Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone." (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

“The mission of the Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande is to connect and support all women in their diverse ministries. We do this by offering opportunities to gather for studying, re-creating, and celebrating who we are as women of Faith, Hope and Love.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Women in Liturgy

What do you think of when you see the title of this blog-‘women in liturgy’? Does your mind immediately jump to deacons and priests? Indeed those are women involved in the liturgy of the church. However there is much more to ‘liturgy’ than just the ordained leaders. 
Look at the derivation of the word ‘liturgy.’ It is from the Greek words leit (people) and ergon (work). I’ve heard it said that in reality ‘liturgy’ is the ‘work of the people’. That means that all of us at a church service are involved in liturgy. Every time you walk in the church door for a service, you are involved in the total liturgy. You can pray by yourself, but coming together as part of the Body of Christ for a service of Eucharist involves more than one person. (In fact, a priest cannot celebrate Communion alone. There has to be someone else present so that “2 or 3 are gathered together.”)
Many women around the DRG are actively involved in various sacramental aspects of the service itself and those ministries are what we will be considering. Of course, all the ministries already discussed in this blog are important parts of the total liturgy. Members of the Altar Guild are a necessary part of any service and the support of our monetary donations to CPC and UTO help spread the Gospel as does the work of the ECW.
What are some of the sacramental liturgical ministries Women around the Diocese of the Rio Grande are involved in? Lay Eucharistic Visitors, Vergers, Acolytes, Lectors, Choir, and Chalice Bearer, as well as Deacon and Priest. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at some of these ministries.
It hasn’t been that many years since women were first allowed to serve in liturgical capacities of any sort except Altar Guild. Only 40 years ago, a group of women met with Bishop Trelease to discuss the topic of “Women and the Diocese,” in light of the changing rolls of women in society and the church. They wanted to have a more active roll in the life of the church. The Bishop was open to the idea of women in ministry.
“Trelease endorsed the ordination of women, which was approved by action of the General Convention in 1976. However, he promised he would not “force a woman priest on any congregation.” The Rev. Virginia Brown was the first woman priest ordained in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, one of 90 women nationwide. The service took place at St. Chad’s on January 28, 1977. “It is generally believed that Mrs. Virginia Dabney Brown was the first woman to be ordained without protest. Early in the ceremony, Bishop Trelease called out loudly and clearly for anyone to speak who did not agree with the ordination. He turned full circle. There was no response.”
There was opposition in the Diocese, though, but Bishop Trelease was not deterred. In the fall of 1977 “St. John’s Cathedral was the setting for perhaps one of the largest ordinations in the Diocese of the Rio Grande.” Of the 9 people ordained as priests and deacons, six were women.”*
The ordination of women opened the door for women to be active in other aspects of the liturgical lives of their parishes, but it was a slow process.At the Cathedral, it was not until 1984 that Brenda Bess was licensed by the Bishop as the first woman chalice bearer. Betsy Lackmann was the second woman licensed to serve as chalice bearer, a full 2 years later.
The same story played out in parishes across the diocese as women slowly began to take on active rolls in the sacramental liturgy of the church. For generations and centuries, women served behind the scenes in supportive rolls. They served tea and raised money with rummage sales but couldn’t be part of the sacramental part of the service. Their funds helped support the work of the church and sometimes even paid the clergy salary, but they couldn’t participate actively in the sacramental life of the liturgy. It is true that lay men didn’t have too much role in the sacramental life of the church until the 1979 BCP, either, but they could become priests and deacons. In most parishes lay liturgical roles opened up for men sooner than for women.  
The one place where women had already eased into ministry was in the reading of Morning and Evening Prayer. There is a note in the minutes of the St. John’s Guild of the Women’s Auxiliary says, “our work includes everything from janitorial duties to teaching Sunday School and even reading Morning Prayer.” Today’s Lectors who read the lessons on Sunday and at other services and those who lead Morning or Evening Prayer or Compline or other services are inheritors of those women 100 years ago.
The women of St. John’s and other churches were simply following in the footsteps of prayerful women who from the earliest times of the church held church leadership. Several are mentioned in Paul’s letters and in Acts. There is Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), Nympha (Colossians 4:15), Pricilla (Romans 16:3-5), and Mary the mother of John Mark at whose house the early church met to pray for Peter’s release (Acts 12:12). These women were clearly leaders of the early church because they are mentioned specifically by Paul and the other New Testament writers.
If you have ever hesitated to try one of the sacramental liturgical ministries like Lector or Chalice Bearer because you are a woman-wait no longer! God calls women and men into service at the altar. 
Next time we’ll look at some of the other sacramental liturgical ministries of women of the Diocese.

