Fe­male cler­ics find favour with clergy

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

ON WED­NES­DAY, the rec­tordes­ig­nate of the Par­ish of St Paul’s in Ron­de­bosch, Rev­erend Reeva Mul­der, lis­tened at­ten­tively as the choir wel­comed her with its ren­di­tion of John Rut­ter’s The Lord bless you and keep you.

In his ser­mon, Father Keith de Vos had noted the sig­nif­i­cance of this par­tic­u­lar Ser­vice of In­sti­tu­tion in that Mul­der was the first black and the first fe­male rec­tor of St Paul’s.

It is a weighty man­tle, but in her five years of min­istry, Mul­der has dili­gently hon­oured the pas­toral rou­tine of car­ing for the sick, vis­it­ing the house­bound and the myr­iad of un­di­arised mat­ters that oc­cupy the daily life of a par­ish priest.

The ab­sence of the Bishop of Ta­ble Bay, Garth Coun­sell – re­cov­er­ing from eye surgery – re­sulted in the serendip­i­tous in­clu­sion of an­other fe­male cleric in the lead­ing of the liturgy.

I was struck by the won­der­ful ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of it all when the Rev­erend Ch­eryl Bird, in her chirpy, up­beat man­ner, asked Mul­der if she was able to com­mit to “joy­fully pro­vide for the fre­quent cel­e­bra­tion of the Holy Eucharist”.

Mul­der re­sponded, in the dis­cernible tone of the school teacher she had once been, with a clear and.firm, “With God’s help, I will.”

Last year, the Angli­can Church in South­ern Africa (ACSA) cel­e­brated the 25th an­niver­sary of that mo­men­tous day in Mba­bane, Swazi­land when it took the syn­od­i­cal de­ci­sion to or­dain women to the priest­hood.

The ap­point­ment of Mul­der this week and that of Rev­erend

Gaile Beck­ett to the Par­ish of Hout Bay to­day, sig­nals the grad­ual emer­gence of women clergy into se­nior po­si­tions in the church.

The in­creas­ing pres­ence of women in the lead­er­ship of all faith in­sti­tu­tions will no doubt re­sult in the qual­i­ta­tive en­rich­ment of the role of re­li­gion in the pub­lic square.

The lead­er­ship of the Bishop of False Bay, Mar­garet Vertue, is the first-fruit ex­am­ple of this hope.

Pa­tri­archy, even at its most benev­o­lent, will only be un­done by con­fi­dent, mis­sion-di­rected fem­i­nists – male and fe­male – but es­pe­cially and quan­ti­ta­tively the lat­ter, whose call­ing is premised on the words of the He­brew prophet, Micah: “What does the Lord re­quire of you? To do jus­tice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

The val­ues of kind­ness and a com­mit­ment to seek the well-be­ing of all peo­ple in an even-handed, in­clu­sive man­ner is the type of lead­er­ship re­frained in the lament of Je­sus over the city of Jerusalem:

“How of­ten would I have gath­ered your chil­dren to­gether as a hen gath­ers her brood un­der her wings, and you would not!”

Our de­lib­er­a­tive re­sponse to re­solv­ing the wa­ter cri­sis re­quires an in­volved cit­i­zenry rep­re­sented in a type of lead­er­ship “that puts the in­ter­ests of life and of the whole above our par­tic­u­lar per­sonal, group, in­sti­tu­tional or cor­po­rate in­ter­ests”.

Our sis­ter wa­ter, as Saint Fran­cis would have said, draws our at­ten­tion to our es­sen­tial ne­glect: of car­ing for the world in which we live and our fail­ure to em­brace sus­tain­abil­ity in re­la­tion to all of cre­ation.

Our lack of com­pas­sion is sym­bol­ised by the grow­ing pos­si­bil­ity of a tap, which, when opened, will not bring forth the wa­ter we an­tic­i­pate and which we have taken for granted.

The na­ture of the dis­tance be­tween Bishop Lavis and Bish­op­scourt un­der one blue, dry sky is a measure of how far we are from each other. And yet it is also a guide to what Cape Town needs to do to be­come a truly world class, car­ing and com­pas­sion­ate city.

Sis­ter wa­ter is an­cient and flows from the wells of cre­ation, and yet ever new as it con­sti­tutes 73% or more of the wa­ter con­tent of a new­born baby.

She is our ne­glected and aban­doned con­scious­ness and moral life-spring.

“The whole idea of com­pas­sion,” says Trap­pist monk Thomas

Mer­ton, “is based on a keen aware­ness of the in­ter­de­pen­dence of all these liv­ing be­ings, which are all part of one an­other, and all in­volved in one an­other.”

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