Dear Future Sarah,
It’s been quite the religious journey so far – not being allowed to serve as an altar server as a kid, learning tremendous relational and processing skills in religious life, reporting an abusive priest, going toe-to-toe with a bishop, watching my sisters stand up to the Vatican’s attack on the LCWR, making final vows as a Sister of St Francis, graduate school, listening to younger lay women struggling in their relationship with the church, publishing a book, completing the PhD in Scripture, and working on a second book.
Each experience has prepared me for the next. While I’ve always been fairly confident, my confidence is more grounded. I know I have power, and I try to use it for the good.
Even still, I find that I’m not always comfortable with power. When power has been used against me (and against women and others) to stifle, contain, limit, and train us into small thinking, it can be hard to embrace power. I have been listening to my experiences and imagining largely for awhile now. I can dream big dreams and incarnate little steps to help bring them about in the world. Even still, it is hard to contemplate power.
In my experience, using my power to “push through” is only a short-term solution—like covering a colleague’s class through the last month of the semester when his wife died unexpectedly. Pushing through is the burst of energy that gets me through a temporary situation. Transforming the situation for women (and others) in the church feels more like a marathon, which requires focus, pacing, and perseverance.
Joyfulness and perseverance are my superpowers. I’m growing into an ability to create options and look simple, unexpected solutions. Simple, unexpected solutions have been “of God” in my life.
This is why I think forming a network of lay people is the way forward. As long as the hierarchical powers succeed in isolating people who don’t fit in their small definitions, the church is unlikely to change.
I am curious about what comes next. How long will it take to grow a network? Who will be part of it? Who will be the initial leaders? How quickly might change happen? What will be the gifts in small beginnings? What might the church look like with a whole network of people who use their power to build people up instead of putting them in narrow assigned places? What will this mighty rushing wind of a supportive network usher in? Can the vestiges of patriarchy simply become irrelevant if we ignore them and focus on the Spirit’s movement instead?
Future Self, I look forward to discovering the answers to these questions as they unfold in your life. I anticipate the ways God will continue to delight and surprise us.
Peace and everything good to you and all those you meet,
Sarah of the Chaotic, Vision Time of 2020