She was awesome. I was fascinated with her, and thought of her as a friend. When she needed people to help in children's church, I agreed to alternating Sundays. The last summer I spent at that church, I taught VBS (some of my best memories). I spent afternoons in her office helping her with paperwork, and making copies, and organizing things. Basically doing things a secretary or assistant would have done, but she was the only staff member in our large church who didn't have one.
On one of those afternoons, she told me something about working there. During their weekly staff meetings, each staff member would take turns leading prayer - except for her. She wasn't allowed to pray in those staff meetings, because she was a woman.
She wasn't allowed to pray. After that conversation, I went home and closed my bedroom door. I sat on my purple checked bedspread, with the curtains drawn and the lights off, and cried.
When I think back on the path that led me away from the Southern Baptist Convention*, there was a disastrous youth minister situation, a study on the biblical definition of deacons and their place in the church, a new understanding of church politics and hierarchy, as well as significant other things happening in my personal and church life.
I ultimately left the SBC for all the reasons listed above. But this knowledge of those church staff meetings was sitting right beneath the surface. It was something I didn't know how to address during that summer filled with so much pain and confusion. It was a heartbreak that took a long time to heal - the realization that I would always be defined by "woman." And it was clear to me that "woman" equaled "less" in their minds.
She wasn't allowed to pray. This was the full explanation of my worth in that church. I understood something I had felt, but tried to ignore - that they would see little to no real worth in a calling I felt on my life. I realized that there would never be a real or significant place for me in their convention.
This is the reality of my spiritual upbringing - I was schooled in a fundamentalist, cult-leaning school and churched in the Southern Baptist Convention. Taught over and over in small and big ways that my offering to the Lord and place in His kingdom was less than that of the males around me. Twenty-plus years later, I have overcome much of this, but there are times I still struggle with where exactly I fit in the church.
This was inspired by a link a friend left on facebook today, What Makes a Pastor? Or Linda Horne and the Great Mystery from Mama: Monk (I read Micha's blog regularly and really enjoy it). I cried my way through her post, and all the thoughts and feelings about my own "Children's Director" friend came pouring back over me. Micha's post is beautiful, and I want everyone to read it.
Somewhat related: I followed a link on twitter to The Voice and the Echo from How To Talk Evangelical. It is also a beautiful post (and yes, it made me cry). The author linked it up to the Week of Mutuality at Rachel Held Evans' blog, and the rest of my afternoon was spent reading posts from #mutuality2012, and the interesting conversations happening in comment sections.
*I am aware that this story is not necessarily representative of every SBC church. Although I have mixed feelings about the SBC, I do not intend to disparage their entire ministry. I learned valuable things in that church and grew up spiritually in many ways there.