We are Half the Church

Weyden, Rogier van der - Descent from the Cros...
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Cartoons are blaring.  My son is home sick with a high fever and sore throat. (Strep likely.  We’ll know later today.)

I sit perched on the edge of my chair here in front of the computer, because my cat Jaz is comfortably lounging on 2/3rd of the seat and today I don’t have the heart to push her off.  She was here first.

I keep trying to gather my thoughts.  I hear myself sigh deeply and knowing that I haven’t gotten up early all week for my usual alone time with the Word, and God, the lack is weighing heavily.

I know that what I really need in this moment is — time — alone —  to — think.  Time for contemplation.

Not time on Facebook or time while I do last night’s dishes, or throw another load in the dryer and washer, or pick up the endless toys, socks, books and dog toys for the millionth time.  Not time driving my son to the doctor.  Not time like that. 

Quiet — undivided — time.

How often do we really find this kind of time? I cannot underscore how important solitary, thinking time is for me.  It helps me be less impulsive.  It centers me.  It makes the anxiety, and anger, and disappointments of life fade away and my priorities sift and sort themselves.  And when I read on FB about all the things that are “on your mind” I am more circumspect, which is good.

Considering all this — I think I should not write this post. But I don’t always listen to myself.

This is something I have thought about all week.  When it all first occurred I definitely tried to ignore it.  I kept thinking how obsessive I was clearly being.  I kept telling myself I was ridiculous.  Absurd.  Unreasonable.  Perhaps even obsessive, fanatic or narrow-minded.  Plum crazy, as my southern grandpa used to say.  I tried to ignore it.

Finally it hit me that this not going away.  So even if I’m deemed crazy, this is what happened.

My observation: I did not see one woman involved in leading worship or on the platform in any capacity on Sunday. I’ve been thinking about the lack of presence of women in my church.  And in the Church.  On Sunday, we were simply spectators.  On lookers.  Witnesses.  Receivers.  Beneficiaries.

  • Furthermore, I cannot remember the last time one of the teaching pastors suggested a book they were reading written by a woman.
  • They never quote women or talk about female scholars, probably because they never read female scholars.
  • To be honest I can’t remember the last time, if ever, a pastor has suggested or referred to even in passing, or quoted a female theologian, religious author, or historian.

On Sunday, because I my senses were heightened, I even noticed that all the artists highlighted were male, who painted illustration of Jesus on the Cross.  If it were only Michelangelo (he’s a genius) mentioned, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it.  But he (my pastor) put four or five paintings up on the screen all painted by men.  (I know, I know, that’s picky right!?)  Of course I don’t know enough about art history to know whether there were any female artists who have illustrated Christ on the Cross.  I suppose it would take an art historian to find them, because a quick google search by me of Michelangelo’s time was unproductive.  So I’m not suggesting that he (my pastor) should have been able to find them.  And even if women were painting, they would not be well-known or easy to find.    But search for more modern artists perhaps?  I’m just saying, we are half the church.  That one point is less important, but the entire thing just made me very SAD.  And tired.

' The Dead Christ Mourned - the Three Maries'
Artist: Annibale Carracci Date: 1603

I am tired of not seeing or hearing from women. Tired of the male dominated culture on the platforms and in the Church at large.

Considering women are half the church I can’t even buy into the argument that there aren’t any to select from, because I’ve been told that very thing.  “The women haven’t risen up who have “the gift” of teaching.”)  I say, risen up? Not surprising to me in a church with few examples and where there are (still only) male Elders.  And where it is clear that this isn’t changing any — time — soon.   Besides, it is the rare person who is naturally comfortable with upfront or worship leadership.  Many people, male or female but especially female, won’t put themselves forward out of self-doubt, or humility or a combination.   I think it is even more likely that there are gifted, wise articulate women who may not be comfortable yet, but have natural instincts and can to be taught, mentored.  Who knows?. Will we ever know, if they are not given the opportunity?

To rarely see or hear a woman’s voice in authority or otherwise hurts me and my faith and my journey with Christ.  Christ accepts women.  He took risks for women.  He listened to women.  He was the most radical figure of reconciliation and grace in the lives of women!  IF only the church modelled their behavior after Jesus.

