In most churches I attended during my formative years, there were pretty specific gender roles. Please understand this is a huge generalization. That is not to say we did not have men that taught or cooked. One church I was a part of and loved dearly in college even had women deacons, but this was a first for me. Typically, women were never considered pastors and/or deacons in the churches I knew growing up. I’m not saying this is good or bad. I’m not making a political statement or trying to write a dissertation on gender bias in the church. Oh God, I do not want to ever go there. I’m also not limiting this to one denomination or type of church. I’m just saying this was my experience growing up and something with which I have struggled understanding my entire life.
I thought someone once told me this was because Jesus and his apostles were men and therefore the pastor and his deacons should be men. However, I’m not sure if anyone ever really told me this or if it’s just the only reasoning I could grasp and understand as a child. I do remember often wondering how it was that the minute I was born and the doctor cried, “It’s a girl,” I would be immediately written off from certain roles in the church.
Regardless, when I was a kid and a teen, I would watch the pastor step into the baptismal pool and take the hand of the person to be baptized. I would see the deacon on the stairs going into the water leading each person up and down, up and down. I would think about how one day my husband would do that, but I could not. I would wonder why my daddy could do that, but my mommy couldn’t. No one ever told me my mommy couldn’t; I just figured it out on my own because no women were ever even nominated to be deacons. It was kind of like an unwritten role…. church leadership de facto.
Mind you, I never told anyone these were the thoughts bouncing in my head. Because, really, that’s not the kind of thoughts one should have when another person is accepting the love and presence of the Holy Spirit into their being. Plus, when you see things over and over, you just accept them as the way things are…..even if they don’t make sense to you. You may have those questions in the back of your mind, but you know asking them out loud is not really the wisest thing to do.
Anyhow…..I tell you this to lead up to today’s first. By understanding this background, it may help you to understand why today’s first is hugely significant to me. Today was a single event which contained within it a few firsts. But the most meaningful was assisting with baptisms and reaffirmations of faith.
Our church had a baptism party at a member’s farm. The farm had a huge pond we used for baptisms and reaffirmations of faith. Those wishing to be baptized were; those who have previously been baptized but wishing to reaffirm their faith were able to do so. Some chose to participate through having water sprinkled on their heads while others chose to be totally immersed.
The pastor needed a number of people to help. Sometimes people needed help getting in and out of the pond. Sometimes they needed assistance standing back up if they were immersed. Our pastor gave everyone that wanted to do so an opportunity to assist. If loved ones were being baptized or immersed, we were welcomed to join them in the water.
I volunteered to help. I didn’t do anything really other than giving people assistance balancing. But I was in the water with them during this totally cool event. Even better: I got to have my hands supporting my son as he reaffirmed his faith.
It was pretty awesome to be a part of the experience of those proclaiming their love for Christ, but it was ….. almost mystical …. almost like an out-of-body experience to be able to have my hands on my son as he did this. I am so glad that all those ideas I had as a child about gender roles and what I could or could not do in the church have proven to be false. I’m particularly glad that as a woman, as a mom….and in all the many ways I am so insignificant, unworthy, hurtful, selfish, angry, bitter, and a myriad of ugly ways, I am still able to be used by God.