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As I prepared the liturgy and my preaching for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany featuring the text of Matthew 4:12-23 – the call of the first disciples – where only men are featured – several things were happening in the background. First, at the last community evening, our Director of United Church Studies, Alyson Huntly had added Luke 8:1-3 to the Matthean text, to highlight that there were also women disciples following Jesus. Second, I am in the process of reading a book by Denise Couture, Spiritualités féministes, which aims to, among other things, “challenge, prevent, and deconstruct anti-women religious fundamentalisms” (Conradi (2017) in Couture (2021)). It also has been a given in my experience, that the way ‘the class that benefits from patriarchy’ treats women, has direct ramifications on how this same ‘class’ treats other minority groups (be they ethnic, racial, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.). In this context, following Alyson’s lead, I decided to add Acts 8:34-39 to my liturgy in order to give visibility to all as disciples. I used the Ethiopian eunuch as a symbol representing diversity, equity and inclusion.
Meanwhile, I stumbled across a Facebook post written by one of our theology students, who was talking of her struggle with imposter syndrome as she was beginning a graduate program. She was saying how difficult it had been to get to where she is today. She described how much words of encouragement meant to her as a woman studying theology. She described how she had “at times had to defend my right (to skeptical men) to be in these spaces”. [I might have used words like condescending and/or phallocratic instead of skeptical, but that’s me?!?] She expressed the difficulty for women to exist in the religious space – “even whilst coming from a tradition that supports women’s ordination and leadership”. Finally, she expressed the importance of encouraging women to see their talents and gifts; to affirm and support their apostolic and/or academic callings; and to embrace their presence in the religious and theological space.
We are fortunate to have extraordinary, talented, spiritually inspiring women at the College that are resilient and in many ways ‘trailblazers’. Let’s take time to encourage them; to tell them that we see them; to tell them that knowing them makes a difference in our lives.
While we are at it, maybe we can replicate this attitude among all of us? Following in God’s footsteps who sees, calls and loves all women, men, LGBTQIA+++++ persons, cisgender, transgender and non-gender persons… Following in the footsteps of Jesus, who looks, calls and sees people in their totality – in the totality of the love they hold and give; in the love received and shared; and that deeply embraces each person’s soul in its wholeness.
Norman Robert Boie, Chaplain
This message was written by Norman Robert Boie for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.