Who we are

Right, here is a little verbatim to get you thinking.

The scene is a concert given by a famous jazz musician a few weeks ago in an American cathedral. I’ve been nudged to the front to sit with the bigwigs. As we sit waiting for the music, I hear this conversation going on somewhere behind me.

Person 1: Wow, isn’t this space amazing. I never knew it was so beautiful.

Person 2: I know, I’ve never been in here before either.

Person 1: What is it anyway? What kind of church?

Person 2: It is the Episcopals

Person 1: Well, it is really special, the building and all. Which ones are the Episcopals again? Are they the ones that have divorce?

Person 2: Yes, they do. And women priests. They’ve got one here!

Person 1: Really? Wow! All this, and divorce and women priests. Maybe I should give them a try…

Now, how does that exchange make you feel? Does it lift the soul or not?  Can you flesh out your feelings with some further thoughts?


  1. Susan Sheppard Hedges says

    I have a question… What were the genders of these two persons?

  2. Suz Cate says

    I arrived here in June, after graduating from the fine institution where you are visiting now and my subsequent ordination as transitional deacon. When I am ordained to the priesthood in December, I will be the first woman to serve as priest at St. James. I have sensed a growing excitement, especially among the women here, about the ministry of a woman priest–not unlike the the frisson expressed in the visitor’s statement: “Really? Wow! All this, and divorce and women priests.” We are figuring out together what difference it makes who we are, and on most days it is exciting!

  3. Calum says

    I think the exchange is completely adorable. But also bang-on accurate. The Piskies are indeed “the ones with woman priests” – it’s not a bad moniker to be known by, is it? Although progress is still to be made in certain parts, I think it’s positive that that might be how some people identify and distinguish Episcopalians.

  4. Tracey says

    The first time I attended an Episcopal church (in California), and they invited me to a picnic afterward on the church grounds. I agreed to stay on, but was kind of dreading it… and then I saw the ice chests full of cans of lager. So yeah, I have to admit that it was at first beer and later, divorce (both of which had caused me to become ostracised from my family) and women priests (i’d been brought up in a fundamentalist church where women were to keep silent in church) that made me become really interested in finding my way into this wonderful, welcoming, non-judgemental, and inclusive group where hell-fire and brimstone and damnation and punishment were never a part of the lovely, uplifting and inspiring sermons.

  5. Well in one way, the lack of awareness is pretty depressing, but the willingness to give the Cathedral a try would be encouraging, where it not for the perception that divorce made a denomination more acceptable. Frankly I don’t care what brings someone into a Church, any Church; just so long as we make them want to stay and discover the love of Christ once they get there.

  6. Rosemary Hannah says

    I come to this from another angle – a liberal church background. It does not come to me as a surprise to hear women preach, teach and lead. I rejoice in it but the equality of women is no news to me

    Divorce – well, to me it is never more than an admission of failure. Not something to be celebrated and welcomed, but a sad admission that things which started so very happily and hopefully and with such love, have ended in heartbreak. That my sometime husband left me for another woman in the church came pretty close to breaking my heart, and was one of those knife-edge things. A thing where either there will be just damage and misery and loss, or one day a resurrection, and you do not know which. That for me the balance finally tipped to life does not mean that divorce is something I want to rejoice in as I do in the ministry of women.
    That God can turn evil to good is a blessing. It does not do however to continue in evil that He gets a better opportunity at such transformations. I would a jolly sight rather we were known for work for social justice, for respect for the environment, and for really positive things.

    Beauty however – whether sound or image or architecture or the spoken word – yes I love us to be known for that and I rejoice in it.

    • I suspect that what we may really talking about here is not actually divorce, but the question of whether divorce and remarriage bars one from communion.

  7. Rosemary Hannah says

    Recently our Government had the stunning idea that ‘victims’ ought to be choosing the sentences of those who had offended against them. This is my idea of a utter nightmare – to have not merely the need to undertake one’s own recovery, for which one is of course responsible, but to then have to undertake some responsibility for the rehabilitation of those who have offended one strikes me as a bridge too far. I could never ask that somebody is turned away from communion because of an offence against me, and therefore I cannot ask that they are turned away because of a sin against others. I don’t really believe in that kind of God.

    Yet there is a problem. Of all the bad moments I had over the divorce, one of the very worst was the moment I walked alone into church and saw in a prominent pew my husband, who had left but from whom I was not yet legally separated, sitting shoulder to shoulder with his new partner. I ended in the nearest pew on my knees, helplessly sobbing, unable to hide my distress. That should not happen to anybody and it should not be up to the ‘victims’ (however much we espouse a doctrine of equal blame for marriage failure) to protect themselves from such a thing.

    I took communion every week with the lady with whom my husband now lived, and every week I had to forgive her anew in order to offer the Peace and forgive her. It was, to put it mildly, a big ask. That, to me, is the essential reality of divorce, and I really, really, really do have the right to say that we may have divorce and we may have to live with it, but the reality of it is pain and hard hard work. I find no ‘Wow!’ anywhere in it. It was hard and bitter punishment for all the stupid things I had managed to do in 30 years of marriage.

    There is always a cost to be borne for such things. We believe in forgiveness and fresh starts, and I must suppose the ‘Wow!’ is for that – but such things are costly. I believe they are always costly for God, and most usually they are costly for humans too. I don’t want humans judged, but – but where the joy of person A is bought at the price of the pain of person B we need to tread exceedingly circumspectly.

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