Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Philadelphia Ordinations and What Followed

  As Told by One of the Women Ordained to the Priesthood

that Day, July 29, 1974,

the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha 

The Rev. Alla Renée Bozarth  


At the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, 
Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, Eleven Episcopal Women Deacons  
Were Ordained the First Women in the Episcopal Priesthood.

                      The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30, 1974, reprinted with permission.

The beautiful and historical Church of the Advocate in Inner City Philadelphia,
a predominantly black parish, opened its doors to take us in and shelter us from
the storm of opposition.

Full of embracing Grace and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the prayer-infused stones themselves were borne into their present form by inspired vision and consummate skill. This French Gothic structure on West Diamond Street is a wondrous blend of a black and white, living color congregation and history, with the gray of traditional European Gothic architecture proving to be a stunning backdrop for vibrant, color-rich contemporary African art.

The Advocate was a solid edifice and launch pad for us, and the rector Paul Washington and the people of the congregation were Spirit-filled hosts. Living up to their name, the clergy and congregation were true to their more than hundred years of community outreach, social justice and sensitivity to liturgical and spiritual integrity. Strong advocates of civil rights and now women's rights, they continue today in a resurrection spirit of renewal to be Easter People.

Christ and St. Joan
There were bomb threats and later there were death threats and physical and verbal attacks on us. Security was heavy. We did not expect the crowd, about a third of it consisting of national press people. During a part of the service when we were lined up at the altar rail facing our three courageous ordaining bishops, there was a loud metallic sound. Martin Luther King's mother, Alberta King, had been shot to death a month earlier while sitting at the organ during a church service. Knowing that sometimes a person can be shot and not feel it, I looked down to see if there was a red stain on my white alb, then looked right and left (I am the smallest one in the picture from The Philadelphia Inquirer, fourth from left). We were all still standing and the only red on our chests was on the liturgical stoles that were draped across our white albs. No one breathed for a few seconds, then the service continued. Afterward, we were told that an NBC television camera had fallen over onto the stone floor of the transept.

These pictures were taken by Anne Zeismer, a friend from the Diocese of Minnesota. In the turmoil of the event she did not notice that her camera battery was low. The effect here expresses how we felt. The church was positively charged with the Holy Spirit~ We are entering the chancel from the side door to the transept, Katrina Swanson leading in this image, with her priest presenter/husband George Swanson behind her to her left, and to his right is my priest presenter/husband Phil, and my lay presenter, his mother Betty Campbell on his right. The Rev. Phyllis Edwards is in the left foreground. She was a deacon who chose not to be ordained to the priesthood that day because she knew she would lose her job in her home diocese and her elderly mother depended on her as her sole support. In the next picture, Katrina is embracing someone and on her way to embracing Phyllis, in solidarity, and in recognition of her sacrifice. [George told me this on May 11, 2012.]

Jeannette Piccard (center) enters the chancel flanked by her tall son and her priest presenter behind her.

Jeannette Piccard had wanted to be a priest since she was eleven years old. At 79, she was the eldest and first to be ordained a priest. I was the youngest at 27. Jeannette had already made history by being the first woman to fly a hot air balloon into the stratosphere in 1934.

In the historical records as the first woman in space, piloting the balloon invented and engineered by her husband the Swiss space scientist Jean Piccard, decades later she was invited to lecture the new class of astronauts at NASA each year. Of July 29, 1974, Jeannette said, "That day I flew higher."
Pilot Jeannette and Inventor Jean Piccard, 1934
Jeannette Piccard, priest, at Holy Communion, 1974
 The Traditional Red Doors of the church in winter~

Opened wide in high summer . . .
This picture was taken after the service, showing my priest presenter husband The Rev. Phil Bozarth-Campbell and friends Dorothy Huyck on his right, top row, and her daughter Heather to my right. Dr. Heather Huyck later would write her dissertation in American Studies for the University of Minnesota: To Celebrate a Whole Priesthood: The History of  Women's Ordination  in the Episcopal Church. She is currently a professor at The College of William and Mary.

I do not know who the woman on my left is, but in the hurry of the moment, I saw her and pulled her into the image to complete it with her beautiful countenance and her coordinating colors. We were all swept forward and away in the white water movement immediately after the picture was taken.  . . .

Heather later organized a local group in the Diocese of Minnesota to work toward general acceptance of women in the priesthood and episcopate, which would begin to be realized by a resolution of affirmation at General Convention in 1976. For the next 30 years there would continue to be pockets of opposition in dioceses which refused to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate, or to acknowledge and license priests and bishops who were women to function within their borders.

In the mid-70s, a medieval style interdict was placed on me in both the Diocese of Eau Claire and the Diocese of Milwaukee when I accepted invitations from Roman Catholic clergy and religious. I'd been asked to preach on liberation theology to begin an Advent series on that theme at the Newman Center on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. The priest officiant graciously indicated that I was to stand beside him during the liturgy. It was so natural a thing for two Christian priests to concelebrate the Holy Eucharist that we simply did so spontaneously. That it would be a scandal for our respective hierarchies was furthest from our minds.

During the liturgy, the Episcopal chaplain of the campus Canterbury Club sat in the front pew with members of his congregation, who all received communion from me at the Roman Catholic Newman Center service because the Episcopal bishop had forbidden them to allow me to speak, celebrate or physically "set foot on church property."

We were unaware of the fact that a National Catholic Reporter photographer was present and taking pictures of the event. Four large photographs of the Roman Catholic priest side by side with the Episcopal priest holding up or blessing the consecrated bread and wine together at the altar appeared on the front page of the newspaper. This is one of them:

A few days later my bishop, Philip McNairy, called me in and asked me to tell him the name of the Roman Catholic archbishop in whose jurisdiction the service had taken place so he could write him a letter of apology. I told him the man's name was Cletus O'Donnell. Apparently having forgotten this, Bishop McNairy wrote and sent the apology to Bill Cousins, the archbishop of Milwaukee.

It worked out fine because two weeks later I spoke in Milwaukee at the Archdiocesan Sisters' Council Open Forum, and I felt covered since my bishop had apologized for me to their bishop in advance. This did not protect me, however, from a John Birch Society plant who stood up in the back of the room after my presentation. She stared at me as if laying a curse while paraphrasing John Milton, saying,  "The devil uses clever words and we have heard the devil here tonight." I whispered to the Sister on my right that it probably was time to leave. I may have used somewhat more colorful language. . . .

The discomfort came out in other unexpected and odd ways. A couple had come to ask me to provide the usual series of weekly pre-marital counseling sessions for a month and then officiate privately at their wedding. They invited me and my husband to join them at a family celebration at a restaurant that evening after the ceremony. When the bride's parents arrived, she introduced me to them by name and then introduced Phil and rather quietly added, perhaps embarrassed that I might hear, "He officiated at our wedding." Such a lie was the more ludicrous given the fact that Phil was not even present. Doubtless she was placating the prejudice of one or both of her parents . . . at the expense of integrity, the truth and the officiant. 

Such experiences were not uncommon over the next ten years and more. Perhaps more typical was the experience of being graciously invited somewhere for an event and then having the invitation succinctly withdrawn once local authorities had become aware of the plans in time to kill them. Occasionally that was so close to the scheduled event that I would arrive only to find someone standing in front of a closed door and with great embarrassment proceed to tell me what had happened. I never took these things personally since those involved had never met me, after all. I simply rolled with the punches as the saying goes. Still, it was hard on the nerves.

Harder still was the barrage of pointed disapproval and rejection from people who did know me, some of them relatives, some of them once close friends. My beloved aunt, who in retrospect deeply regrets having done this (though I'm certain it was an unconscious reflex), made it a point after my ordination to the diaconate, not even waiting for the controversial event, to introduce Phil (who was not yet ordained) and me to her friends as The Rev. Phil and Mrs. Bozarth-Campbell. That is the ultimate negation of a married professional woman~ not only denying her the name she was given at birth and the professional title she had earned, but transferring the latter to her non-professional husband. It was comparable to introducing a physician and her medical student husband as Dr. Tom and Mrs. Jones.

Though I loved the television series The West Wing, I cringed every time the character of the president's wife, a medical doctor, was referred to as "Mrs. Bartlett." She was a practicing physician and yet, though her husband had his own doctor of philosophy degree and thus was her academic equal, her professional life was negated to make the president seem above her. After the series ended the actor playing her part expressed her regret, too, that she had allowed it. After all, they were otherwise shown as progressive democrats!

To people sensitive to the importance of language, such blatant  language tampering is a significant betrayal. This sort of thing demonstrates how language both expresses and reinforces sexist stereotypes. By extreme extension, it would imply that if a man were in a room with a queen, the queen should be called by her first name and the man, no matter his profession, should be bowed to and called King. If the male ego were really so flimsy, it would have no help at all in growing stronger by this behavior. Yet, some women of previous generations were apparently so in the habit of manipulating men with obeisance and flattery that they became fearful of behavior that deviated from the practice.

In another instance, a family member had actually determined not to speak to me for three years. I found this out later, when she was speaking to me again after General Convention recognized our priestly ordinations. The impact of the snub was wasted on me since I had been so busy in those years that I hadn't noticed her silence.

Others were more blatant in their expressions of indignation. Mentally unstable strangers wrote anonymous hate mail and made anonymous hate calls, some obscene, some with death threats. Had I realized before the Philadelphia Ordinations what our lives would be like from then on, that we would not only be priests as we knew ourselves called to be, but change agents with responsibilities to history, I might not have found the necessary courage. The Holy Spirit and the not-knowing what was ahead gave me the courage, the joy and enthusiasm to say Yes, and to go on saying Yes every day of my life since then. These things weren't easy to take, but they did not keep us from our responsibilities as priests.

Jeannette and Alla after a first anniversary celebration 
at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Minneapolis.

New Canon Law on Holy Orders, 1977:

Canon III, Title 9, Section 1
The provisions of these canons for the admission of Candidates, 
and for the Ordination to the three Orders: Bishops, Priests and Deacons 
shall be equally applicable to men and women.

After General Convention's affirmation of women in the priesthood in the summer of 1976, the Philadelphia Eleven and Washington Four, we of the fait accompli that prompted the affirmation, were individually affirmed as priests in their dioceses. Bishop McNairy concelebrated the Holy Eucharist with Jeannette and me on January 7, 1977 in the Cathedral Church of St.Mark in Minneapolis.

For some reason he also decided that we should sign the Oath of Conformity, a document ordinands sign before they are ordained, which states that they will conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.

We had already signed it twice, of course, for our ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood. When I pointed out to Bishop McNairy that only bishops sign it for the third time, he handed me the pen. I signed with my left hand fingers crossed behind my back, thinking it improper to be taking a redundant oath not at all appropriate for the occasion.

So many of our supporters had worked long and hard and with such dedication for the moment of recognition. It went far beyond two individuals and had the impact of being a recognition of the full participation in church and society of women bringing their gifts, their skills and their passionate devotion to the work which God calls each of us to do. Gifted, Spirit-filled women were in the congregation, and we in turn, were privileged not only to thank but also to celebrate them.

Twenty-five years later we Philadelphia Eleven (except for Jeannette Piccard who
had died in 1981 and Betty Bone Schiess, our eldest now, who wisely left to avoid
the intense heat of a July day in Philadelphia ) and several of the Washington Four,
who had undertaken a second wave of priestly ordinations in 1975, celebrated our
25th anniversary, again at the Church of the Advocate.

July 29, 1999, nine of the Philadelphia Eleven at the 25th anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations. From Left: Lee McGee of the Washington Four, Sue Hiatt, Katrina Welles Swanson, Marie Moorefield Fleischer, Merrill Bittner, Carter Heyward, Alison Cheek, Nancy Hatch Wittig, Emily Hewitt and Alla Renée Bozarth (Bozarth-Campbell). Next to me there is an empty chair honoring Jeannette Piccard, both of us from the Diocese of Minnesota. Only Washington Four Diane Tickell from Alaska was further west of us. On the chair, Jeannette's signature red stole with appliquéd brightly colored hot air balloons was draped, letting us feel her presence in the Great Communion in all its vividness. Betty Powell (formerly Rosenberg) of the Washington Four was present in the congregation and the rest of us felt her beside us. Eldest of us at the time, Betty Schiess had come, but felt the hot air of Philadelphia and wisely turned around to go back home to upstate New York.  I do not think that Washington Four Alison Palmer was present, but I know that she is among those interviewed and written about by Darlene O'Dell in The Story of the Philadelphia Eleven, released in 2014 for the 40th anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations. Alison was a diplomat with the State Department for many years. In 2013, Ms. O'Dell spent time in person or by telephone interviewing members of the Philadelphia Eleven and the Washington Four then still living. Her account, based on an extraordinarily sensitive and respectful hearing of our stories, is an heirloom treasure for us to hold in our  hands and in perspective as a source of meaning and strength for the rest of our lives. She helps us to remember who we were and who we still are. 
Still living in spacetime as of September 1, 2022 are Betty Powell and Alison Palmer of the Washington Four, and Marie Moorefield Fleischer, Nancy Wittig, Emily Hewitt, Merrill Bittner, Carter Heyward and Alla Renée Bozarth of the Philadelphia Eleven.  

Jeannette Ridlon Piccard, eldest among us and first ordained a priest at the age of 79 after feeling called since she was eleven, died in 1981 at the age of 86. Suzanne Radley Hiatt and Diane Tickell of the Washington Four died in 2002, Katrina Welles Swanson died in 2005, Alison Cheek died in 2017, Betty Bone Schiess died in 2019 and Lee McGee Street died in 2022. Eight of the 15  of us are still alive as of September 2022~ six of the Philadelphia Eleven and two of the Washington Four. 

On the day of our ordinations the bright red felt cloth that had covered the front of the altar spelled out in rainbow color block letters one of the best passages of St. Paul from his Epistle to the Galatians (3:28): There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ. We did not process down the center aisle to our places in the choir for security reasons, and because there was no clear passage through the crowd. The Senior Warden (chief lay person) of the parish, Barbara Harris, had flown back from a business trip to California so that she could carry the cross at the head of the procession from the north transept entrance up front.

When her plane had stopped in Minneapolis, it picked up my husband Phil. Barbara had stepped off the plane to make a call to Paul Washington, rector of the Church of the Advocate, to make sure that the service was still going to take place the next day. The bomb threats had caused hesitation about carrying out the plans in the vulnerable venue of the church, but Paul said, "Yes, the service will take place tomorrow." Security guards and the Philadelphia police would be on hand from early morning onward. They found a stink bomb in the back of the church and removed it, but no other bomb was found.

By the time Barbara got back on the plane, Phil had boarded and was sitting in an aisle seat wearing his clerical collar. Always interested in people with that wonderful gregarious extrovert trait of most parish clergy, he smiled broadly and warmly when Barbara saw him and smiled. An intelligent looking man with an open face and a warm smile and wearing a clerical collar made Barbara think that he was on his way to the same place and for the same reason as she. She paused before continuing on to her seat and asked  him where he was going. He said, "I'm going to Philadelphia to help my wife be ordained one of the first women priests in the Episcopal Church." Barbara said, "That's where and why I'm going, too! See you tomorrow!" And right there, the first in-person bond was made between those two flying pilgrims going onward to the Church of the Advocate with a common purpose.

I didn't know this wonderful story until last summer when I called Barbara to ask her permission to include her 25th anniversary sermon on my website. We had a lovely long visit on the telephone and among other stories, she told me about that airplane meeting with my Beloved Phil. We ordinands had to arrive a few days before the ordinations, for there was much preparation, both in prayer together and in struggling through some of the key issues involved, included the trepidation among us about repercussions. We had no idea that what we were about to do by responding to God's call to the priesthood would be much more, for without most or all of us fully realizing it or understanding what it would mean for the rest of our lives, we were also being called to become change agents. Over the next ten, twenty, thirty, now nearly forty years, we would discover the degree of opposition, misogyny and sometimes violence that would be expressed by others, leading to verbal abuse, rejection, and in at least one instance, physical assault. During the years ahead of us, a male priest, after receiving Holy Communion from Carter Heyward, would dig his nails into her hand so deeply that she required stitches. Had we known that such violence and ugliness lay ahead of us, we couldn't have borne it. Without doubting the sustaining Presence of God, I, at least, couldn't feel in myself the sheer physical stamina and emotional grit that our lives and our priestly ministries would require.

Betty Campbell, Phil's mom and my mother-in-love, had made the car trip with me from Minneapolis to Philadelphia. Betty thanked me for giving her the opportunity to grow up into the fullness of her womanhood. She said it was the first time that she had ever done anything controversial, something which might arouse disapproval, and she knew she would have to stand up for her decision. She was ready and proud to do so, and felt strong in her stand. Indeed, over the years she defended me like a mother lion, always with dignity, clarity and firmness. We met Phil (and it it turns out, Barbara, too, had we but known it!) at the airport at 1am. That afternoon, Barbara Harris led the way for us, carrying the cross high and making a passage for us, like Miriam moving with her brother Moses across the Red Sea safely on solid ground, leading the People of God into greater freedom and greater responsibility, too.

Fifteen years after the Philadelphia Ordinations, Barbara Harris, articulate and relentless spokeswoman for the liberation of all people, had been ordained a deacon and priest, and followed us all the way up to the front of history when she became the first female bishop in an apostolic tradition in modern times.

On February 11, 1989, Barbara Clementine Harris, brilliant activist and scholarly writer of the column, "A Luta Continua" (The Struggle Continues) for The Witness Magazine, followed us into history by becoming the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church. We were in that liturgical procession also, and as principal, she followed us as we had once followed her. We were overwhelmed with thanksgiving as we witnessed her Consecration and Ordination as the suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts.

The congregation joined Barbara in singing That Great Getting Up Morning,
one of the spirituals which had strengthened her beloved great-grandmother
in the years of her childhood in slavery.

I could not stop weeping tears of joy from start to end of the service.

The Rev. Li Tim-Oi was also present. Two women, Joyce Bennett and Jane Hwang, were ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao in 1971, but the truly first female priest in [Anglo-]Catholic tradition in modern times was the Rev. Li Tim-Oi, who was a deacon in China in 1944, when the Japanese invasion of China made it impossible for the Anglican priests to get to their people to serve them because they were prohibited border crossings between Hong Kong and Macau, where Chinese refugees were pouring. She and her bishop had long been discussing her deep call to the priesthood. Her bishop ordained her a priest so that the Chinese Anglicans would not be denied the sacraments. She was the only priest not blocked by border crossfire for the duration of the war. Indeed, she rode her bicycle right on through it. In the war zones, she organized clinics and schools and provided pastoral care and the sacraments. She was much loved for her kindness, strength, courage and generosity of spirit. Here she is on the day of her ordination to the diaconate by Chinese Bishop Mok in 1941. Bishop Ronald Hall ordained her to the priesthood on January 25, 1944. The portrait of Li Tim-Oi and her picture with Bishop Hall below were taken many years later.

After the war, her priestly ordination became known to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other bishops. Her priesthood was denounced and her beloved bishop, the Rt. Rev. Ronald Hall, was censured and vilified, but he held fast until his death that he had ordained her a priest under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that her vocation to the priesthood was deep and true.

Oppressed people of wisdom understand that they must help one another to overcome oppression, at all times. Out of compassion for the terrible abuse inflicted on her bishop and friend, to make it stop, she rescinded her license to officiate as a priest, though, with pain in her heart at being unable to celebrate the Eucharist, she continued to love and serve her people as a deacon, until the Cultural Revolution imprisoned her and all but buried her alive in degradation. In her concentration camp experience she stayed sane and alive by going to a secret mountain within her where God whispered to her, “Are you not a wise woman? You are a priest! You will survive this and serve those whom I love.”

At the age of 76 she was granted a visa to visit her sister in Canada. Persuaded to stay, the Anglican Church of Canada reinstated her full powers to function as a priest in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of her priestly ordination. 

The Roman Catholic movement for women's ordination honors Li Tim-Oi and tells her story here.

A sermon in the form of a letter written to her after her death in 1992 at the age of 84, by the son of Bishop Ronald Hall who ordained Li Tim-Oi to the priesthood. This was on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of her priestly ordination and the dedication of an icon of Li Tim-Oi for the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

In 1989 she traveled from Toronto to Boston to join the joyous throng of thousands at Bishop Harris's consecration.

The Rev. Li Tim-Oi at the Consecration of  Bishop Barbara Harris
The new bishop wore elegant silk vestments made by women of Ghana. A black Gospel choir sang the spirituals that had sustained her great-grandmother through her life as a slave in Maryland. A Chinese choir sang lullaby hymns in Chinese to honor Li Tim-Oi. I stood on a chair so I could see her, the first female priest, a once persecuted Chinese woman, and Barbara Harris, the first female bishop, an African-American woman and descendent of slaves, as they embraced one another in Christ at the liturgical Peace. There was an opening then in the dimensions between Heaven and Earth, and in that moment of sweet redemption, tongues of fire on their heads, they showed the world how God, with human and other mortal help, can make the impossible possible for the greater good, and how injustice can dissolve into justice and personal suffering, even intense and long, can be turned into joy.

That moment had the Spirit-charge of Pentecost~ the two women embracing to wish each other the Peace of Christ: the African-American descendant of slaves and the former Chinese concentration camp prisoner. Not only because of making history by bringing more freedom into the Church and thereby encouraging all women and oppressed people everywhere to devote themselves to peace with justice for all, but because of who they were as human beings and the particular histories which they represented, for me that day was more glorious than our own ordination day, its true fulfillment in full open light and with thousands present, people of many faiths praying together at the Great Thanksgiving liturgy of Holy Communion among these few people who had directly or indirectly endured a history of oppression and survived to lift up their voices as one with unmitigated joy. 

During her years in Boston as Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, Barbara Harris along with Bishop Robert DeWitt, who had resigned from his position as Diocesan Bishop of Pennsylvania in order to organize and participate in the Philadelphia Ordination, Bishop Edward Welles, Katrina Swanson's father and ordaining bishop and the retired Bishop of West Missouri, and Bishop Dan Corrigan, retired Bishop of Colorado and lifelong human rights activist, and the Philadelphia Eleven ourselves remained spiritually bonded and rooted in our shared day, July 29th 1974 at the the Church of the Advocate.

The church itself is a beautiful French Gothic gray stone structure with the usual bright red painted wood door, completed in 1897, the year my paternal grandmother, my personal childhood hero, was born in Henry, Illinois. From the beginning, the church had been integrated and always made a stand for Civil Rights and all matters of liberty and justice. It was anchored in the heart of the poorest section of African American inner city Philadelphia in 1974, and its priest, Paul Washington, and congregants opened its doors to us white women when no one else would.Our gratitude is boundless to the gracious and welcoming congregation of the Church of the Advocate and their rector at the time, Paul Washington. Their hospitality would continue over decades as we returned to celebrate our tenth, fifteenth and twenty-fifth anniversaries. The twentieth celebration took place at the Philadelphia Cathedral of the Savior while the Church of the Advocate was closed down for repairs. In a real sense the Church of the Advocate is our own shelter and home, and we can never thank it, meaning its people, enough.

