I continue to have firsts in the church; today, I taught my first class. While it doesn’t quite compare to serving Eucharist, it was certainly reminiscent of experiencing that first. Last November, after I prayed and served my first Eucharist, I wrote this reflection of the experience.
Today was reminiscent of that experience, because, yet again, today I served.
Somehow, this is different. All week long I’ve been wrestling with why this is different. I have prayed and served communion before in a variety of settings, but somehow I knew today would be different.
Yesterday, as my thoughts swam around what today would hold, I posed the question to my facebook friends: why is this such a big deal? I have a tendency to dismiss my accomplishments and achievements, wiping them away with the broad brush of “it’s not that big of a deal”, but I didn’t want to do that today.
Growing up in a denomination that did and largely does not support women in any sort of leadership role (which includes all aspects of public worship) has shaped how I view my own involvement in worship. Being a ‘helper’ with strong leadership traits, my desire to serve the church has not been fulfilled by the stereotypical woman’s role of behind the scenes cooking, cleaning, and organizing (and I love organizing).
My past church experience thus far has bridled me with the baggage of shame of wanting to serve in other ways: “Shouldn’t you be satisfied by the ways in which women typically serve? Why do you need this, you shouldn’t want to serve in this way.” my deeply conservative and uncompassionate inner voice nags.
I have known that today is coming for a while, the Sunday in which I would, for the first time, in my nearly 30 years of passionate church attendance, serve the church in a way that had been so off-limits that I was shamed for even desiring it in the past.
And today I prayed.
I prayed for the people, for the Church, for our nation, and for the world; I prayed for the sick and the dying, and the life of the Church. I lead a group of faithful Christians, in a church I love, early on a Sunday morning in prayer to God.
Mostly, I got emotional while helping serving the Eucharist. “The blood of Jesus Christ; the cup of salvation” flowed out of my mouth person after person. I served young children who giggled with Eucharistic anticipation as I approached and I served reverent elderly people who could not kneel. This is something, I thought, that everyone should have the experience of doing; those who desire to serve should be allowed to serve.
And today I served.
I was expecting to feel empowered. One of my thoughts as I approached today’s event, was that while I knew I was welcome to serve in this way there is a difference between being welcomed and being empowered. But really, that’s not it. It’s not about some big hurdle that I have finally been able to cross, and while these certainly are aspect that played into today’s experience, today wasn’t about my past and finally being allowed in a space where I was not before, today wasn’t about my gender.
Today was about a servant finally being able to serve.
I was awash with feelings of gratitude for today; to have for so long been pushed on the outs of a large part of what a church does and finally to have that fulfilled is a fantastic, life-giving moment.
The day is done, and I have served. Amen.