I spent some time this past week reading, umm, several books at once, actually. But the latest that I've finished is A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit. Sarah, a woman who ended up terminating her own ordination process in the Episcopal Church, and then leaving the church altogether, wrote this book after interviewing a number of women in a few different traditions.
The vast majority of stories in this book are horror stories from the preparation process through the call process and on into the parish. Sexism is, as we all know but prefer to forget, rampant in our culture and our churches. Women, especially young women, are often treated terribly in the ordination process, the call process, and in their parishes. Several of their stories are here.
Having said that, I wonder where the positive stories are? Where are stories like mine, where my ordination process was held up by poor communication between my (older clergywoman) liaison and me, and for about an hour by my age? My call process was the shortest of anyone I know and I am in exactly the right place. I love my job, my church, my town. I think most of the church loves me. I run into the occasional problem, some of which are my fault and some of which have nothing to do with me, but not any more often than the senior pastor (who is a man, but only 10 years older than I). Overall my experience has been fantastic. I have friends for whom that's not the case and friends for whom it is. Where are our stories?
I got the general impression that this book was primarily fueled by the anger of the author, and that stories that didn't mesh with her experience weren't sought out. I recognize that these stories may be the norm for women in the church, but I also recognize that they may not be. I wonder where the other stories are? Not in this book. I also thought this book was slightly skewed to the Episcopalian side...it's hard to tell the denominations of some of the women (and some are intentionally left out to protect the identity of the woman), but I didn't get the sense that there were many others in the pool. Just a thought.
The way many of these women were treated made me angry and sad, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how far we have to go on this front. But at the same time, I'm mainly sad for the author because she has need of a caring and nurturing community where she can share her gifts and it seems from this narrative that she's not found that. I hope she does--because it makes all the difference.