Why does this matter? For a while leading up to this day, I wasn't that interested. I have been so angry at the Church of England for some years now -- for its tardiness on the matter of allowing women to serve as bishops, for its contrariness on marriage equality, and for its inability to rise up in an effective way to address the increasingly secular nature of Britain -- that I have mostly stopped thinking about the Church of England. Not only does it seem irrelevant to many Britons, it has seemed irrelevant to me.
But yesterday I got a text that cracked my heart wide open, and reminded me why Bishop Libby Lane matters. It was a video of one of our littlest parishioners baptizing her baby doll "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." She was playing at being "Pastor Kit." Of course she was. I am an adult figure in her life with a job that seems interesting and important. Children play at grown-up work all the time. They play at being teachers, police officers, superheroes, basketball stars, doctors, scientists, astronauts, explorers. And probably ... I don't know ... maybe for centuries little boys have played at being priests, baptizing dolls and consecrating cookies and grape juice.
But as a little girl in the 1960s, it would never have occurred to me, not for one single second, to play at baptizing. And it's not that I didn't push the play envelope and argue with my male playmates that girls could do things boys could do. But I often turned to an example to prove my point. Girls can be super heroes -- look at Wonder Woman. Girls can be knights in shining armor -- look at Joan of Arc. Girls can ride Harley Davidson motorcycles -- I saw a woman win a Harley on "Let's Make a Deal." So there. But if a little boy had said, "Let's play church and I'm the priest and you're the congregation," I would have totally agreed. I had no example to lift up in opposition. I had no vision that a woman could stand at the baptismal font or at the altar, robed in the authority of a priest, and serve God sacramentally.
I have been ordained for more than 14 years now. I don't think too often about what it means to be a woman in this role any more. Women have been ordained in the Episcopal Church for 40 years. Women have been bishops in the Episcopal Church for 25 years. I have never been the first woman wherever I have served, as a seminarian, or an associate, or even as a rector. I have been washed along in the draft behind the first wave of ordained women, privileged to be just one of the crowd.
But this video, the power of that little girl saying those ancient and holy words over her baby doll, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," realizing that she could claim a vision of herself as a priest, as easily as a vision of a teacher or an astronaut or a mommy or a doctor, made me burst into tears. I am the example that proves to her that this pathway is a possibility for little girls who are thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.
And then I remembered this woman ...
I had Barbara Harris on my fridge. Because it mattered to me that she was out there, a bishop in MY church.
My sisters in ministry, it matters. It matters that we are here. It still matters so much. So little time has passed in the great scope of Christianity since women have been ordained -- it's just a blink of time in the life of the church. It's still new. WE are still new. And those little girls with their baby dolls in the bathtub and their cookies and juice laid out on the altar of that Little Tykes toddler table ... they need us. They need to see us, hear us, and watch us. They need our hugs and our blessings and our "You go, girl!" Even on days when we might question our vocations, even our faith, when it seems like we aren't doing a very good job, when the cranky emails outweigh the positive ones, when we wonder why the heck we are here -- it matters.
It matters that we stand there -- at the table. It matters that we stand there -- at the font. It matters that we stand there -- in the pulpit. It matters that we stand there -- at the door of the church in our collars and robes, greeting those little girls each Sunday morning.
What a gift it is, to matter in the life of a child.