I didn’t realize until I was older how lucky I was to have so many wonderful female role models in my spiritual life. I was raised as an Episcopalian, a Protestant group who openly accepts women into all leadership positions in the church. My childhood church was tiny, and for the entire time that I remember being there we had a female priest.
When I was younger, I really couldn’t appreciate this. But even from my early days, I was used to seeing a woman leading the services. This made it all the more natural for me to become an acolyte (or someone who carries the cross, and does other small duties on the altar) and to eventually become a eucharistic minister, serving alongside the rector. I didn’t realize until I went to a friend’s church to watch their first communion that there were some churches where I wouldn’t be able to do this, and where female involvement was not the norm.
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It wasn’t until I was older that I understood what an amazing role model my rector was. Slowly I learned more about her life. She had grown up in England, been a lawyer in Washington DC, had a family, divorced, and now played a huge role in organizing our small parish. What’s more, her sermons showed her to be a very erudite person, with references to many poets and thinkers.
I also watched as many other women took on responsibilities in the church, and made faith an integral part of their lives. My own mother served as a Sunday school teacher for a while, and aided in many of the church’s volunteer efforts.
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When I went away to college I decided not to attend church services regularly, but I still found the Protestant chaplain (also a woman) to essential in helping me to adjust to college life and leaving the only church I had known.
When the first rector I knew decided to retire from preaching, she was replaced by another female priest from a nearby town. She was younger, but also had studied in England, raised a family, married someone in the church, and had other interests like teaching yoga. Her sermons were also very sophisticated, but also contained references to the latest TV shows.
By a strange chain of events (or maybe not so strange, when you go to school only 25 minutes from where you live) this same person was hired as the Protestant Chaplain at my college at the same time as she was hired at my church. As chaplain she raised fascinating questions in the small Christian worship group that I attended (not to mention, she cooked incredible suppers).
Since I chose to attend an all-women’s college, my peers in faith also became female role models, and I was so inspired by learning about what faith meant to them and watching them change and grow in faith.
[bctt tweet=”Since I chose to attend an all-women’s college, my peers in faith also became female role models.” username=”wearethetempest”]
In my second year of college I began attending a multi-faith discussion group over lunch. Through that group I was introduced to another role model of mine, a sassy and spirited Catholic Sister who left her work as a chaplain at the end of the year to study transgender issues. After that, the group was run by chaplains from various religions. I have learned so much from these women, about their faiths, and their lives and the poetry they love, and the questions they ask, and more than anything about our common humanity.
Having so many women of diverse faiths as role models taught me that women can take leadership in spiritual groups and have rich lives outside of those groups as well. I have watched these women laugh and celebrate, question and grieve, and learned so much about how to be both a spiritual person and a woman.
[bctt tweet=”I have watched these women laugh and celebrate, question and grieve. ” username=”wearethetempest”]