Presiding at communion. L-R: Bonnie Rambob, Joellynn Monahan, Natalie Terry, Christine Haider-Winnett
A reflection on the World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination services by Christine Haider-Winnett, WOC Board Member and student of Theology at the Pacific School of Religion.
On March 6, Pacific School of Religion (PSR) hosted a chapel service in honor of World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination, which was attended by over 60 people. As the Vice President of the Women’s Ordination Conference and a student at Pacific School of Religion, I worked with PSR’s incredible Campus Ministry team (lead by Rev. Jim Mitulski and Rev. Ann Jefferson) to put together the chapel service.
Because PSR is an ecumenical school, it was important to us that the service celebrate all women called to ordination, not just Roman Catholic women. The preacher was Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon, a United Church of Christ (UCC) minister who was raised in a Baptist denomination that doesn’t ordain women. Rev. Joellynn Monahan, who was raised Roman Catholic and is also a UCC minister, presided over the Eucharist. PSR student Bonnie Rambob (who was raised Seventh Day Adventist) and Natalie Terry (a Catholic student at Jesuit School of Theology) also participated in the service. PSR student and UCC seminarian Liz Armstrong also participated to highlight the discrimination women ministers still face in more ‘progressive’ denominations.
Rev. Dr. Nixon’s sermon was about God being “for women.” She invited us to reflect on the ways that being unconditionally for women is so much more transformative than simply being against patriarchy, misogyny and injustice. Dr. Nixon’s sermon warned me against mirroring the closed-minded, prejudicial structures I work against in the Roman Catholic Church, and challenged me to build up the inclusive, life-giving Church that I dream of.
Laying of hands ritual at PSR Chapel
Rev. Joellynn Monahan’s celebration of the Eucharist was vibrant, inclusive and joyful. At the end of the service, she also lead a laying of hands ritual for women who can’t be ordained and for everyone who supports an inclusive vision of ordination. To stand in the middle of that circle surrounded by people who supported my own calling, as well as people with their own stories of discrimination, was deeply moving.
The choir, lead by professor Aeri Lee, lead us in singing “Bring Many Names” and “For Everyone Born a Place at the Table.” They also performed awesome renditions of “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me” and “Salve Regina” (the Sister Act version, of course!). However, my favorite musical moment was when PSR student Jamie Michaels sang a version of the Kyrie written by Hildegaard von Bingen.
During the service, we collected an offering for WOC. Before taking up the offering, I took a moment to speak about WOC, and the effect that it has had on my own life. WOC was one of the first places that I felt truly nurtured and supported as a woman minister, and I believe that if it hadn’t been for the work of WOC, I would not be a student at Pacific School of Religion today. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to be able to introduce my fellow students to WOC, and to share that part of my story with them.
Celebrating the Eucharist
I am one of the few Catholics at PSR, and the vast majority of PSR students belong to denominations where ordination is open to women. When we were planning the service, I was concerned that this issue wouldn’t seem relevant to other students. After the service, I was stunned by how many students and staff members came up to me to say that they were grateful to have an opportunity to pray over this issue. Many of these people had left the denominations of their birth because they had faced sexism and homophobia, and seemed to truly appreciate having an opportunity to reflect on that experience in a safe and loving setting. One woman told me “if I knew there was a place like this for me in the Catholic Church, I don’t think I would have left!”
That day, I think that we all took a small step toward creating the inclusive, pro-woman community that Dr. Nixon had challenged us to build in her sermon.
— Christine Haider-Winnett, WOC Board