*Excerpted From a Grain of Mustard Seed by Cynthia Davis, referencing the Rio Grande Episcopalian ca 1977

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Retreats Nourish the Soul

Last week we looked at some study opportunities for Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Study is one way to enrich our lives as women. Learning about the work and word of God gives us new insight into our own lives.

Another important way to nourish our spirit is taking the opportunity to go on a retreat. There are many retreat centers around New Mexico that are wonderful places to go on a personal retreat. Getting away from the day-to-day busy-ness is more important than we may realize until we take time for a retreat.
Some retreat centers are: the Canossian Center & Norbertine Center in Albuquerque, Christ in the Desert Monastery near Chama and the Pecos Monastery east of Santa Fe. In the southern part of the Diocese you can visit the Holy Cross Center in Mesilla Park. Of course, you can take a personal retreat by finding a favorite place in nature and being still with God there. There are also other retreat centers around the state and in TX. Comment with your own favorite retreat locale.
Quiet and private retreats are certainly important. Equally important is taking the time to go on a retreat with other women (and men). There are retreats around the Diocese at various times that appeal to a variety of interests. Earlier in June there was a retreat in Santa Fe, sponsored by the Frederick B. Howden Chapter of the Daughters of the King.
Coming up in July is a week-long Icon Painting retreat in Santa Fe. You can get information about that here.
Mark your calendar for the “Crazy Quilt Conversation” retreat at the Bosque Center on Nov. 9-10. This will be an opportunity for women around the Diocese to share our stories and gifts with each other. Watch your mail and Together for more information.

Next spring, watch for a Lenten Retreat and a ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ retreat in the summer of 2013 in Taos!
Some groups have special retreats, like the upcoming Back to the Mountain retreat for people who have attended Cursillo. Next year we hope to have a Cursillo weekend. The Daughters of the King will be holding their annual Assembly and Retreat in early August, too.
One goal of this blog is to help all Women of the DRG keep track of retreat opportunities, so send me information about retreats your churches or groups are sponsoring! Check the “What’s Happening” link regularly for new opportunities for retreats and studies.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

DRG Women are Enriched by Study

For any Christian woman, study is an important part of life. This can take a variety of formats. Within churches there are Bible study groups led by lay and clergy. Retreats around the DRG offer the chance to get away for a day or longer and be inspired by a speaker.
There are also more focused studies that can be followed. Kerygma, Alpha, and EfM are just some of the better known options. Maybe your church has one or more of these available.
Education for Ministry (EfM) is perhaps the most intense of the studies because it involves a 4-year series of lessons. Starting in Year One with 36-weeks of reading and studying your way through the Old Testament, students move on to the second year when the New Testament is the focus. Year 3 is Church History and in Year 4 you learn about the development of the wide variety of theologies in the Church. The course is produced by the University of the South at Sewanee. At the end, you do receive a certificate of completion. Fortunately, you only sign up for one year at a time and many students take a year or more off before completing the work.
However, EfM is NOT preparation for ordination. It is a program to equip the laity to live into our call or vocation as expressed at the end of each Eucharist: “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord."
EfM is not lead by a teacher. Rather it is a mentored seminar where “Through study, prayer, and reflectionEfM groups move toward a new understanding of the fullness of God's kingdom” by finding where life and study and tradition meet.
A process called “theological reflection” is actually the main focus of the seminars. The group and individuals learn how to examine “their own beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith” in order to be more effective ministers by “coming to terms with the notion that everything we do has potential for manifesting the love of Christ, we discover that our ministry is at hand wherever we turn.”
Kerygma is another study program that has ties to the DRG. In the late 1970’s, Canon Ken Clark of the Cathedral authored some of the early Kerygma studies along with developing his own “St. John’s Sunday School Curriculum”. The word ‘kerygma’ means “the proclamation of religious truths, especially as taught in the Gospels.” The program now offers New and Old Testament studies.
The Kerygma Program started in 1977 and now offers 33 different courses of study in many lengths and topics. “Kerygma courses will transform and revitalize adult Bible study in your congregation. Participants and leaders learn the basics and complexities of the Bible and develop skills for interpreting Scripture while applying learning from the Bible to personal and corporate life in today’s world.”
Alpha Courses are also used in some churches around the DRG. It is a 10-week course around a meal with discussions about God and life. Alpha is for “anyone and people attend from all backgrounds, religions, and viewpoints. They come to investigate questions about the existence of God, the purpose of life, the afterlife, the claims of Jesus and more. Some people want to get beyond religion and find a relationship with God that really changes life. Others come for the close, long-lasting friendships that are built during the Alpha course.” 
O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities and Bible studies, that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
There are many other study options available and if you’d like to share one you are involved in, please do so!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Daughters of the King

