In a unique collaboration between Fey Publishing and Solarwyrm Press, and thanks to an idea put together by M. Kate Allen, a new anthology of short stories will be produced at the end of May 2014 in honor of the over two-hundred Nigerian girls who were kidnapped at gunpoint by the religious terrorists of Boko Haram on April 14, 2014. All proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to http://www.notforsalecampaign.org, an organization that seeks to uncover and put a stop to human trafficking and slavery of all kinds.
The stories in this anthology will address enslaving and enslavement. To the extent that you, the writer, are free from the dangers and enslavement that these Nigerian girls and millions of others presently suffer, you are asked to take great care in considering your own privilege as you weave your tale. The stories in this anthology will seek to name the dynamics of privilege and unjust, unearned power and also seek to highlight ways in which those who are powerless may be thwarted or lifted up by any number of outer or inner forces. Writers are particularly encouraged to explore silence, indifference, and ignorance as forms of oppression.
This is a chance for people whose voices are free to join together to speak powerfully for the sake of those whose voices have been stolen away. The money raised from the sales of this anthology will do financially what the stories of this anthology aim to do narratively: contribute to a culture of liberation that reveals, names, and destroys all forms of oppression.
All short stories should be between 1,500 and 5,000 words long. All submissions are due to Jax Goss (solarwyrm at gmail dot com), editor at Solarwyrm Press and the editor of this anthology, by May 15, 2014 at 11:59PM Pacific time. The anthology is due to be published on or around May 31, 2014 by Kristen Duvall of Fey Publishing. Any questions about the content of the short stories, the fundraiser for the Not For Sale Campaign, or any other aspect of the anthology may be directed to M. Kate Allen at lifeloveliturgy at gmail dot com or at http://www.lifeloveliturgy.com. Note: I invite you to share this call for submissions far and wide, whether by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or on your own blog. I also personally invite readers of Thealogical Lady to consider submitting a story for this anthology. Thank you.
Caryll Houselander wrote a little book over fifty years ago about the mother of Jesus called The Reed of God. Houselander's idea is that Mary became the reed through which God's Word was played into the world. When I first read this a few months ago, my old religious context had me shaking my head. I didn't like the idea that Mary was merely a reed for God to play as God chose. Mary is always merely this or that--merely a woman, merely a vessel, merely an obedient human--and it touched a little too close to my own experience as a woman in the Roman Catholic Church, which was an experience of being lesser, lower, and either diminutive or diminished. Today, however, is the Matronal Feastday of my community, the Community of St. Mary of the Annunciation, and I find myself regarding Houselander's metaphor with new appreciation. In my present context, where to be a woman is not "merely" anything, but rather a strength and a tremendous gift, I can see the reed metaphor with awe and wonder. If Mary was not merely obedient, but radically and willfully obedient, I can get on board. If she allowed God transform her into the most beautiful instrument of music the world has ever known, rather than simply accepting God was going to do what God wanted, then Mary may be the greatest heroine I've ever encountered. I behold myself in her, a woman lifted up and honored fully for who she is and what she brings to the table, and I, like Mary, am choosing to let go of less important schemes so God can act through me. I see myself becoming a reed of God because I trust the music God can breathe into and through me is awesome beyond what I might produce alone. I see in this book, and in today's feast, a celebration of a strong woman who allowed herself to be made even stronger, a capable woman who allowed herself to become even more capable, a powerful woman who allowed the greatest power in all the universe to take root in her, to become her very flesh. She could have said no. Her yes wasn't the obvious choice. Her yes, as I understand it, was a considered choice. She perceived that God was inviting her to allow God to be born into the world through her. What an invitation. Mary is often seen to be extraordinary because she's a nothing who's turned into a something when God deigns to dwell in her. I don't buy this. Mary is no mere Sleeping Beauty, waiting for something to be done to her to give her life meaning. Mary is Merida, brave and bold and primed for adventure--and she is called to this adventure because she cultivated an adventurous life long ago. God rarely calls people out of the blue. God calls people to do in extraordinary ways what they already do well. Mary was already making her own beautiful music for those around her when she was asked if she would be the instrument for God's music. She was no arbitrary choice. She, a Jewish woman who would never have been chosen for anything important in her patriarchal world, was the best possible choice to bring forth God's Word in a world filled with lesser words. God was calling her to subvert the status quo, and she was ready. All she had to do was say "Yes" for the fate of the whole world to change. May I give a well-considered, powerful yes when God invites me to allow divinity to make a dwelling-place deep within me, and may I bear God's marvelous, life-giving, death-destroying fruit wherever I go. For I am no mere woman. I am a woman: brave and strong and fit to do God's most important work. When God asks me to be the key player in God's next adventure, I'll have my Benedictine running shoes laced up and ready to go.
