Sunday, May 15, 2016

Faith of Our Mothers Revisited

Conversations with my cousin.

Last week I posted a memory about Mother's Day in the church I grew up attending.  My cousin, June Davis Fish, regularly messages me about my posts.  Last week she did not, so I got worried. I messaged her to make sure she is okay and our conversation went something like this.  

June:  "Yes, I  am OK. Thanks for checking. I did see the blog about your mother.  I remember now why I didn't comment.  Lately,  I have been having an inner struggle with any post or comment about the Father God even though they are talking about 'his' love and grace as opposed to the 'fundamental God' of law and punishment."

Me:    "I better go back and read my blog.  I rarely refer to God as Father unless it is in the context of somebody else's speech."

June:  "I don't think you did say Father God.  Some have said Papa and Daddy as if that makes 'him' less patriarchal and more loving. I just want to scream at them, Papa, Daddy, Father, ... where the hell is Mother God?  Anyway, that is the foundation for why I didn't comment on your Mother's Day Blog.  I guess I was pissed that only on one day of the year the women/Mothers get any recognition and are allowed to preform certain duties and even then they had to clean up.  Understand me, it was not your blog but how 'gracious' for the men of the church to condescend to 'honor' the women on their one day of the year, Mother's Day.  Without women how would men become fathers?  Without a Sacred Feminine Mother could Father God be a father? I didn't want to comment because it would only have sounded like I was ranting against you and your blog, which certainly wasn't what I felt."

Me:  "I think you got the point.  One day of the year the women serve communion.  An honor the men of the church usually reserved for themselves and the women still prepared and cleaned up.  As a child I was indignant.  P!@#$% off did't happen until I was older and saw how systemic this marginalization is.  Before my book was published a man was asked to write an endorsement.  He said he could not because he detected, 'An echo of frustration.' I thought, 'Wow, I am a pretty good writer if all he detected was and echo of frustration because I am, 'F@#$%^& P!@#$% Off.'" 

June:  "I am getting new perspectives on a lot of old fundamental teachings. It has been difficult to throw off old religious programming, but once I get going on it, it has been freeing and peaceful."

Me:    "One of the things I am hoping the book will accomplish is to get people to question all of these old fundamental teachings.  That is why the subtitle is, Questioning Teachings About Biblical Women.   

Gratitude to my cousin!

When I first started writing last weeks blog I purposefully took my anger out of my writing.  I edited myself as so many women do.  I wanted the post to be more about my wonderful mother than about my anger.  Thanks to June, what I feel about that experience came to the surface. My nephew once asked me, "If women cook every day, why are the best chefs men?" This was when Julia Child was the only woman chef on television.  My answer, "What men do is considered more valuable than what women do. 
On those Mother's Days, it was an honor for the deaconesses to do the deacons job of serving communion.  The deacons would not condescend to doing the job of the deaconesses.  

Women's Work

I think about the value ascribed to "women's work" by patriarchy and I am disheartened. The healing of Peter's mother-in-law is recorded in the canonical Gospels.  She is said to get up and serve after being healed.  The word, diakonei translated as serve, in reference to Peter's nameless mother-in-law is translated as minister in reference to the angels serving Jesus in the wilderness.  Same word, different value and the subject of another blog. 

I ask the same question as June. "Where is Mother God?" Imagine a faith in which female is valued in the same way as male.  

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mother's Day

"Faith of our Fathers! Holy faith! We will be true to thee till death." That was the song we sang in church.  Except on Mother's Day. Then fathers was changed to mothers and the church secretary put an insert in the church bulletin in case we forgot to substitute mothers for fathers. 

On all the other Sundays the deaconesses prepared the communion trays and set them out. When the service was over the deaconesses sent the children scurrying around the church collecting the tiny communion cups. The women washed the cups and polished the trays for next week.  

On all the other Sundays the deacons served the communion. They walked up the aisle during the communion hymn, stood with heads bowed at the front of the church, prayed aloud at the end of the hymn, distributed communion and replaced the trays on the table for the deaconesses to clean after the service.

But on Mother's Day the deaconesses got to do it all. Prepare the communion, say the prayers, serve the communion and clean up after communion. As one of those children who scurried around picking up the communion cups, I was surprised to discover that the deacons were not in the little kitchen cleaning up.

I was confused. Why weren't the deacons helping? The deaconesses always helped them. So, I asked my mom. "Oh" she said, "We're just better at it." 

Faith of our Mothers

My wonderful mother had faith and she passed it on to me and my sisters.  We were in church every Sunday. No sleepovers on Saturday because we couldn't miss church. I didn't want to miss church. I am a confirmed religion nerd. I have often heard it said, "You can't teach faith." I think that is probably true but you can look at the life of someone who has faith and learn from that faith. 

I cry at the sappy commercials on television as we get closer to Mother's Day. They remind me of how much I love her and how much she loved me, us. I cry because I treasure the faith I learned from her. I cry because, unlike my feminist self, who wants to be upset by the unfairness of the deaconesses cleaning up on the one day of the year they serve communion, my mom knew she and the other women did it because they were better at it.

Faith of my Mother! Holy faith! I will be true to thee till death.

Happy Mother's Day