As a member of MOW (Movement for the Ordination of Women) we marched, raised our voices and eventually fought our way into the church. It had been a struggle for me in other ways too; not only was I a woman but a divorced one at that. Oh dear, the hoops I had to jump through but eventually I was accepted as an ordinand....
I was fortunate to start my NSM ministry in a diocese that on the whole welcomed women priests, if a little nervously. It wasn’t always male clergy who could be unaccepting as the laity. Initially a few wouldn’t take communion from me, let me marry them or baptise their children. Some felt the need to check me out; like the couple who genuinely thanked me for my sermon adding that they had spoken with the vicar who had confirmed what I’d said.
The Church, which aims to be ‘a light to the Gentiles,’ was in fact lagging behind the secular world when it came to gender, sexuality and race. It was stuck in a furrow it had ploughed for itself. This came across in the liturgy and prayers buttering-up Almighty and Everlasting God by us miserable sinners in order to keep on the right side of the Holy One. Every Sunday we trotted out the same stuff as if by rote. I do believe it was meaningful to some, but for others it seemed like a social occasion and way to get your child into the right school. God created man and man created the Church.
Everything seemed so earth-bound and lacking in real spirituality. I was reminded of the words of Richard Holloway, that ‘the Church was like a swimming pool – all the noise was down the shallow end!”
Since retirement and moving south I have not sought a PTO allowing me to be wheeled out when a gap needed filling; but like Jesus to seek my spiritual life elsewhere.
So the word ‘feral' just fits what I felt and experienced in my first church. It was then that I realised that my clerical collar (‘dog-collar’) was keeping me as a tamed priest on a restricted lead. But books I had read and talks by others convinced me that, in the words of Freddie Mercury, “I had 'to break free'."
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