A dozen or more holy bodies gather in an oval, looking at and past the sacred, central flame to behold the divine spark in one another. Thursday night invites something a little different at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church. The community that gathers then has many names. St. Brigid's. ECMASU. Young People and Families. The Thursday Night Community. There are nearly as many children as adults in the community. The adults are powerful, each in their own way: well-educated, thoughtful, driven, accomplished. They are students, parents, doctors, teachers, professors, and even brain guys. For countless reasons, these people come together to share words, silence, and nourishment with one another. It may be those three things--words, silence, and nourishment--that best characterize this community's fellowship. ~~~ I was asked by the pastor--without advance warning--to be a minister of the holy bread during the eucharist last Thursday. Surprising things like that happen. A moment of need arrives, and suddenly someone finds herself being called on to serve. Not because she's uniquely qualified to do so, but because she has offered her presence in that community, and her presence is enough. Anyone who shows up can serve, if they are willing. Anyone who shows up can serve, if they are willing. Anyone who shows up can serve, if they are willing. The Thursday Night Community is a gathering of folks who, more importantly than anything else, choose to show up. If they're called, and if they're willing, they serve. Their presence is Christ's presence. Their willingness is Christ's willingness. Their service is Christ's service. The Thursday night gathering is a rehearsal of the reign of God. ~~~ Time slowed when I stood up to serve the community last Thursday. I strained my ears to hear the words that I would speak to the others: Body of Christ, Bread of Heaven. As I moved around the oval, I looked at each person's face, and a few raised their eyes to meet mine. What a shock of communion it is to meet eyes and hold another's gaze from mere inches away, while offering a precious morsel of food! It is as intimate as dancing. (My best friend, Betsy, would get that.) I don't know what it all meant to me, or what it may have meant to the others there, but I can say confidently that last Thursday was game-changing. Perhaps it was initiation--a sort of baptism by fire. I just know I won't ever be the same.
In my almost thirty-two years as a Roman Catholic, I have never been prouder of any pope. Granted, I've only encountered three in my lifetime, but I am also a student of Christian history. You stand out among your predecessors.
You have rocked the entire world with your embodied proclamations of the good news. You kiss the wounds of the sick. You share tables with those who have neither tables of their own nor food to put on them. You warn your clergy again and again against the glamour of clericalism. Your love is abundant, like Christ's was and is, and I have seen it have a multiplying effect, even (perhaps especially) among non-Roman Catholics.
I am tremendously grateful to God for your faithful, living witness to the teachings of Jesus. Your heart is wide open, and I feel quite certain that if I happened to walk into your midst, you would smile and greet me with the warmth of an old friend, and I would greet you likewise.
I need to confess something to you. On February 16, 2014, God willing, I will leave my cloak of Roman Catholic identity behind in order to be received as a member of the Episcopal Church.
Despite having spent my entire life as a devoted (albeit flawed) Roman Catholic, I cannot remain Roman Catholic any longer. Because despite the gospel of Jesus you now proclaim miraculously through your very body, and despite the many ways in which I encounter Christ's presence through your holy example, I'm afraid there is at least one way in which you, like most if not all of your predecessors, have failed to hear the voice of God and heed it: in the calling of thousands upon thousands of women around the world to ordained ministry.
I was able to name my own God-given call to ordained ministry thirteen years ago. I was still a teenager then. I am close with several Roman Catholic women who share the same call. Yet you, like your papal predecessors, have dismissed even the possibility that women might be called to ordained ministry.
I don't understand this hardness of heart. Not from you.
What I do understand is how hard it can be to hear God's earnest whispers when so much of one's culture screams against it. My favorite psalm is Psalm 51, because it is a perpetual invitation to be changed, transformed, turned around:
Create in me a clean heart, o God. ... Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
I suspect this psalm is as dear to you as it is to me. Please, then, let God's whispers reach your ear through my meager words: God calls some women to serve as ordained ministers. That the Roman Catholic hierarchy refuses to acknowledge this (or even to discuss it) is gravely sinful. It is presumptuous to deny God's calling to those whom God has chosen.
Please, for God's sake, don't allow whatever is lacking in me cause you to be deaf to what God is speaking to you through me in this moment. If anyone with the authority to effect gospel change in the Roman Catholic Church can hear this prophetic word, I believe you can.
Please, open your heart and listen for the sake of my daughters, who will grow up in the midst of your legacy even if they never set foot in a Roman Catholic church.
Please, listen. Listen because you know better than almost anyone that God speaks prophetically through those who are marginalized, women included.
Please, I beg you from the bottom of my heart, listen--allow yourself to be importuned by me, just like the judge was importuned by the widow, or like Jesus was importuned by the woman begging for scraps. You and I both know what happened in those latter two instances. If Jesus' mind could be changed, surely yours can.
I believe that the world-wide turning of hearts to God, if you listened in this one way and acted accordingly, would be a miracle of biblical proportion.
With blessings and love in the One who creates, redeems, and sanctifies all the world,
M. Kate Allen
This letter originally appeared at parentwin.com, where I am a regular contributor on topics of religion. The letter went viral among my Facebook friends and received more discussion and shares there than anything else I've every written, anywhere. A friend of mine encouraged me to mail it to Pope Francis. I did. If he responds, I will share his response here. (Unless he asks me not to.)
And with that, Advent is over. God is with us--Emmanuel--alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! I love Christmas. I love the radicality of the Christmas message that says God isn't so transcendent that God can't be flesh. I love the intimacy of this God who is both divine and human at once, and who teaches us--like the good rebbe he is--to be the same. I am so grateful this night for hope fulfilled in the midst of so much doubt and despair. Light does pierce shadows, dispelling them. Goodness is stronger than evil, breaking it down with the power of gentleness. A godly child does make a worldly ruler tremble, displacing cunning selfishness with its own absolute reliance on the sacred other for survival. The message of the incarnation is that we desperately, utterly need each other. Humanity and divinity meet in community and communion, not in isolation. God can't do this gig without us, and we can't sustain God's divine flame within ourselves without the companionship of others. That's my daughter to the left. She is about take flight, one of God's own angeloi, standing before the holy altar at the feet of the infant Christ. She's just carried in a sheep, practicing for her future role as shepherdess. Later, she danced during the offering of the holy gifts, and I had the presence of mind not to stop her. I look at her and see an icon of the Christ, bearing glad tidings and preaching good news through her very body. She did tonight what you and I do for each other every day. Merry Christmas to you, o holy bearers and birthers of God.