Since Easter, we’ve been looking at ministries that Women of the DRG are involved in. As the blog notes, we have Varieties of Gifts within the part of the Body of Christ that is the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Like a prayer shawl or crazy quilt, we come together in prayer, service, and study.
Some of us support CPC and some UTO. That’s like, as Connie Osbourn said, “building the shelves and putting books on them.” There are many who serve at the altar as members of their parish Altar Guild and others who have women’s meetings based on the ECW or Women’s Auxiliary model. Many are involved in study groups and liturgical work, which we will explore in future weeks. Still others of us are members of the Daughters of the King (DOK).
In one sense the Daughters are entirely different from other women’s groups, because the DOK is an ‘order’, not just a group that gets together for a purpose or meeting. Many people are confused about what exactly and ‘order’ is. The first thing that comes to mind is, of course, nuns and monks. Even looking up the definition of a ‘religious order’ doesn’t help much.
Wikipedia says, “A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice.” Clear as mud, right?
The Daughters of the King are women who vow to live by a Rule of Life of Prayer and Service. Interested women undertake a period of discernment and study about the Daughters to determine if they are called to join. “By reaffirmation of the promises made at Baptism and Confirmation, a Daughter pledges herself to a life-long program of prayer, service and evangelism, dedicated to the spread of Christ’s Kingdom and the strengthening of the spiritual life of her parish.”
The Order of the Daughters of the King® was founded in 1885 by Margaret J. Franklin at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in New York City. It was an outgrowth of the Bible study she was leading when some of the women expressed an interest in a deeper relationship with Jesus. “It was purposely organized as a semi-religious Order. The Order started at once upon the highest plane. Magnanimiter Crucem Sustine, “Bear forward, almost aggressively, with lofty minds uphold the cross” became the watchword, and For His Sake its motto.”
From the beginning, DOK has been “allied to the Brotherhood of St. Andrew” in order to move with “apostolic simplicity to spread the Kingdom of Christ among young women.” The women in that first Daughters chapter “resolved that there would be prayer to God every day of their lives and that He would empower them for His work. Prayer was old to them, but the power of prayer and its reality came to these women afresh.” This has continued to be the aim of DOK around the world.
In the DRG, probably the earliest Chapter was at St. John’s, Albuquerque in 1889. The parish itself was only 7 years old. Minutes from the old records indicate that DOK women at St. John’s were the altar guild and comprised the first Women’s Auxiliary.
Throughout the ebb and flow of growth and change in the Diocese, women in the DOK have played an important role of leadership in their congregations. Nearly all women who belong to the Order of the Daughters of the King® are also active in other ministries like Altar Guild, Thrift Shops, and the liturgical life of the church. Daughters lead retreats and organize Bible study groups. They find ways to help the needy and support their priest’s work. In this way they are like all other active women in the DRG who want to use their gifts to further the Kingdom of God.
Like other organizations, Daughters support work in the broader church and world through funds. There are four funds of the DOK: the Alpha Fund for Jr. Daughters and the Self Denial fund for “modest grants to support specific mission projects, often projects that involve Daughters, both in the US and in other countries.” There is also the Endowment Fund (to further the work of the Order itself) and Master’s Fund, used to “help women prepare for service in church related work with Provincial Grants, Continuing Education Grants, and Master’s Fund Scholarships.”
There are now 18 Chapters in the Diocese and one Jr. Chapter (for girls 7-21). If there is one at your church, talk to the President of the Chapter about what the Daughters are and do in your parish. If there isn’t one, contact me or Sandy Martin, (DOK Diocesan President) for information on starting one. Your life and the life of your parish will be enriched by a cadre of praying and prayerful women.
 Prayer of the Order of the Daughters of the King
O Eternal Father, you have sent us your Son to teach us things pertaining to your heavenly Kingdom. Give your blessing to our Order wherever it may be throughout the world. Grant that we, your Daughters, ever may discern your truth and bear the cross through the battles of our earthly life. Give us strength to overcome temptation and the grace to work to spread your Kingdom and to gather your scattered sheep within your fold. Pour out upon us the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit that we may always remember it is your work we are called to do, that all we think, do or say may be pleasing in your sight. We ask it all For His Sake, our King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen