(The following reflection was prepared by the St Hilda’s School Chapel Prefects and delivered at the celebratory mass for the 20th Anniversary of Women Priests held at St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane on 13/July/2012, with Bishop Barbara Darling presiding.)
REFLECTION PREPARED BY ST HILDA’S SCHOOL CHAPEL PREFECTS
(The 20th Anniversary of Women Priests)
Friday 13 July @ 7.00
St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane
Good evening everybody. We are the St Hilda’s Chapel Prefects for 2012. When our principal gave us this invitation we were all excited, but very conscious of the responsibility and honour that we’d been given. When we got together to try and work out what we wanted to say and we started thinking… we haven’t really spent a lot of our time pondering the big questions of the structure of Anglican governance. So we really did need to think.
What has the ordination of women meant? What does it mean to us now? We didn’t want to come and give you all a history lesson or recite facts or scriptures to try and show how much we know. We just want to share with you our thoughts to give you an idea what all of this might mean to the younger generations that weren’t actually around for all of the discussions about women’s greater involvement in the church.
Although the church has encompassed the ordainment of women into the clergy for 20 years now, there were still a few queries on our minds. For example; why do we always have to sing hymns? Why not hers? Why end a prayer with Amen and not Awomen? These are valid questions plagued us. Similarly, for thousands of years people have always thought that God and Jesus are the true almost ‘heroes’, if you will, of Christianity, but let us be realistic here; without Mary Jesus wouldn’t exist.
But in all seriousness, is it sad to say that we hadn’t even really noticed it? I mean, we’re so used to our freedom now, that we hardly question it. So, to take a moment out of our lives to really consider what a monumental decision it was.
The ordination of women is particularly symbolic to us as it shows that the church has faith in us, as young women. Certainly, it was a breakthrough in the recognition of women’s abilities to lead, inspire, share and praise. Such acceptance is very precious, especially for young women growing up in a place where they feel welcomed and capable of great success. At an Anglican all girls school the equality between women and men gives us the confidence to share our abilities with others.
One of the things we love about our school is the pride we can take in being strong, independent young women that can achieve anything we put our minds too. Knowing that we have spiritual support on the journeys that we undertake is very important to us. We are encouraged to have and share a voice in chapel.
Part of that voice is how we interpret and relate to bible passages. When we were reading over the scriptures for tonight, one of the main things that we picked up on was the list of greetings in Romans. We found it interesting that amongst Paul’s salutations there were plenty of women that have been immortalized alongside the men. There is a pervading sense of equality in the text. It was very nice for us to see such an affirmation of the women of the church from such an acknowledged leader of the Christian faith. The people mentioned all seemed to have different but valuable traits that complemented each other, working together in concert. A deacon, a benefactor, co-workers, people risking their lives, hard workers, people with fidelity, mothers, brothers, sisters, heads of households. Everyone is uniquely important.
Take this, for example:
One day, three men were trekking through a jungle when they came across a violent, raging river. They had no idea how to cross. So the first man decided to pray:
‘Please, God, give me the strength to cross this river.’ Immediately he grew enormous muscles in his arms and legs, and he managed to swim across the river in a couple of hours, nearly drowning twice.
The second man saw this and he prayed ‘Please, God, give me the strength AND the tools to cross this river.’ A boat appeared from nowhere, and he battled across the river in an hour, nearly capsizing twice.
The third man saw this and prayed ‘Please, God, give me the strength, the tools AND the intelligence to cross this river.’
Immediately he turned into a woman. She looked at the map, walked upstream a hundred yards, and crossed over the bridge to the other side.
Now obviously, we’re not saying men are stupid, or that women are superior to them or anything like that. We’re just saying that we’re different, and we complement each other. There’s no denying that our brains work differently, and we can cover a greater knowledge base with much greater diversity when we include the other half of the church. Our view of a problem is much more comprehensive with men and women helping each other and working side by side. The ordination of women to us was the formal acknowledgement that we need women in authority throughout the church to provide that diversity and complementation.
And there is no denying that the world we live in seems to spout more problems almost everyday that could benefit from the involvement or influence of the church.
The reading from Matthew only emphasized that. We have been given a task as believers, we’ve been sent out. I’m glad that we’ve been able to unite our entire task force in stead of leaving half of our fighters at home. It doesn’t make much sense for us to be divided over something as simple as metaphysical differences. It’s good to know that we’re no longer divided amongst ourselves. We should be able to share and learn together, and now we can. It opens up a lot of new opportunities when we can work alongside one another.
We also noticed that the gospel didn’t say who would be sent out or what their gender was. God will speak through anyone. We can all be god’s mouthpiece. The church isn’t just the pastor. It’s the congregation. The people… all of us together. Both men and women. I love knowing that I belong to a school of thought that upholds the value of women and appreciates their input and contribution.
The reading from Matthew reminded us of the sound of music: Maria von trapp was a nun and she rebelled against her ‘parent’s by running out, singing in the hills, whistling in the halls and always being late for prayer time, unintentionally but nonetheless. A lot of people didn’t really like her, I mean, they wrote the song ‘how to solve a problem like maria’, so they weren’t her biggest fans. But even when people weren’t so pleased with her, she kept going, kept moving forward, she sings the song, “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence that spring will come again, it’s hard not to see I have confidence in me!” She keeps moving from strength to strength. She constantly goes back to her god. Praying for the children at night, asking for guidance, returning to the abbey when she needs help, God is a big part of her life. She always has God in her heart, and never betrays her beliefs because of what anyone says. Faith is a very personal thing, and God can connect with us all in different ways.
Maria is just one example of a woman who have benefitted from the church, and whilst the world might not need a million young apprentice nuns running around the hills singing about the sound of music, the church does play a great role in influencing young people, and especially young women, take us as an example. As chapel prefects at a school full of girls who love to learn, we adapted the sermons we gave to the girls to let them understand.
So, whilst the ordination of women was a defining moment for all Australians, spreading the message of equality, acceptance and appreciation, to us, it was and is a declaration of faith in the younger generation, as much as it is for women. Doubly for us I suppose, as we’re both. We’re just lucky enough to be reaping the benefits of decisions made by people far wiser than us before we were even born.
Cassidy Warner Rebecca Hale Emma Andrews Isabel Chorley