Although I have not been a regular attendee in the past year, the Heretics of Stony Point are still going strong. Meeting on the 2ndand 4thWednesdays, the lectionary study/preaching discussion/deeply pondered/often passionate/sometimes raucous group gathered last week. Ten of us pondered the lectionary texts in the light of the sturm und drang of a judicial confirmation and a woman’s testimony. We talked about #metoo, the need to be courageous, our despair and our anger, our hope and our truth. At one point, a member recounted through tears a recent experience of being scolded and shamed for a Facebook post; the women nodded in recognition, the men listened quietly.
It brought to mind all the moments, large and small, where the culture and norm of sexism has been folded into my history as pastor, leader, and woman in ministry. I remember the Elder whose public, heavy handed attempts at humor were put downs of my leadership and in private often brought his 300 pound frame and face inches from mine when disagreeing with me. On one Easter Sunday, as I was at the door shaking hands he accused me of anti- Semitism, because what he heard (which is not what I said) offended him. Misquoting me, he spoke, loudly, everyone around us in shocked silence. I stammered out, “I’m sorry! I don’t think I said. . . . I didn’t mean . . .” and then, I felt my eyes fill with tears and I couldn’t speak. Then he said, “Oh, give me a hug.” And went out the door, smiling.
I remember the negotiation around an honorarium for my leadership at a workshop at a tall steeple church. (I had politely declined to do it for $50.00.) After the workshop and the wonderful work we did together and the applause and all the positive comments, there was, unfortunately, no check. Someone forgot to make sure that it was requisitioned. A few phone calls and a few weeks later, I was eventually paid. The topic of the workshop? “Sexism and the Workplace.”
I remember the older gentleman who, upon shaking my hand after a worship service said, “You’re not married?! Wow! Some guy is missing SOMETHING!!” Which he repeated, in Fellowship Hall at coffee hour, to anyone who would listen: “Some guy is missing SOMETHING!”
These incidents, and others, taken separately, over the course of years, have, by the mercy of God, been handled with courage and grace and humor. But it is the cumulative effect that wears. My brothers, your sisters in Christ, your fellow laborers in the field, are preaching and teaching and praying still. And some days, these days, we are unutterably tired and sad.
At the Heretics lunch, after the discussion about preaching the Gospel with passion but not anger, with truth but not stridency, where we shared our pain and our hope about the love of Christ reaching the hearts of those who sit in the pews, a brother at the table said, “All I have to contribute is this,” and spoke a blessing: “Go from this place in peace, remembering that in the goodness of God you were born, that in the providence of God you have been kept to this day, that in the love of God made manifest in Jesus the Christ, you are redeemed, for purposes unafraid. And may the grace of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Creator, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you, with those you love, and with those for whom you pray, this day, and in all your days. The tears, this time, were in gratitude, as we said Amen.
And so, my brothers (and sisters) this is what you (and we) can do. Speak peace. Speak peace to us. Speak peace to your sisters in ministry. Speak peace to your brothers. Speak peace before the meeting, or in a phone call, or in your email. Speak peace. Speak peace at the table and in the waiting room. Speak peace in line and on line. Speak peace to yourself and to the world, the birds of the air, the creatures of the field, the driver in traffic, the worker you do not know. Speak peace with courage and daring. And may the Peace of Christ go forth, and abide, with us all.
Rev. Leslie Mott is the Coordinator of the Pastoral Sabbath at Stony Point Center and Camp Johnsonburg, the Coordinator for Spirituality and Practice at Bedford Presbyterian Church, a yoga teacher, Spiritual Director, and a Certified Focusing Professional.