Saint Mary Magdalene
became “The Apostle to the Apostles”
when she was selected by God to witness and proclaim the
resurrection of Christ.
One thousand, nine-hundred and
forty-four years later ECUSA admitted women
to orders of ministry and governance of the church when,
at the 1976 General Convention in Philadelphia, a resolution
passed declaring that no one shall be denied access to ordination
as a deacon, priest or bishop on the basis of gender. Another
resolution declared that no one would be barred from participating
in the life and governance of the church, either because
of their gender, or because of their theological beliefs
concerning the ordination of women.
Today we joyfully celebrate the
30th anniversary of this remarkable inclusion
of women into leadership roles in our church and open our
exhibition with a photograph of a statue of a lily clutched
by Mary cascading down the side of her skirt. The image,
taken by a young woman who was not born in 1976, encapsulates
the strength and beauty of the very Mother of God.
Exploring the breadth of the power
of God in the feminine form
reveals images of
well known women of spiritual discernment: Mary Magdalene,
Hilda of Whitby, Sojourner Truth, The Mother Mary, Teresa
of Avila, The Woman at the Well, The Rev. Li Tim-Oi, Virginia
Wolf, and a calligraphic rendering of the names of the women
of the Bible. But women less well known are celebrated as
well: little girls running in their angel costumes holding
their stuffed animals, the hands of an artist’s mother
who is a priest, women in regions served by Episcopal
Relief and Developement.
The feminine spirit is also revealed
in a mandala reminding us that God shall supply
all our needs according to his riches in glory by Christ
Jesus; a shadow that mysteriously is shaped as a woman in
a full skirt; patterns that remind us of how the emergence
of women in the church evoked great emotion and how women’s
roles slowly evolved over time; images of the sustenance
of Mother Earth and the flowers she brings forth; vibrant
expressions of color and light; mothers and their children;
the feminine breath of God; a woman painting on a beach;
the offering of women to serve; an unidentified woman looking
for inner strength as we ponder her identity.
Known or unknown, the creative
force here celebrates the creative eternal feminine,
joyfully taking her place at the table, and in turn, offering
endless gifts to the body of Christ. This celebration reminds
us, as does the included calligraphy of the words of St.
Paul, that “All things are possible through Christ
who strengthens us.” Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia!