Breaking Ceilings

The start of this year has had a few significant events and they have, for some reason, primarily happened on Wednesdays. No less is that true today. I have been doing most of my blogpost writing on Tuesdays since the pandemic began, because we record worship on Wednesday afternoons and having my blog ready to go out when that day begins frees my mind in a particular way. But today, today I decided I wanted to wait to write the blog for this actual day. Regardless of party, every four years in the history of our nation, our foundation has been built on the secure and peaceful transfer of power. I am more thankful and aware of that this year than any in my lifetime. Not only because of the violence and misguided idea that somehow we are best making our dissidence known by attacking our Capitol building and those elected to serve, but also because of so much death we have and are yet facing from a virus unlike we have seen in our world since 1918.

It is also a day to mark for all of us, again regardless of party, for the first time a woman has been inaugurated as Vice President. That statement may, for some, feel like controversial words. Friends, wherever you stand politically, when any glass ceiling is shattered for a gender that I share, I celebrate, NOT because gender makes us better or worse, but the hope that we get to a day when gender is no longer even something that is mentioned because we will realize that we together share the responsibility of leadership in every arena. My Grandmother Crissman both attended and graduated from Fort Hays State University with only 2 other women in her class in the early 1920’s. Career options were limited to education and nursing. My Grandmother became a librarian. It was only because her father, my Great-grandfather who was first generation immigrant, insisted that his daughters attend college to be in strong position to live their lives independently and with purpose. When I was in college and taking a class called “American Family History”, we were given the assignment to interview the oldest generational ancestor we had living. I spent the weekend in Quinter, Kansas, with both sides of my grandparents for which I will always be grateful. Both those grandmothers were as strong of women as I would ever know.

My friend, Dr. Barbara Lukert, who many of you heard me interview for a Tuesday Chat with the Pastors, was one of the first women to both attend, graduated, and specialize in the medical profession from which she went on to become not only a respected clinician, but an award-winning researcher and professor. The countless lives she touched of patients and medical students for over 40 years is a testament to courage, fortitude, and no small amount of political savvy in a patriarchal ordered world. Don’t tell her I told you all of that. I do so only to say that in her day and time, she and her few female colleagues had to be “better than” and average male student to make it into a career fraught with pitfalls from those who did not believe women should be in professions, most especially based around math and science. Now most of us wouldn’t know what to do without as many women physicians and specialists and surgeons that we have.

Then of course, there’s my own profession. We don’t stand out as historically highly gender inclusive either. Women were ordained as full elders in 1956. For reference, John Wesley chartered the first Methodist Church in the United States in 1784. Um, so it only took our denomination 172 years to begin accepting that God calls women into ordained service no less or more than men. First United Methodist become Grace was begun in 1848, and the first woman Sr. Pastor was appointed in 2003. The responsibility and willingness to accept a woman in leadership after 155 years lies primarily with this congregation’s openness to taking a risk, and a Bishop and Cabinet willing to give it a shot. Initially my title was not Sr. Pastor. After hearing from three women in ministry in the generation before me whom all clergywomen in this state, at least, owe for breaking the ground for the rest of us, called or took me to lunch and told me in no uncertain terms that embracing the title and authority of the Sr. leader was important to them, even if not so much to me, I received it. Our journey together as a church family has had its ups and downs, but to think that there are now a generation of kids 0-18 yrs. who have never known that a woman Sr. Pastor is an oddity at a church this size is somewhat mind-boggling. For them my strengths and weaknesses are simply those of a pastor, not particularly a female or male pastor, just their pastor who is sometimes right-headed and no small amount of the time wrong-headed. They no longer see the shattered shards of the stained-glass ceiling you all empowered me to break, whether you realized it at the time or not.

We can continue down the list of vocations and lift up those who have broken new ground when given the chance, but today, today for me, it’s about the witness to our young girls and boys that there is a place for all people to put their gifts and skills to work for the common good for the world. For those for whom this is a sad day and for whom this particular Vice President simply represents a political direction for which you did not vote, I simply ask your understanding that our strength as human beings working together is enhanced every time another barrier to reaching potential is broken down for any part of God’s family. My prayer for our nation is that we continue to be the strongest free Republic the world has known where any and all of God’s children have opportunity to serve whatever calling God gives to make God’s world the place God envisions for all God’s children.

The video below was perhaps the most poignant moment of this day – this country’s youth poet laureate is nothing less than amazing . .