Before the service began we were organizing ourselves for the procession in the vesting area. We had expected the congregation to be small because until two weeks before the service it had been kept in strict secrecy. The news, however, had been leaked to the press. We couldn't see but we could hear what happened next in the church proper. We heard a roaring noise but did not know what it was. Paul Washington had gone out to greet those present and when he came back to cue us with a huge grin on his face and and we all looked puzzled and concerned, he said that he had told the congregation (including dissenters who would speak for 15 minutes in a place kept for them in the service) that if a doctor tells a woman she is going to have a baby in October and the baby is ready to be born and its mother is having contractions in July, it is the baby and the mother who are right and not the doctor. Then he announced the opening hymn: "Please join me in singing the hymn, Come Labor On." He said, "What you heard was the sound of 2,000 people laughing!"

The preceding account is from a 2006 interview, "A Conversation with Alla," 
which will be posted in its entirety on Alla's website pending funding to complete it.
The painting by Anne Shams below, Paradise Lies at the Feet of the Mothers,
provided the title of the poem that follows. See "Jerusalem a Quarter Century Ago:
A Celebration of Diversity" from the archives  for more of Anne's art and philosophy.

             Paradise Lies at the Feet of the Mothers ~ A Celebratory Poem

In honor of Anglican priest, the Reverend Li Tim-Oi and Episcopal bishop, 
the Right Reverend Barbara Clementine Harris on the day of her ordination 
and consecration to the episcopate, February 11, 1989.

Today, let us say, in Boston, Heaven and Earth were joined.
It is, in truth, forever Today, and beyond that, a Forever Day,
when an act of perfection is allowed in space-time,
an act which expands through the universe and all times
to gather the suffering-through-which-it-was-made into its healing arms.

In a moment of Sweet Redemption, two women embraced—
Asia and Africa met and embraced in America.

East and West were partnered in the arms of full-grown daughters
of noble ancestors, as they accepted the mantle of the mothers.
The mothers— whose holy patience finally mandated their divine impatience
to act at this ripened hour—

The first Anglican woman priest in modern times, ordained
when no man could get through the crossfire
between her Chinese people and invading Japanese soldiers,
and she alone for the years of the war, riding her bicycle
fast between bullets, served the people, then in compassionate sacrifice
gave back her right, though a priest forever, to act as priestly minister.
Years later she would be a tortured prisoner of the Cultural Revolution.

But decades beyond her survival of that, finally,
forty years after her priestly ordination day,
her life and her ministry were recognized and received in their unity.

Restored to oneness between being and doing,
her long Wilderness Journey ending
in the North American Promised Land, she would attend as a priest
the public Celebration of the Consecration of the First Woman Bishop
in the Anglican Tradition, a brilliant liberation visionary
who had crossed into history to help make the world possible,
an African American descendant of slaves.
And during the liturgical Peace for all to share, the women embrace.
What shines and hums in the space between them
is the new young world being born.

               Alla Renée Bozarth
Diamonds in a Stony Field c. 2011 

                                       Alla greets the new bishop at her reception.                

On the silver anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations, the Right Reverend Barbara Harris stepped up into the pulpit of the Church of the Advocate, removed her dignified red and gold mitred bishop's hat and began to preach. She preached with the passion and integrity of prophets of old. Rather than wait to tell you these things on another anniversary next summer, I have waited too long already ~ thwarted by technical and financial difficulties ~ but finally found a way around the obstacles to give the world the words of Bishop Harris that re-charging day a quarter century after we eleven new priests and our three ordaining bishops made a healthy crack in the stained glass ceiling.

In these pictures below you will see stirrings and bustlings before the liturgy begins, me standing in the doorway of the narthex enjoying all the people milling about and settling in, with Katrina Swanson's hand and vestment visible on my left, and in the last picture, my dear sister-priest the Rev. LouAnn Pickering, rector of St. Gabriel's Parish in Portland, crossing the threshold with me into the main part of the church during the opening hymn.
Here, on the verge of our national Thanksgiving holiday followed by
the liturgical season of Advent in anticipation of the Feast of the Incarnation
of Christ, here is where this story belongs. And here are the firebrand words
we heard and made part of our lives:

Sermon Delivered by the Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris
at the Church of the Advocate—
July 29, 1999
on the occasion of the
25th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women 
to the Priesthood

Let there be peace among us
and let us not be instruments of our own oppression.
In the name of God, Creator, Liberator and Sustainer.
We gather this evening to mark a significant milestone in the life of the church. A quarter of a century is an important turning point for nearly any development and the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church is of no small consequence.
For some it is a time of joy and celebration. For others it calls up words from our closing hymn—“God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way . . .” For still others there are lingering doubts that celebration is appropriate, given the climate we are experiencing in the church today. Whatever draws us to this place tonight, whatever it is we are feeling individually, it is well that we corporately mark that historic sweltering hot Monday morning 25 years ago on this date and that we mark it with dignity and solemnity.
For those of you who were not around 25 years ago and for those who may have forgotten, July 29, 1974, was a momentous day. It not only spawned a new era, it revealed something profound concerning the nature of those in the church for whom an unchanged tradition— or selected portions thereof— is paramount. And that particular phenomenon continues to unfold in ever more definitive form.
Last month, the Bishop of Maine, Chilton Knudsen and I had the opportunity to participate in a class at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge jointly conducted by Carter Heyward and Sue Hiatt. The title of their course was ‘Philadelphia 25 years later—Was it worth it?” Most would see that, despite some of what we have endured and experienced, indeed it has been worth it. But twenty-five years later and some 3,000 ordained women in the U.S. alone and approximately 6,300 total in nearly 26 provinces of the Anglican Communion, I believe there are some additional questions that need to be raised.
Now I want to try to speak a little truth here tonight. And I am going to be brief and, as often accused, I am going to be blunt. I do, however, have to choose my words very carefully in that I not only tend to be quoted, I frequently tend to get misquoted. I don’t mind the former, in context— it’s the latter that ticks me off.
To begin with, last year’s decennial gathering of apostolic eagles— which included its share of turkeys— the Lambeth Conference, brought a defining melding of these two questions.
Despite the development of a critical mass of ordained women, including eleven bishops, at Lambeth we were left wondering what had happened to the dream of a kinder, gentler church. The conference resolution concerning ordination of women and its odious amendment— authored by two women bishops in concert with some conservative male bishops— totally ignored any positive impact the church has experienced through ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate over the past 25 years. It was a stunning denigration of the more than 6000 women in Orders from Utah to Uganda, to say nothing of those who have yet to respond to God’s call. Rather, having tasted blood with the much amended resolution on human sexuality, the princes of the church moved in for the kill on the people they really hold in low esteem— WOMEN.
Given the fact that the church has had gay priests and bishops since at least the 13th century, it is disingenuous, at best, and downright dishonest at the worst, to pretend that we are faced with some new phenomenon of homosexual clergy. When church policy seemed to be “don’t ask, don’t tell” it was kind of okay, but almost any single male clergy were often suspected of being gay. Even with the advent of openly gay clergy, there has been no call to suspend male ordinations generally. While I do not, by any means, minimize the rampant hostility toward our gay brothers, I strongly suspect that the advent of open lesbians into the ranks of the ordained has triggered renewed and redoubled efforts to turn back the clock on women’s ordination. As in other male dominated fields, from law enforcement to medicine, almost any unmarried woman is regarded as a lesbian— or else promiscuous. That is an important part of what we have learned.
Meanwhile, the few U.S. bishops who openly oppose women’s ordination, and their sycophants, now claim vindication, proclaiming themselves to be “in the mainstream of Anglicanism.” And make no mistake, they will try to use Lambeth’s non-binding action as a club against us at next year’s General Convention of the church, as some already are doing when they talk about “defiance” and “rejection” of Lambeth’s resolutions. In reality they are swimming against the gospel tide of inclusivity, headed for the backwater eddies of patriarchal delusion. And that, too, is a part of what we have learned.
But a nagging question remains that points us to some of why opposition continues. Where are the real men— not the ones who don’t eat quiche— the men straight and gay who claim to support us; the men who purport to embrace the concept that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female?”
Well, let us recount what has happened, for the lessons are long, hard and bitter. But our sister Maya Angelou reminds us that “history with all of its unending pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
Early on, at Port St. Lucy, we got the “conscience clause” that said bishops who did not in conscience believe in ordination of women were not bound to ordain them. Then in 1988 we got an “episcopal visitor” resolution - that, incidentally quietly expired in 1994. That same year, however, we got silence at the Indianapolis General Convention. In 1997, after 23 long years, the ordination canons become mandatory. This was followed one year later by the deafening silence of OUR male bishops at Lambeth. And so, while women, in numbers, still predominate the church and virtually remain its most potent human resource, men still outvote us, whether they are vocal or silent. And that, too, is a part of what we have learned.
Fifteen years ago, as we marked the 10th anniversary of the Philadelphia and Washington ordinations, Bishop Tony Ramos, the preacher that day, reminded us: “...wholeness is far from our reach. The journey goes on, the struggle continues and we need to remain faithful to our call. . . .” His words continue to ring true today.
Yes, Sue and Carter, it has been worth the effort, it has been worth the pain, it has been worth the joy and worth the halting steps forward toward wholeness and healing. And yes we have learned a lot. But, indeed, A luta continua - the struggle continues. That too, is what we have learned.
So where does all this leave us on this 25th anniversary?
It should leave us mindful of the words of the apostle Paul to the young church at Rome, heard in our second scripture reading: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. . . . If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
It should also leave us committed to press forward with a renewed determination to work toward eradicating the sexism, racism and homophobia which continue to permeate and pervade the church and in turn spawn some of the hate crimes we witness. And that includes demanding more in the way of concrete action on the part of the men who say they support us.
The strategy of the other side is unfolding with a clarity and a relentless kind of fury. Their march is on with priests being transferred to dioceses abroad, placing them under the oversight of bishops in Africa and Asia, then having them return to plant new churches not in communion with their dioceses and providing an opening for overseas bishops to come, uninvited, to this country and to invade the jurisdictions of bishops here. May I also note, parenthetically, that the unrelenting requests for financial assistance continue to pour in from some of the same diocesan bishops abroad who condemn us. The march is on, disseminating mis-information and, in some instances, outright lies; soliciting ecclesiastic admonitions to the US church from other primates of other provinces; targeting so-called “revisionist bishops” and liberal dioceses, witch-hunting gay and lesbian clergy and seeking to discredit those who dare to fight for an inclusive church.
Thanks be to God for our pioneer women, for the bishops who ordained and supported them, for this parish which welcomed them and the church gathered that 1974 day, for the clergy and laity who embraced their priesthood and subsequently paid the price and for all who have followed in their courageous footsteps.
And so my sisters and brothers tonight Passover is remembered. But so also is Paschaltide. For we are an Easter people in a Good Friday world. So also is the truth expressed in that great South African hymn, “Siyahamba,” translated— We are marching in the light of God. Remember also the fact that “we’ve come this far by faith” and we trust our God for the next steps of the journey.
When we close our worship this night, we can sing with new appreciation, new understanding and new fervor, the words of James Weldon Johnson’s powerful poetic prayer:
“Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod, felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet come to the place for which our parents sighed?
“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last, Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”
Let there be peace among us and let us not be instruments of our own oppression.

The Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris
+ Consecrated to the Episcopate February 11, 1989 +

Alla's Middle of the Night Note to a Friend about Misogyny

Response to a letter from poet and teacher, Pesha Gertler
It's going to take a long, long time for misogyny to get out of people's brains. It's the most toxic global evil there is. It expresses  fear and hatred of Life, Nature, the Body, the Mother, the Soul. Variously, women have internalized the poison you speak of and hate themselves. Variously, men continue to confirm their hate through patronizing hypocrisy, disrespect or overt abuse. The evil varies by culture, experience and individual degrees, but it’s endemic to our species. Egg envy manifests as death-dealing in all its forms, especially psychic, but it’s brutally physical as well. It’s the reactive psychological inversion expressed in war, rape, selfish domination (rising from reactive male self-hatred), controlling cruelty (rising from unconscious mimicry, fear of powerlessness, and narcissistic rage against maternal authority), slavery and torture. It’s global, and we Westerners in our middle class glass houses are not immune from it. To cure it, one by one we need to commit ourselves to the process, out of love for self and one another as worthy beings, by virtue of our existence alone— the universe and the Creator invited everyone who’s here to be here. We can learn and practice, generation by generation, until we’ve rewired our gray and white matter to integrate a new core attitude of self-awareness and mutual respect. We can't be the whole solution, but we can be part of it. That's what's asked of us by our foremothers, sisters and daughters, and by Great Mother God. . . .

                            We follow the Future into a World of Hope for Harmony

At the beginning of the service, these beautiful children danced down the aisle following the drummer and other musicians. They are the most beautiful and meaningful part of the liturgy. In the color picture above near the beginning, in which you see nine of the Philadelphia Eleven and Lee McGee of the Washington Four with her guide dog on the far left, we are one by one reading the stanzas of the poem, "Passover Remembered," which The Witness Magazine had commissioned me to write for the tenth ordinations' anniversary issue of the publication.  

                       Tenth Anniversary of the Ordinations.                       
       Following Communion, Prayers with Laying-on-of-hands
for Special Intentions. 

    Passover Remembered

Pack nothing.
Bring only
your determination
to serve and
your willingness
to be free.

Don’t wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready
to move at a moment’s notice.

Do not hesitate to leave
your old ways behind—
fear, silence, submission.

Only surrender to the need
of the time—to love
justice and walk humbly
with your God.

Do not take time
to explain to the neighbors.
Tell only a few trusted
friends and family members.

Then begin quickly,
before you have time
to sink back into
the old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire
to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire
and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely home to that place
you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell
one another around your fires
in the dark will make you
strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you,
and some who follow you,
and at times you will weary
and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and
blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing
for this for hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness
to make a way and to learn my ways
more deeply.

Those who fight you will teach you.
Those who fear you will strengthen you.
Those who follow you may forget you.

Only be faithful.
This alone matters.

Some of you will die in the desert,
for the way is longer than anyone imagined.
Some of you will give birth.

Some will join other tribes
along the way, and some
will simply stop and create
new families in a welcoming oasis.

Some of you will be so changed
by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends
will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.
Some of you will not change at all.

Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth
and feel abandoned by you.

Some will find new friendship
in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true
as the pillar of God’s flame.

Wear protection.
Your flesh will be torn
as you make a path
with your bodies
through sharp tangles.
Wear protection.

Others who follow may deride
or forget the fools who first bled
where thorns once were, carrying them
away in their own flesh.

Such urgency as you now bear
may embarrass your children
who will know little of these times.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow
confused and lose your way.

Continue to call each other
by the names I’ve given you,
to help remember who you are.
You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.

Touch each other
and keep telling the stories
of old bondage and of how
I delivered you.

Tell you children lest they forget
and fall into danger—remind them
even they were not born in freedom
but under a bondage they no longer
remember, which is still with them,
if unseen.

Or they were born
in the open desert
where no signposts are.

Make maps as you go,
remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So long ago you fell
into slavery, slipped
into it unawares,
out of hunger and need.

You left your famished country
for freedom and food in a new land,
but you fell unconscious and passive,
and slavery overtook you as you fell
asleep in the ease of your life.

You no longer told stories
of home to remember
who you were.

Do not let your children sleep
through the journey’s hardship.
Keep them awake and walking
on their own feet so that you both
remain strong and on course.

So you will be only
the first of many waves
of deliverance on these
desert seas.

It is the first of many
beginnings—your Paschaltide.
Remain true to this mystery.

Pass on the whole story.
I spared you all
by calling you forth
from your chains.

Do not go back.

I am with you now
and I am waiting for you.

       Alla Renée Bozarth

Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey, revised edition 1988;  
Water Women (audiotape) Wisdom House 1990;
Stars in Your Bones: Emerging Signposts on Our Spiritual Journeys 
(Bozarth, Barkley and Hawthorne); Accidental Wisdom and  
This is My Body ~ Praying for Earth, Prayers from the Heart

 Bakerwoman God

Bakerwoman God, I am your living bread.
Strong, brown Bakerwoman God,
I am your low, soft and being-shaped loaf.

I am your rising bread,
well-kneaded by some divine
and knotty pair of knuckles,
by your warm earth hands.
I am bread well-kneaded.

Put me in fire, Bakerwoman God,
put me in your own bright fire.
I am white and gold, soft and hard,
brown and round.
I am so warm from fire.

Break me, Bakerwoman God.
I am broken under your caring Word.
Drop me in your special juice in pieces.
Drop me in your blood.
Drunken me in the great red flood.
Self-giving chalice, swallow me.

My skin shines in the divine wine.
My face is cup-covered and I drown.
I fall up, in a red pool in a gold world
where your warm sunskin hand is there 
to catch and hold me.
Bakerwoman God, remake me.

Alla Renée Bozarth
Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey
Moving to the Edge of the World
This is My Body~ Praying for Earth, Prayers from the Heart

Before Jesus~
Maria Sacerdota~ Mary, Protopriest
of the New Covenant

Before Jesus was his mother.
Before supper in the upper room,
breakfast in the barn.

Before the Passover Feast,
a feeding trough.
And here, the altar of Earth,
fair linens of hay and seed.

Before his cry, her cry.
Before his sweat of blood, her bleeding and tears. 
Before his offering, hers.

Before the breaking of bread and death,
the breaking of her body in birth.

Before the offering of the cup,
the offering of her breast.
Before his blood, her blood.

And by her body and blood alone,
his body and blood 
and whole human being.

The wise ones knelt to hear 
the woman's word
in wonder.

Holding up her sacred child,
her spark of God in the form of a babe,
Mary said: Receive and let your hearts
be filled with love, for
This is my body, This is my blood.

Alla Renée Bozarth

Accidental Wisdom and
This is My Body~Praying for Earth, 
Prayers from the Heart


The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori

In June of 2006, the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church gathered in Columbus, Ohio, elected Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Diocese of Nevada to become the next Presiding Bishop of the National Episcopal Church. She officially took office on All Saints Day, November 1, and her investiture at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. took place on November 4, followed by her official seating there the next day.

Katharine is another brilliant, talented woman like so many whose lights from God are at last being given to the world for increased illumination and joy. Her bachelor's degree was in marine biology, her master's degree and Ph.D. were in oceanography. She was a professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis and also served as marine science officer for the United States navy.

Parishioners at the Church of the Good Samaritan where Katharine served as member and lay leader had begun to tell her repeatedly that they were experiencing her spiritual and intellectual gifts in such a way as strongly indicated a vocation to the priesthood. After much prayer and reflection, Katharine earned her Master of Divinity degree and was ordained a deacon and then a priest in 1994.

In 1999 she was called to be Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada. Like her daughter who is a Captain and pilot in the United States Air Force, Katharine was an expert pilot who flew her own airplane across the expanses of her new diocese to make her episcopal visitations. A bi-linguist, Katharine gave her acceptance speech to the General Convention after she was elected Presiding Bishop in both English and Spanish. Her husband, Dick Schori, is a retired professor of mathematics and an avid mountain climber and wrestler. I wrote the blessing poem below for all of them. It appeared in the December 2007 issue of Episcopal Life with stunning pictures of Katharine's investiture at our National Cathedral.

A Blessing Poem for Katharine Jefferts Schori,
Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

You married Adventure.
Born an Advent woman, you
swim into the deep regions of the sea
to meet more ancient creatures and learn
from them deeper mysteries of the Holy One,
respond with your human gifts to help our species
help those whom we’ve harmed, call us to harm no more.
You greet the Divine alive in the bathosphere,
swim with Christ and dolphins, jellyfish, sunfish,
clams and lobsters, teach us their wonders
when you return. Ever in balance, you climb
high mountains with your mate, follow the glacial flow,
observe the currents and patterns of grace
in every living form. Stretching for the stars you reach
toward stratosphere heights, fly with your daughter
into a God’s-Eye-view of distance and time.

Spirit-led, you study
the currents and winds
of Beyond, celebrate
the holy Within.

Your husband gleans the infinite
through numbers, proportions of wonderment,
the small worlds invisible to thought yet sensed,
demanding exploration, the strange attractors
and fractals comprising all matter— how spirit secretly
marries matter in the human mind, capable of the astonishing,
creating what it imagines, the play of opposites that works,
somehow, beyond all reckoning— he, the man of thought and theory,
knows his own strength, climbs by inner knowledge into the realms
of darkness and light, becomes an Olympic-style wrestler,
while you beside him now say Yes to the strange new angels
who wish to wrestle with you, name you worthy of the dance.
Rest. Work. Play. Explore. All ways of knowing take part
in the wonder of where you are now.
What you need is yours, the One coming to meet you,
refresh you, uphold and inspire you, the Advent God.
Adventure marries you. 

           Alla Renée Bozarth                                                                     
     Diamonds in a Stony Field 
Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved

The Most Reverend Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

      The Annunciation

The artist had broken canon law forbidding
   anything holy to extend beyond the borders.

When the angel’s
wing stretched

Past the borders
of the picture,
beyond the icon’s

Frame, into the world
freely, and
the woman listening

Smiled, she smiled
openly, shamelessly,

And women seeing
her smile
smile back

And suddenly discover
they are incapable
of submitting

Any longer
to soul-killing

And feel something
within them

Wanting to laugh
out loud
in the dead-still church,

Wanting to dance,
lift their skirts
and see what

Is being born
from within them
in that moment,

What holy wonder
is coming forth
from inside

Their tired old

Then it will be
the second coming
of Creation

And Christ will live again
in every woman’s

   Alla Renée Bozarth
  Accidental Wisdom
      iUniverse 2003.

Water Women

We do not want to rock the boat,

you say, mistaking our new poise

for something safe.

We smile secretly at each other,

sharing the reality that for some time

we have not been in the boat.

We jumped or were pushed

or fell, and some leaped overboard.

Our bodies form a freedom fleet,

our dolphin grace is power.

We learn and teach and as we go

each woman sings~ each woman’s hands

are water wings.

Some of us have become

mermaids or Amazon whales

and are swimming for our lives.

Some of us do not know how to swim.

We walk on water.

                              Alla Renée Bozarth

Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey, revised edition 1988, distributed by Wisdom House~

Water Women, audiocassette, Wisdom House 1990~ Accidental Wisdom, iUniverse 2003 and This is My Body—  Praying for Earth, Prayers from the Heart, iUniverse 2004. All book titles are by Alla Renée Bozarth. All rights reserved. 

In August of 2006, I had been asked by the Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of Oregon to be interviewed on a video that would be presented to the annual diocesan convention that autumn in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the First Ordination of a Woman to the Diaconate in the Diocese of Oregon. In preparation, I was asked to gather articles and artifacts from the past that were meaningful in the years before and after my ordinations as a deacon and priest. This request meant that I would have  to go to the back corner of my storage area and pull out a trunk-sized box stuffed with articles and pictures from those years, as well as awards and letters from family, friends and strangers, some with praise and some with bitter chastisement, some loving and some hateful. I approached the task with some trepidation. This is what followed:

Digging Down into the Dusty Past

Recently, I was preparing a pictorial document about those days
at the beginning of the twilight zone in my memory, when I accidentally
stumbled into history simply by saying Yes to becoming a priest.

I only wanted to respond to an inner call 
to be a celebrant of the Mysteries,
and to serve God and souls through the sacraments.

I had no sense of real recognition about this necessitating 

becoming a change agent, which would inevitably lead to 
public attention and worse, media demands and distortions, 
or the exploitation that would come.

Nor did I have any idea of how quickly it would come.

I hadn’t imagined the consequences that would sometimes thwart
my ability to function in my very calling— that the means would
impede the end while at the same time accomplishing it.

I hadn’t dreamed anyone would be as blatantly
mean spirited as such a simple thing seemed to call forth,
the misogynist anger and hate it would provoke.
To keep focused on my ministry and life, through most 
of the following years I have mercifully forgotten 
the harsher moments of unfolding reality.

I remembered the fact of the hate mail, the rejections 
by family members, colleagues and friends, 
the obscene calls and death threats— but not the details.

Today I wanted to see if down at the bottom
of my trunk full of clippings and letters, articles and photos,
I had obtained and saved the photograph that bumped Watergate
from the top to the bottom of the front page of The New York Times
on July 30, 1974, the day after the Philadelphia Ordinations.
It was the same scene as the one obtained by my publisher, 
Paulist Press, for the back of my book, Womanpriest: 
A Personal Odyssey, first edition~ though I did not remember 
if I had actually owned it or the publisher arranged  to use it 
by direct permission from  The Philadelphia Inquirer
whose staff photographer had captured that moment— 
the eleven of us  women deacons ranging in age 
from 27 (me) to 79 (Jeannette Piccard).

We were lined up in our white albs at the communion rail 
while our ordaining bishops asked us the standard formal 
questions of candidates for ordinations, according to 
The Book of Common Prayer.  Questions of faith and dedication.

We answered them positively in unison. 
It was at that moment that we heard a sharp, loud noise 
that was echoed and amplified through the stone walls
and penetrated our bodies.  

First, I thought it was gunfire. 
The shock on arrival had been news that two thousand people 
were expected, because there hadd been a leak to the press 
breaking our plans of solemn secrecy, and someone had already
planted a stink bomb  at the back of the church. Philadelphia Police
had cleared out the bomb and formed a security guard. 

Second, knowing that a person could be shot without feeling it, 
I looked down to check my alb for a red stain, and then up and
down the row to check my sisters, and then our bishops, and 
was relieved to see no blood on any of us. 

Third, I was shocked at my own first supposition, 
that someone would be shooting a gun in church during a service.
But there was reason for my assumption.

On June 30, Alberta King— 
mother of Martin Luther King, Jr. and daughter of the turn 
of the century pastor of the Ebenezer Church in Atlanta where 
her son Martin had inherited the mantle— had been shot to death
sitting at the organ of the church where her family’s ministries 
had led and served for four generations. It was six years after 
her son’s assassination by gunfire and one day less than a month 
before our ordination day on July 29, 1974.

We were all momentarily frozen and no one was breathing. 

Then, we later were told, it became clear that a major network
television camera had fallen onto the stone floor 
producing the frightening noise. 
The service continued.

The main photograph that rushed out to the national media 

via the Associated Press was taken just before or 
just after that terrible moment.  

The photo was of such historical significance 
that I thought I should include it in my archival account.   
I dreaded the task, mostly for the physical work involved.  
The emotional cost did not come upon me until I progressed
along backwards through the layers of time to the trunk load
of documents from those hard, hard, overwhelming and 
often dangerous days. 

Into the closet I went, to what amounted to my attic space 
in a corner of the guest room. Opening the door, first I saw
stored luggage and then Christmas decorations with
hibernating Christmas bears guarding them. 

Then a score of photograph albums from birth through 
Phil's and my wedding day and on through until now; 
then cameras and film and frames and hangers 
and blankets, and finally, behind everything, The Box, 
stuffed with the brimming content of the first few years 
of aftermath and not opened in nearly two decades when 
I’d last squeezed in some new material, for it continues
relentlessly to emerge. 

On top of the Box were ten to eighteen years of saved related
newspapers and magazines, special awards, liturgies, gifts
from grateful second and third generation women ordained
to the priesthood, and deacons and laywomen. 

Layer by layer I lifted these true treasures.  
They wanted sorting and reviewing, and 
the day moved on without me from noon to dusk 
and darkness while I went backward in time 
until The Box itself was free. 

I pulled it forward from the back of the shelf
at my chest level but could not lift it out, 
for it weighed a fourth my own weight.

Leaving everything else in piles on the floor and the beds, 
I carefully opened the weight of the years and began to dig
down inside it, removing pile after pile and laying them
crisscross for easy return. There they were at the bottom 
of it all, the original scrapbooks from when I still tried 
to keep up with the volume and place each item neatly 
between the pages. Three huge books were thus filled,
covering only the first few years.   

In the earliest, where the picture I wanted would logically be,
it was not. 

While scanning headlines on my way through, I tried not to 
slow myself down by reading anything that was not my search object. 
I found long articles with pictures from The Chicago Tribune, 
The San Francisco Chronicle, Ms. Magazine, Time Magazine, 
Life Magazine, Newsweek, The Oregonian— 
(beginning in 1971 with the article and accompanying 
picture of my breakthrough ordination to the diaconate 
at Portland’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral at the top of the front page, 
three days before our wedding).

My eye caught headlines from local papers 
around the country and some from abroad, 
when a particularly painful event stood out  
in a paper from Akron, Ohio, with a large  
picture of five of us eleven.

We were vested for Eucharist and on the sidewalk 
walking toward a church for a Eucharistic liturgy 
before the ecclesiastical trial of the Rev. Peter Beebe,  
in which lawyers for his side and the side of the bishop 
would argue for a verdict to allow or not allow him 
to continue his own priestly ministry— for having disobeyed
his bishop’s order to forbid any of us, his sister priests, 
from functioning as priests in his church during the years 
of limbo before the church as a whole conceded 
that we existed and were validly ordained. 
Until then, anyone who affirmed this reality by offering us
full ministerial hospitality was in violation of the male bishops’ 
consensus that we did not exist and we were not priests. 

It began to come back to me, the queasy feeling, 
the heaviness of the years. The whole absurd controversy. 
My own Wisdom House altar and people were waiting 
while I had to be out on the road attending such nonsense,
the fuss over events in which Christians were simply
worshiping together. But the events themselves were blessed, 
filled with the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit,  as Divine Grace
came into the atmosphere we breathed.

Ah, there was that extraordinary front page 
of The National Catholic Reporter
covered with four beautiful photographs of a young 
Roman Catholic bearded male priest and me 
concelebrating the Holy Eucharist— 
raising the bread and wine to be consecrated, 
raising our hands in prayer  at the altar together, 
as naturally as men and women of faith consecrated 
for sacramental service should do. 
I remembered the collective nervous breakdown 
those pictures had caused three Episcopal bishops 
and at least two Roman Catholic Archbishops, and how 
the young male priest was punished along with his staff.   

I remembered preaching that Advent evening 
on Liberation Theology, and seeing the eager faces 
of the Episcopal priest and congregation in the front pew 
who had come to hear me preach and receive Holy Communion 
from me at the University of Wisconsin Madison campus
Roman Catholic Newman Center, because the local 
Episcopal Bishop had ordered all his diocesan clergy
not to allow any woman "so-called" priest to set foot on
Episcopal Church property, in the style of a medieval
interdict, so the Canterbury Club congregation figuratively
had to go to Rome to worship with a female Anglican priest
from the neighboring state of Minnesota where I lived 
at the time. I remembered how my local bishop later 
called me in to ask me to give him the name 
of the Roman Catholic bishop so he could 
write a letter of apology.

Without expression of any kind I said that his name 
was Cletus O’Donnell, but for some bizarre reason he sent 
the letter to Bill Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee, instead. 

It worked out fine since I was due to speak at an
Archdiocesan Sisters’ sponsored evening event 
in Milwaukee two weeks later, so I’d come apologized for 
in advance. The worst of that event was that John Birch
Society members were planted in the audience, and 
one of the women rose from the back of the room to say, 
“The devil speaks cleverly, and we have heard the devil 
here tonight.”

Her cold unblinking gaze directly aimed at me chilled me 
to the core. I asked the Sisters to get me out of Dodge and
take me to the airport at once, for I’d felt the icy air of malice
that marks cold hell.   

The Box was full of such memories that I had no wish to visit,
though the people involved who’d invited and welcomed me 
made lovely memories. Jewish people and Unitarian people 
and Roman Catholic laywomen and Sisters were among 
the most hospitable and kind.

Then I remembered some of the invitations I’d received
from Episcopal churches elsewhere in different parts of the country,
invitations which were later rescinded by order of the local bishop,
or from pressure from wealthy anti-feminist church members—
slights which I simply shrugged off.

I was once in a downtown Minneapolis congregation, 
a stately gray stone church, to sign copies of Womanpriest following 
a noon Eucharist. I was downstairs in the bookstore preparing 
before the liturgy, standing in a back area where I could not be seen 
by a group of three self-appointed ladies who were not ladylike 
in their verbal assault on the owner— 

“We don’t want that woman in our church.
You must call off this heinous event and get her out of here.”
The owner held her ground, and when the gang of protesters
turned around in anger to go back upstairs and worship,   
they did not know who I was when they saw me  looking at them.

When I gave them Holy Communion later,
they piously bowed their heads and held up their hands
to receive the Body of Christ, perhaps not daring to look at me again,
though I do not think that they felt shame. 

Despite such grueling experiences, I did my duty
and went on to bear witness wherever I was asked.
I continued my dig in The Box. My eye was caught by 
Minneapolis Tribune article, featuring a good picture of me 
in my clerical collar, headlined “Woman Priest Collects Unemployment.” 
I didn’t remember the article and was embarrassed 
by the fact that the press had exploited my position.

I did remember standing in an unemployment line 
on Good Friday, 1975, and the kind man who spoke 
with me and quoted John Milton—
“They also serve who only stand and wait.”
As I recall, I wasn’t trying to collect unemployment benefits,
but to find employment through the secular State Employment Office,
since no ecclesiastical institution would have me,
which turned out to be a terrific blessing.

As time went on and hateful behavior continued from church members,
it became more and more clear to me that I wouldn’t have them, either.
I developed an allergy to institutional toxins which has activated my 
discernment and made it more accurate as a caution against exposing 
myself to hostilities, and it has freed me to be true to God’s lead in my life 
for the shaping of service as I’ve been able to do it, 
without compromise, which would have been impossible 
had I been tightly tethered by any institution,
whether academic or ecclesiastical. I remain grateful 
to be a priest of Christ within the Episcopal Church, 
I cherish its heritage, and am grateful to have contributed, 
in concert with many others, a call to justice and integrity 
to it along the way.
During this period I was able to be supportive 
of Roman Catholic women seeking priestly ordination, 
and women seeking equal rights in other faith traditions 
as well.

In August, 1974, I'd accepted an invitation 
to attend the Roman Catholic ex-priests and ex-nuns
Federation of Christian Ministries annual convention.
Theologian Rosemary Ruether was to have delivered 
the keynote address. She was ill and unable to come, 
but had sent a copy of her prepared text. I volunteered 
to deliver it, making use of my recently completed 
doctorate in the oral interpretation of literature. 