My experience this Sunday diminished my ability to receive fully from the worship experience.   That said it was still was an incredible time.  And God continues to speak to me.  Perhaps God was saying to me exactly what I heard.  I have to confess that I do not want my (feminist*) radar to always go off at church.  It is distracting and painful.  And I have considered asking God to take it away, shut it up, or get me out of there …  But I don’t think he would and I do think that I am in the exact right place for now.  As long as I can openly “think” here and have a few people in my life that I can express the pain and rancor to, I’ll survive.

For now,

Mel

Feminism to me is the crazy belief that men and woman are both human

and deserve the same life, freedom and opportunities

inside and outside the Church.

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16 Comments Add yours

  1. Steph says:

    M, this is powerful. Thank you for sharing Sunday’s experience. Is it safe to say that this was unusual at your church? When I was there, even if I wasn’t leading, I think that *most of the time there was at the very least a woman on the worship team. I, like you, don’t think that is ‘enough’. I also know that the Sunday experience there is very different now than when I left – now 6 1/2 years ago!! Wow….

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    1. Melody says:

      Steph- It should be said that they do most Sundays (downtown anyway) have one woman on the worship team each Sunday (or leading as in your case or Hannah) but sometimes schedules don’t work out. I understand. Though think it is puzzling that so few women are musicians comfortable enough to play on the team when we make up more than half the church. Right? Strange. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Amy says:

    Whenever I read your struggle with your church and The Church in regards to women as leaders I always find myself wishing you lived here and could go to our church. I am so fortunate to be at Sanctuary Covenant. We have a woman worship leader (though all of our band members are men…hmmm.) and women worship singers. We have 2 women pastors and 1 is acting as our main pastor while we search for a new one (women are in the running!). We also have women as elders. It is a very nice change from the churches I grew up in and attended later on my own. Oh, also, our woman head pastor is one of the best preachers I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to. If you have the time, there are podcasts of Pastor Cecelia’s sermons on our church website: http://www.sanctuarycov.org/sermons .

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    1. Melody says:

      thanks amy. for commenting and i will check her out.

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  3. Ben says:

    Hi Melody – “randomly” came across your blog today. I’m a white male who attended and served at Blackhawk for a few years (I no longer live in Madison). Just wanted to say, you’re not alone as an egalitarian in the Blackhawk community (and I know I’m not the only white male of that opinion).

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    1. Melody says:

      Thanks Ben. That’s awesome. Wish more men would speak up and bring change. Bless you. Melody

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  4. Ben says:

    What do you think might be an effective way to bring change? What might baby step #1 look like?

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    1. Melody says:

      I think pastors and staff need to be aware of how their small choices are making big noise. They are in effect stating more than their words. In the case of BHC they don’t say much about women. But I know there are many folk who do believe in equality.

      In the planning and implementation of worship and teaching, always be asking how you can better utilize women. A small step would be to be thinking about utilizing women on the platform in whatever way they can. For example, on Sunday there were four short monoloues or sketches done by the two main teaching pastors, Chris and Tim. Surely two of them could have been performed by women? This would have taken more work and planning ahead. And you have less control when you “give up” some of your power. Or, in the same service scriptures were read through out. Women can reach scripture it just requires setting it up ahead of time.

      Another “simple” idea. Put in the job description for all NEW HIRES of all senior staff that they teach — Have taught or are capable of learning. Then give them opportunities and/or train them in the BH way of teaching. Yes, this rules out capable people. But it also begins to change the expectation over time that this is a part of leading.

      Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. Others?

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  5. Mariah says:

    I am late to the game on this post, but thank you for posting this. It is such a tricky thing. On one hand, just looking at it all as an “outsider” it is disgusting to me the lack of obvious, outright female leadership at BHC. But then, from what I know on the inside, there is certainly respect for women. Why doesn’t it play out? Is it structural to the bigger Evangelical church? I do think so. I also think there might be implicit assumptions, stereotypes, gender roles etc. playing out for some people. I don’t know the answers. Right now I feel sort of resigned about it, that perhaps is the saddest part for me.

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    1. Melody says:

      See my most recent post. And thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

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