Women’s History Month celebrates the significant, and often unsung, contributions women have made and continue to make to shape our communities, our country and our world. This month we also begin the season of Lent, a time to reflect, repent and return to God. We would do well this March, as we celebrate women’s history, to reflect on the ways we can continue to turn toward God’s vision of healing and wholeness for women and men.
We celebrate women’s contributions because they have too long been silenced from the pages of history and too often been underrepresented in places of power. Patriarchy is ubiquitous on the pages of Scripture, rampant in our country and, sadly, alive and well in the church. Its legacy continues to diminish the full humanity of all people, cultivate abusive relationships, and perpetuate injustice.
Lakeshore has long challenged the injustices of patriarchy, and has worked hard to fully embrace the gifts of both women and men, especially women who have been called to ministry. And yet, patriarchy’s power is so pervasive that we still have work to do to identify and dismantle the many ways it persists in personal, interpersonal, cultural and structural ways.
I am deeply grateful for all the amazing ways Lakeshore has affirmed me in ministry, but let me also share some of the ways I continue to encounter patriarchy’s grasp as a female pastor: whenever I, or others, seek to silence my voice or my authority; whenever I, or others, belittle what I have to offer, especially when it is different from what male pastors have to offer; when people comment on how, on a Sunday when Jim is gone, it feels different not to have a male leading the service; when others seek to keep me or my ministry in a particular category; when people prefer to talk to Jim about things that I have leadership over, or take up a concern about me with Jim instead of talking to me directly.
The challenge of confronting patriarchy rests in acknowledging its pervasiveness, affirming our desire for something different, and creatively imagining alternative ways of relating to one another. Confronting patriarchy invites us to think in new categories, create new language, embrace new relationships and live into a new vision of equality. It’s something we need to work at, play at, commit ourselves to and continue to lean more fully into.
This March, I invite you to join me in the ongoing work of confronting patriarchy in our lives. To the extent we are able, let us see, name and challenge patriar-chy in its many manifestations. Even more, let us dream of a world of gender equality, cultivate creative ways to transform gender injustice, and celebrate those who have exampled God’s vision of healing and wholeness for us all.