I was wearing a clerical collar and a clergy dress with long sleeved 
black top and flared black and white paisley skirt and
matching stole with black fringe,  which I wore draped over
both shoulders, visually reminiscent of priestly vestments 
and clerical street garb combined.

During the address, with a raised finger to point out an idea, 
I paused and said in my own words, “To paraphrase Jesus,
'the words which I am about to speak are not my own but
those of the one who sent me.'”

Rosemary had written something like, “I am a Catholic theologian 
who trains men to be priests, but my church says 
that I cannot be a priest because I am a woman.”

I looked at the audience to see if they got the visual joke.
The cognitively dissonant irony of visual and aural messages 
playing against each other had not been wasted. They were grinning.

That same group invited me to return as a speaker and workshop leader
at their 1978 convention at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Phoenix
while I was on book tour with Womanpriest in October, 1978. 

During the day, I led a sacred dreams workshop 
with the women in the group, most of whom had been
members of Roman Catholic religious orders  for much  
of their lives, and some of whom currently felt the stirrings 
of a call  to the priesthood, especially since the male priesthood 
was dwindling, though not yet in the throes of the scandal 
of horrifying abuses of children and others  
that would be revealed in decades to come. 

As we women talked about dreams, I told them about a dream I'd had 
years before, in which I was at a retreat center with a group of women 
who were preparing to be ordained to the priesthood the next day. 
I was talking with them about the occasion, brushing their hair 
as an older sister would, reassuringly comforting their fears   
of persecution.

There was laughter also, and the sense of Divine Spirit among them 
was high. Still in the dream, on the next day, everyone was vested, 
the ordinands in white albs, and I in a purple and burgundy cope. 
We were in a beautiful garden and the sun was shining, but unlike 
my own priestly ordination day, it was not too hot. 

Two by two, the many ordinands walked down onto an open 
grassy area and stood in oval formation~ then, I followed, 
and ordained each woman with the kiss of peace, the traditional 
and ancient gesture of Welcome. 

In my waking life on the day after the dream, a woman preparing 
for ordination in the conservative Presbyterian ministry came to talk 
with me about her concerns of negative repercussions, because she 
also would be the first woman in her portion of the church to be ordained.  
She told me she'd had a dream in which she was hiding
behind a protective pillar. We talked about the pillar
representing Christ. 
I told her the dream that I had the night before, and she smiled, 
finding herself within the great community of women 
called to ordained ministries.  

I assured her that she was not alone, and that all of us in different 
traditions needed to go on supporting each other and praying 
together ecumenically, in order to be strong enough to live out 
our vocations faithfully. And so we have done.  

Years later in Phoenix, I told this whole story about how my soul
care client and I had inter-relating dreams on the same night 
relevant to her coming experience of ordination. The women 
in the workshop told their own dream stories, and we marveled 
together at how Divine Spirit can speak to us this way, and 
commented on biblical accounts of sacred and prophetic dreams.

On that same day, the final day of the conference,   
there was to be an evening liturgy. I was asked  to preside 
at the Holy Eucharist. The male priests  were to wear vestments  
and sit in the pews with clusters of their own 
informal congregations  around them.

I entered the chapel from the back and immediately knew 
that the visuals were wrong. The three women with me sensed it also.
I said to them, “This isn’t right. Please stay with me and follow my lead.
I don’t know what we’re going to do, but it will come to me.”

During the Liturgy of the Word, we sat together in an area perpendicular
to the altar and congregants on the Gospel side. At the offertory hymn,
I said to them, “Come with me and stand beside me.”
We moved to the altar as one. 
When the hymn was over I made an announcement.
“We cannot continue until there’s been a correction here.
Roman Catholic women are being called to the priesthood
and denied access to ordination by the male hierarchy.
Yet they must be true to their calling.

“Many women are serving their communities as virtual priests
while no male priest is available. These dedicated women
have been ordained by the Spirit of God— as the Early Church
acknowledged baptism by water or by fire and desire, so we
must also acknowledge ordination by demand and desire.
The God and the people demand, and the women desire
to respond as sacramental ministers whom we call priests.

“I won’t wear vestments at the altar tonight
without my Roman Catholic sisters being able
to wear them with me.” I removed my stole and
put it around the shoulders of the woman on my left.
I removed the braided cincture from around my waist
and put it around the waist of the woman on her left.
I removed my alb and held it up for the woman on my right
to put it on and wear it. 

A male priest in one of the pews took off his vestments
and laid them on the pew, saying I won’t wear false symbols either.

“Now we can continue the Eucharistic liturgy with integrity, though 
we must remember that this integrity has not been officially achieved 
in the Roman Catholic Church, and we must work to make it so.” 

The effect was stunning. Immediately the room grew larger and
the Holy Spirit pushed against the walls as if to round them out. 
After the powerful Eucharist we had celebrated together, 
I stood outside under the stars with Marita, Jessie and Phyllis. 
The night air of Phoenix was warm. We were all still charged 
by what had happened during the liturgy, feeling a deep and 
lasting bond among ourselves. Then one of them said with a gasp, 
"Your dream! It was your dream come true and including us!"

This was one of many spontaneous symbolic events
in which I participated that pushed against the walls
and increased the sense of Spirit present among us
in the human family as we focused on moving
into greater integrity, which begins with respect,
inclusivity and justice, and a willingness to change
when change is the only way to go on.

In the last chapter of Womanpriest, I had written about the sacredness
of being a river priest for river people, not confined by static shore life,
but being carried along by a current of living waters into a creative
and healing way of being who we are, exercising the freedom
which the river gives ~ to stop and visit either shore and explore
the possibilities there, and then to keep moving forward again,
each time made larger than before by newly found friendships
with kindred spirits.

Through the incorporation of Wisdom House in 1976 
as an ecumenical religious non-profit corporation 
and feminist spirituality and healing center, I’ve been able 
to move creatively with the need of the times in interfaith 
and artistic collaborations across the land, 
which have enriched and brought meaning  
to communities of all kinds.

One such witness was the trip I made to Israel during late Lent in 1987.
My Episcopal travel agent and world humanitarian organizer friend 

Mary had invited her Methodist friend Martha, 
who was the religion editor and prize-winning writer 
for the then Minneapolis Star Tribune, and me 
and a Roman Catholic priest, rector of St. Joan of Arc 
where I’d preach on Pentecost/Mother’s Day, May 22, 1980,
while Mt. St. Helen’s across the Columbia River from Oregon’s Mt. Hood 
was undergoing her second major eruption, unbeknownst to me. 
During my sermon on the Pentecost Scripture readings, 
I held up a large framed professional photograph 
of my own Mt. Hood at Sunset, clothed in colors of fire.

I spoke of the Holy Spirit as a live volcano, whose tongues of fire
rise up from the deep heart of God as from deep Mother Earth.
I commented that like all mothers including the Holy Spirit,
sometimes a volcano has to blow its top.

And then I read my non-anthropomorphic trinitarian poem,
“In the Name of the Bee and the Bear and the Butterfly.”

The immediate effect of a such a powerful geological event
can be devastating, but the long range effect can have lasting
positive results, as volcanic eruptions through the shield or
breast-shaped cinder cone volcanoes bring rich nutrients
from Earth’s mantle up to the surface, where they 
immediately begin to fertilize all growing things 
in the ground.

At Mt. St. Helens, even before the ashes cooled,
infant pine trees, released by heat from their cones,
had begun to sprout green shoots, shaping a springtime
born safely from fire.

Years later, from time to time, members of St. Joan’s 
who also are lifetime Wisdom House members would 
send me Sunday morning programs featuring my soul 
children poems, and on Mother’s Day, my new 
millennium poem, “Before Jesus Was His Mother,” 
has sometimes been read in the liturgy on Mothers’ Day. 
We were fortunate that day at St. Joan’s when Mothers’ Day
coincided with the Feast of Pentecost.   

The priest who’d invited me to preach at St. Joan's was named Harvey,
but for our pilgrimage of four to the Holy Land with Mary and Martha,
I called him Lazarus in honor of their brother. Martha the journalist 
asked us pertinent theological questions in the car as we drove north 
from Jerusalem into the Galilee and up into the panhandle between 
Lebanon and Syria, where guns pointed down on us and the local 
residents from every direction. We were in the home of the birthplace 
of the River Jordan, born of the snows of Mt. Hermon in Syria, 
melting and branching into three streams and joining as one about 
where we were in the far north near Dan Banias, where the true site 
of the Transfiguration of Christ is believed by scholars to have 
happened, up in a high place near the Golan Heights.  

Martha asked the three of us, “Do you believe in the miracles of Jesus
as literal events?” Harvey responded that his faith would not be shaken
even if the body of Jesus himself were discovered, for the stories are 

so powerful as metaphor that he could accept them with full meaning 
at that level of depth, and the moral teachings of Christ 
would be equally strong.

I agreed with what Harvey had said about our faith not hinging
on a magic show, and the integrity of the power of  metaphor
standing on its own, but added that I personally also believe
that most of the stories really happened, because, as 
the New Physics demonstrates, anything can happen, 
and what we don’t know and can’t understand 
of space-time reality is as infinite as the universe itself.

The current dominant theory that the Creator, Who can after all 
do anything, has given birth to an infinite cosmos supplants 
the old limited idea of a finite universe . . . but again, who can know?

We can’t even imagine such a world, based on
the superstring theory which now presupposes more than
twenty dimensions, and I can barely cope with four!

The Creator moves steadfastly and mysteriously throughout

ongoing Creation. In addition to the ordinary miracles we’re so used to 
that we don’t think of them as miracles, strange and wondrous things 
happen everywhere~ mysterious moment by miraculous moment, 
all the time without ceasing. Knowing many, I can say that 
no one will be more in awe of this reality than 
a true scientist.

I celebrated the Holy Eucharist for all of us together on the shore
of the Sea of Galilee, near a sacred Jewish cemetery south of Tiberius
a few days later. Martha took several beautiful pictures during and after
our liturgy of Great Thanksgiving, and composed an exquisitely reverent
Easter Sunday front page lead story for the Star Tribune,

using the headings of The Book of Common Prayer Eucharistic Rite, 
from both the Intercessions and the Prayer of Consecration,
to structure her story.

She quoted Harvey’s and my responses to her miracles question.
After that, I received phone calls and mail from people saying,
“I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost your faith.” 

They were blaming me for what Harvey had said,
and furthermore, they completely missed the depth
of his own declaration of faith and devotion
to the Living Christ, no matter what.

I sigh even in re-telling of the story’s revealing end.
Human beings of both sexes will ever blame the woman
for what they take to be infractions obviously committed by some man,
even if the infractions themselves were nothing of the kind.
And they will blame her more vehemently if they perceive—
that is misperceive— that she is an uppity woman.  

Back to The Box. A smaller version of the unemployment story was
stuck to the back of the longer version, and folded over, with another
not bad photograph leading the brief two paragraphs, stating that 

I was in fact collecting unemployment benefits. 
I do not remember such benefits, but perhaps they were
calculated as what I would have received had I applied.
Someone had apparently sent this small piece of malice to me
anonymously, unsigned and in a no-return-address envelope—
for I thought it odd that the article had heavily inked
hand-writing across it, and wondered why
someone would write over the text
of an article like that.

I made out some of the badly written words, which to my shock
nearly forty years later read:  “. . . sleazy . . . taking tax payers [sic] 
money . . . get a job as chaplain in a brothel . . .” 
There was more but I did not further  
contaminate my eyes and hands.
I put everything back in The Box quickly, re-ordered the closet
with its contents of bears and Christmas and happy memories
in hundreds of meaningful photographs all neatly arranged,
left the room in a pristine state and took a long hot shower
after washing my hands with hot soapy water five times.
I do not think I shall open that box again in my lifetime.

I bless the sheets of  paper on which I write these words,
and pray the weight of these things will not be as heavy  
on them as it was landing like a boulder again on my heart. 

It is enough and more than enough to have lived through such things
only once—  There is no need for me to relive them again 
in remembrance.

Days later now, I decided last night to see what’s on the compact disc
an archival historian had sent me with articles related to our ordinations
from The New York Times, 1974 – 2008. This was on top of The Box,
and I’d set it aside to review later.

Scrolling through the documents, I still didn’t find the July 30, 1974
article and The New York Times or Associate Press photo, and began 
to think I’d mis-remembered, visualizing The Philadelphia Inquirer  
front page instead of the Times, so my fable about bumping Watergate 
from the top to the bottom of the Times front page 
may be just that, a mere fable produced by memory heavily colored 
by imagination, as happens when the brain cannot manage
the sheer volume of detail in the mind’s archives.

I did, however, find a charming Times article and beautiful photograph
of the Rev. Patricia Park, a deacon at the time, who was greeting
new President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford at the door of her church
after services the Sunday following the Philadelphia Ordinations.
The article said that the President had enthusiastically praised her 
sermon, and both Gerry and Betty were most impressed 
by its topic— the Philadelphia Ordinations and 
the role of women in Church and Society!
She had described the high significance of the event 
beyond church walls, ranging out to touch the lives, 
minds and spirits of oppressed women globally, 
that our act was symbolic of personal integrity 
and the creation of justice for all people.

When asked what he himself thought about the event and the people involved, 
President Ford went presidentially prudent and said he had no comment 
before learning much more about it.
Still, everyone was beaming and joyous in the photo, and that’s what
they were discussing. It’s good to know, these trials and decades later,
that on the Sunday after our Day, in response to the words of a bright
young deacon who would later follow us into the priesthood,
we wowed the President.

And some years after that— giving thanks for a successful recovery
of my father from a decades long nightmarish addiction to prescription
drugs, originally administered for lifelong asthma— 
I happened to attend Sunday services at St. Margaret’s
Episcopal Church in Rancho Mirage near where 
my father had lived and died.

The intervention three years earlier had coincided with Vern Johnson’s
being in the area to help set up the Betty Ford Treatment Center
at Eisenhower Hospital in Palm Desert, which would open
the following year.

Knowing that Vern would be nearby, I arranged for him 
and his colleague at Eisenhower to lead the intervention.
Vern Johnson was an Episcopal priest in my canonical
Diocese of Minnesota, where he'd founded the Johnson Institute 
in the Twin Cities, Mecca of the medical model of addiction recovery.

By 1984, Betty Ford was long famous as a spokesperson for breast cancer
research and treatment, and for the recovery movement for alcoholism 
and other addictions.

It happened that the Sunday I attended their home parish, 
the Fords were present at the Eucharist. I quietly slipped out 
from the aisle seat of my pew near the wall to write Betty Ford 
a thank you note for her ministry.
Her life was redemptive in every respect and her living out
witness to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic values relentlessly
expressed in the Gospels by Rabbi Yeshua, whom Christians
regard as the Living Christ, was a beautiful role model 
for all people.

I told her so in my note, written on the back of the bulletin
or a scrap of paper I’d found. I had no thought of meeting her after
the service, but instead stepped outside where their car was parked
in front of the church doors and unobtrusively gave my note to the Fords’
driver, who assured me with a sweet smile and a tip of his hat
that he would see that Ms. Ford received my message.

I donned my black clerical suit and white collar very rarely
from the beginning, wearing it more often after my ordination
to the diaconate and through the early years after my ordination
to the priesthood and on many public speaking occasions
in the early years, then moved away from the formality
of the professional uniform and title, especially as news
about abusive clergy began to fill the newspapers.
The atrocities committed by male clergy
were a scandal to me as well as
to the rest of the world.
I decided to reserve formal professional attire
for the most important and public situations.

The last time I wore my clerical collar was for a television
interview in 1992, when I was asked to respond to 
the British Synod of Bishops and Parliament approving 
the ordination of women to the priesthood in England.

They had yet to approve the ordination of women to the episcopate
(Sacred Order of Bishops) but were working on it in 2010. 
[It was finally approved by all three houses of the General Synod—
Laity, Clergy (priests and deacons) and Bishops
on Bastille Day, July 14, 2014.]

I originally wrote this memoir fragment while going through my archives
in late August, 2006, and when I looked at this writing on July 18, 2012,
The London Times  and BBC television reported:

“Church wants women bishops, Vatican says No.” In other words,
women in all levels of ordained authority would spoil ecumenical 
relations between Rome and Canterbury.

This argument was an insult to all female Episcopalians forty years ago  
when it was used to block women from the priesthood, because it was 
tantamount to saying that agreement between men from different traditions 
was more important than agreement between men and women 
within their own tradition.  

Their own women members simply don’t count.
Male ego strikes again, proclaiming its hegemony 
over what is right and just.

Regarding women, the effort to compromise with oppression 
is the same as allowing slave owners who couldn’t let go 
of their family tradition to go on keeping their slaves bound 
after the Emancipation Proclamation and
the Union victory for justice.

The Observer and The Guardian reported that the vote for women 
in the bishopric (as the English often refer to the episcopate) failed 
because  it included a bid by ultra-patriarchal African bishops through 
the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to add compromise amendments 
that would  “protect them from female ministry.” 
One wonders how this went down with their own mothers.

That day at St. Margaret’s, I was dressed in normal street clothes,
as is my custom. I simply told the Fords’ driver that I was a priest
among the first eleven women ordained in 1974, hoping that 
information would motivate him to safeguard and deliver my note.

He nodded and smiled broadly in recognition.
When I told him that I didn’t want to intrude on the Fords,
he assured me it would be no intrusion, but much appreciated
by the former First Lady. In my book, she remains a First Lady.
And I am glad to have had the opportunity to let her know.

            Alla Renée Bozarth  

Purgatory Papers
copyright 2014 

The Archbishop of Canterbury Meets with the Pope, Again   

I’ve been in rooms like that at the Vatican.  
A small nook in the honeycomb, complete with lofty ceiling,
drafts and the Persian rug. You can smell antiquity and
sterility mingling. 

Tears and laughter have taken place here, 
but more often tense posturing. There he is, 
our guy leaning forward across the table, 
the visitor, the guest summoned by grumblings, 
and the home guy with his back to the wall   
on the host side of the furnishings. 

Was it a clever coup? An insult? A dawn raid? 
The Pope opened his doors to disaffected Anglicans
seeking a suitable hiding place from change. 

They’ve never adjusted to liturgy in the common language 
after forty years of practice in contemporary vernacular, 
and they can’t stand the idea of men not being the only ones 
in skirts offering Divine Food at the altar.

They’ve had thirty-five years to learn to be gracious 
when a woman priest offers them Holy Communion, or 
a pregnant pastor enlightens them about thanksgiving and
generosity and what living in the image of Christ might mean.

But what they say they can’t stomach, the last straw, 
the thing they refuse to swallow, and so forth, is 
institutional acceptance of homosexuality. 
Well, for heaven’s sake.  
Anyone who still thinks that it’s an unnatural abomination 
knows nothing about how God-created Nature regulates population, 
or how generous Nature is in allowing beings to love whom they love, 
and let this love help increase the health of the planet and our species.

How does creativity transpire and how do new species form if not by
individuals branching out from the mandated norms? On the level 
of conscious change for the greater good of Creation,would they 
impede God's creative and inspiring evolutionary processes 
of adaptation to reality?

A new species of loving kindness consciousness is what can manifest  
from all this senseless conflict, once people stop feeling threatened  
by behavior that deviates from unnaturally rigid norms.

Too bad for the ex-Anglican refugees in Rome. 
It won’t be long (within another century should do it, 
and sooner, please God) before their last refuge of choice 
(other than Eastern Orthodoxy) has more women priests
than Anglicana, and all the gay prelates come out of their 
closets in the College of Cardinals to celebrate and bless 
the marriages of women and men, though not necessarily 
with each other, but all the same, with someone they intend 
to love for life. 

The celebration of love and respect in the acceptance  of diversity—
What could be more God-like than that?          

Alla Renée Bozarth     

Purgatory Papers
Copyright 2014

Re-vision of Life is Where We Begin 

Beyond anger, beyond blame,
beyond shame and despair~
when you can’t cope with a situation—

Friend, start walking around it
until you come to an angle of vision
you can live with.

Make walking sticks of poems and prayers.

It may take you several turns, with cursing
and crying and shouting to God and
muttering to yourself and scolding
everybody involved, but keep on
walking around it and blinking,
wiping your eyes, 
clearing cobwebs
from your mind.

And in a moment of Grace you may stop
and see what might be a revelation.
It will open your heart
and relax your mind.
It will give you a way to proceed
without further destruction.

That’s where your real work begins, 
for you will have already done
the necessary preparations.

Alla Renée Bozarth

Purgatory Papers
copyright 2014

and Vietnam Docupoem
Blurb Booksmart, 2013. 

 Solitary Witness—  In Memory of Her

    Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached
throughout the world, 
    what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

 Matthew 26:13    

Mary, of the fishing town of Migdal or Magdala, prospered in Galilee,
yet she suffered— perhaps those many devils known 
by everyone besieged in the talons of depression— 
anger, futility, sadness, fatigue, physical distress,
flatness of spirit and no sense of access to the core self or soul.

Then she met Someone, a rabbi, scholar 
and carpenter who had friends 
in the fishing  profession.
He recognized and acknowledged
who she really was—
You are a great heart, 
a generous and loving soul,
a born leader, brilliant and brave

and you have the gift
of a wise and 
independent spirit 
needed for the work  that we do.

Then he invited her to join them.

She may have been that generous woman who anointed
his feet with precious ointment, and perhaps from envy
was rebuked for wastefulness by other disciples. Jesus said,
“Who else among you has shown such courage and love?”
and promised that she would be remembered for it,
calling her prophet indeed by defending her with
the recognition that she was preparing his body for burial.

Though she bore the envy of men who craved first position,
she embraced the honor of being chosen the one closest to
his heart, first among equals, apostle to the apostles, heartbroken
and solitary witness to Christ’s resurrection, entrusted companion.

This liberated woman was known by God to be the one strong enough
to leave the Beloved, in order to fulfill his desire that she tell this
astonishing truth to the others, whether they believed it or not,
and to call them out of hiding and move them to attend.

Later she was driven away by lesser powers 
across the Mediterranean Sea, 
shipwrecked by storm and her own destiny, 
and came to the French port
of Marseilles, then some time after that went to Italy.

The Gospel reached across the sea through her well-seasoned voice.
Making her way to Rome to confront the tyrant there, she preached
to Tiberius Caesar, telling him about Yeshua’s birth, life, unjust death
and resurrection, holding an egg in her hand to illustrate the miracles
of birth and rebirth.

The emperor interrupted her, scoffing dismissively, saying
“A person could no more rise up from the dead back into life
than that egg in your hand could turn red,” whereupon, it did,
followed by his astonished and egg-shaped face.

Led by her strong hearted compassion and divine inspiration,
for many years of her ministry Mary served and healed those
who were sick in body or soul in southern France, taught
and preached to all who would receive her without prejudice.

At last, her perceptive work among others done,
she came to fulfill a deeper calling of solitude
to the creative contemplative life.

Mary Magdalene retired to the home prepared for her by angels,
and lived her last thirty years alone and unknown in forests of Provence.

Where else for such a woman to prepare for heaven
than in the company of angels and harmonious
natural neighbors, and in the South of France?

To this day French bakers honor her holy presence 
in their own homeland
by creating the sweet delicate pastry named Madeleine, 
made with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and wheat, 
the taste of honey, the color of gold—
and, in memory of her deliverance to them by storm, 
they are borne from the bakers’ fire 
in the shape of a seashell.

Poem by Alla Renée Bozarth 
in Purgatory Papers, copyright 2013

The sculpture at the top is called “Christ Appears to Mary Magdalene
at the Empty Tomb.” The sculptor is Bruce Wolf. The piece is part of an Easter scene with the Risen Christ in Mission Santa Barbara, California. 

And then, a new breakthrough!
April 29, 2017

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church who was consecrated as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Massachusetts on February 11, 1989, with the newly consecrated Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis~ our first female African American diocesan bishop! Hooray for the Episcopal Church and the Great Communion!

Note: A bishop suffragan (or suffragan bishop) is comparable to an associate director of an organization, while a diocesan bishop is the bishop fully in charge, a kind of president of a diocese, which is a geographical area with a certain number of churches in its jurisdiction, usually the same as a state or province, or a portion of a large state or province. Another type of bishop, a bishop coadjutor, is one who serves as a kind of vice-president to the diocesan bishop's president, in line to become diocesan bishop on the retirement of the incumbent. 

O Happy Day!

From Bishop Baskerville-Burrows' Timeline on the Day of Her Episcopal Consecration~

"Don't expect to arrive at a place of knowing.
You are on the road of discovering, my friend,
and the flame in your heart
will only inconstantly let you know
that there also walks the Beloved, who yearns
only for this one passionate delight
above all the glories of heaven:
every moment, even the least memorable,
the least noticed at all,
simply to be with you."

(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, The Road)

Bishop Barbara Harris stands behind Bishop Baskerville-Burrows. I am going to call Barbara in a few days and rejoice with her, the cross-bearer at the Philadelphia Ordinations in 1974, who became the first woman to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church on February 11, 1989, when she began her episcopate as the Bishop Suffragan (with more authority than an assistant bishop and less than a diocesan bishop) of the Diocese of Massachusetts, and here she is, resplendent at this happy occasion in 2017. I imagine it is a day of fulfillment for her in the same way that the day of her consecration was for me as one of the Philadelphia Eleven. 
Our priestly ordinations seemed like Part One of a sweeping saga, a journey into fulfillment, still fraught with frustrations and obstacles for women and LGBT clergy as it will be for a long time to come, but it was a beginning. Witnessing Bishop Harris' consecration I thought, "This is Part Two of our ordination day." The election and investiture of our first female Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori in 2006, was Part Three, and Bishop Baskerville-Burrows' consecration as the first African American female diocesan bishop is Part Four~ from breakthrough to completion of movement to the beginning of a new level of wholeness for the Episcopal Church.

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows with her family~ husband Harrison Burrows and their son, Timothy.

"Her ascension is historic. The denomination, which spans the United States and 17 other countries, has seen a few black female bishops in assisting roles. But never has the Episcopal Church chosen a black woman to lead a diocese.

“'Like all positions of leadership in the church and corporate America, being first is a wonderful thing,' she said, seated in a dark wooden pew in the cathedral. 'It’s breaking the stained glass ceiling.'”

"Baskerville-Burrows, 50, was elected last fall at the diocesan convention and replaces the retiring Right Rev. Catherine M. Waynick. To mark the occasion, 44 bishops from throughout the United States and beyond will descend on Indianapolis for an installation ceremony set for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Butler’s Clowes Hall.

"As a black woman who grew up in the projects, Baskerville-Burrows might seem an unlikely person to lead an Indiana diocese where the vast majority of the parishioners are white. But her journey to this point is insightful."

"Baskerville-Burrows is the 26th woman elected bishop in the Episcopal Church and will be the 12th female diocesan bishop, as well as the 44th African-American bishop and the 1,100thbishop overall in the Episcopal Church’s history.

"The bishop-elect is also an enrolled member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, a federally recognized tribe based on Long Island in New York. Her paternal grandfather was a Shinnecock member who grew up on the tribe’s reservation.

"Baskerville-Burrows became a Christian as a young adult and chose to join the Episcopal Church at Trinity Church Wall Street in lower Manhattan. She was baptized there in 1989, the year after she graduated from college."…/

A Celebration of Ongoing Ministry

Between Bishop Katharine's June 2006 Election and her November 1, All Saints Day Installation as Presiding Bishop, an August 2006 Wedding at Wisdom House is commemorated here in pictures on the 39th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations, July 29th 2013~    

Claudia Daly and Stan Kusunoki, poet friends in St. Paul, Minnesota, sent me a lovely card with a poem by Stan and a prose message from Claudia for the 39th anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations. They have pictures of their dancing priest along their stairway wall among their family photos. The picture on the card front was taken by Stan of a few members of the American Lady butterfly species who visited their purple asters and other flowers by the dozens a few summers ago. Claudia's message: "We feel so blessed to be loving observers of your life's work ~ Yes, participants and beneficiaries, too . . ."

For more than twenty years of friendship, I've been constantly inspired by the talents of these lovely people. Claudia has produced award winning programs for National Public Broadcasting. She created "For Kids' Sake Radio," and the landmark series, "The Lives of the Children" with classroom voice interviews by innovative teachers and students in schools around the country in keeping with the explorations of the great child psychiatrist and Harvard professor, Robert Coles. Before that she headed the radio unit of the William Benton Broadcast Project of the University of Chicago where she developed and was executive producer of three major award-winning series: 

"The Heart of the Story," "Speakers' Corner,"and for PBS and NPR,
"The Glory and the Power: Fundamentalisms Observed"   

Both Claudia and Stan have worked for Public Broadcasting on several levels over the decades. Currently, Stanley is a composer, musician, poet and tenured teacher of gifted children in the public school system. He was nominated for 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year by the Shakopee Public Schools. Claudia and Stan are each other's first hearers for the poetry that they write. They have given poetry readings together to wide acclaim in the Twin Cities. You can see why I cherish their friendship.

After decades of deepening friendship and mutual devotion, Claudia and Stan eloped over the mountains to the foot of Mt. Hood in Western Oregon and were married in a nuptial Mass at the backyard altar of Wisdom House on August 11, 2006.

Stanley Kusunoki and Claudia Hampston Daly
on their Wedding Day, August 11, 2006,
at Wisdom House in Sandy, Oregon,
with Best Man Bill Seach and Best Woman Nancy Worssam.
Long-time friends of the bride and groom, they are also married to each other.
They flew down from Seattle to witness and bless this wonderful event. 
The Rev. Alla Renée Bozarth, priest celebrant. 
Photos by Susan Linda-Kanne.    

And led by the radiant, rapturous couple, we danced with them!

Two years later they came to give and receive booster blessings in the holy surround of Nature and had another honeymoon in a their original rented long cabin named Zoe, the Greek word for Life, on the bank of the Sandy River, teeming with life and flowing strong with glacial melt from Mt. Hood. On Sunday they came to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in our chapel here, a spirited liturgy of poetry read by Claudia along with the Scripture readings from the lectionary and  original songs and music sung and played by Stan on his lovely guitar, Estrella. After Communion Claudia and Alla danced together around the altar and joined Stan in singing "Song of the Soul." Then I (Alla) joined them at Zoe's and feasted with them at the table which they prepared together. I got to help stir the risotto while Stan and Claudia tended to the festive salad and wine. It was altogether Heaven on Earth. 

The Sandy River from Zoe's Cabin Porch

In celebration of the 39th anniversary of the Philadelphia Ordinations:
American Lady Butterflies with purple asters by Stan Kusunoki 

So it was the feast day
of Saints Mary and Martha
That eleven American Ladies
robed not as butterflies but as priests
changed the world of faith
challenged the undoable
A brand new liturgical dance
that even today blows new life
like sirocco chipping away mountains
to sand the hierarchy made plain
and even
We watch with pleasure
as Alla leaps and spins

Stanley Kusunoki
 St. Paul, Minnesota

1999 Philadelphia Ordinations 25th anniversary  pictures.

The black choir of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia came over to the Church of the Advocate to sing Gospel Songs for us. Their Spirit Songs moved me to sing with them with my whole body, uplifted feet and arms first. Centrifugal Motion helped it along. 

In 1794, St. Thomas parish was founded by the Rev. Absalom Jones, freed from slavery just ten years earlier. He was the first black person to be ordained in the Episcopal Church~ a man whose dignity and determination are shown in his portrait here: 


Post-communion Gospel dervish 
prayer dance.

In Memory of  Miriam the Prophet

Near the end of the silver anniversary service after Holy Communion, members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church who had come to sing at the Church of the Advocate offered their uplifting songs  and voices to God. The power and beauty of the Spirit-filled music moved me to break into a spontaneous dance of Praise and Thanksgiving.


Dancing toward the Promised Land

I, Miriam, took my tambourine
and finger cymbals with me
out of the land of slavery
with its daily insults and petty
exemptions, and so remain always
ready to dance on the long, long journey,
dance at every victory, beginning with
surviving the Passover, then the strange
occurrence when the Red Sea dried beneath
our feet as we ran, safely passing over the narrow
strip onto the Sinai Peninsula, all the way out
from the land of longing toward the storied memory of Home.

I danced to the song that spilled out of me,
loud up to Heaven, rejoicing on hopeful feet,
rejoicing with arms flying through warm air like wings,
and water followed me all the way through
the great desert, to keep the people alive and faithful.

God knows it may take a long time to return.
It’s been five hundred years, after all.
A long time gone, but our stories keep it alive
in our hearts. I wonder if I’ll live to see it from
the mountains across River Jordan. I wonder
if I’ll be an old woman, and dance down
the side of Mt. Nebo with arms wide open,
heart fluttering strong, leading the way
with cymbals and songs into the Promised Land.

  Alla Renée Bozarth  

My Blessed Misfortunes, copyright 2013. 
Also shown on the "Jerusalem" post and page. 

To read about Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party" and how it was 
indirectly inspired by the Philadelphia Ordinations: 

The Philadelphia Ordinations in The Timetables of History  

The  Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events, by Bernard Grun, based on Werner Stein's Kulturfahrplan, copyright 1946, 1963 by  F. A. Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung, English Languagae Copyright 1975 by Simon and Schuster.

The Philadelphia Ordinations, with two errors, are cited on p. 576: "Four U.S. Episcopal bishops defy church laws and ordain 11 women as priests." 

The first English Edition was published at the beginning of 1975 and the citing of the Philadelphia Ordinations thus arrives at the end of this volume, with these inaccuracies: there was no church (canon) law prohibiting women from the priesthood or episcopate, and discrimination against women ordained to the diaconate had been dealt with in 1970 when the sexist canon pertaining to ordained women was eliminated and all deacons were included under the same canon on the diaconate.  There was no church law that prohibited the ordination of women deacons to the priesthood, and by extension to the episcopate. Therefore, no prohibitive canon law was defied, but custom and practice were defied by virtue of being changed, and some of the technical requirements were impeded through no fault of the women, but by diocesan Standing Committees refusing to give their canonically required approval to the precedent-breaking ordinations. The second error in The Timetables was to say that four bishops ordained us. While four Episcopal bishops participated, only three actually ordained the eleven to the priesthood. The fourth, the in-office bishop of Costa Rica, was present in support of the event.

It's good to know that the Philadelphia Ordinations were regarded as a sufficiently significant event in the history of the human family to be included in this first English Edition of The Timetables of History. I see on the page for this book that two more copyrights exist with additional pages in 1979 and 1991, but we made the very end of the first 1975 English Edition which concluded with events in 1974. 

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