5 comments Written on November 11th, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Rev. Mary Putera is an Ordained ECC pastor currently serving as the interim pastor for Sunset Covenant Church in Beaverton Oregon. Mary has served in the ECC for many years as a facilitator of the I2RR and Sankofa journey, as a board member of ACCW and Women’s Ministries and in various pastoral positions in four conferences. She is currently working to complete her PhD in the Theology of Beauty and Community Art practice for social transformation.


As a Maltese-Italian American woman, I am called and gifted by God to serve God’s “kingdom coming” in the vocational role of pastor. I cannot deny it, avoid it, walk away from it or even dislike that which God has brought forth in me, no matter the pain of the struggle. And amidst the joy filled days and holy moments of pastoring, there is pain involved, simply because I am a woman, increased because I am a light brown woman, because I am from the poor, the economically disadvantaged. There is no economic change in my circumstances that can wring out of me the times when electricity, phone, food and heat were scarce or non-existent. There is no economic gain that can erase my experiences as a teen who couch surfed for two years, living on the dangerous margins. There is no avoiding the fact that to be called to pastor by God as a woman in the ECC has its difficulties. And it is good, because I experience deeply, God’s presence and care for me in these places. There is no place I can go where I can leave behind me the 50 years of being, living with, working amongst, standing with and advocating amidst humanity living in the pain of an unjust world. Jesus is the Messiah! Where else is there to go?

As this same woman, I am called to bring forth fearlessly, even if quite imperfectly, the fearfully, wonderfully, uniquely beautiful woman God formed me to be. This for me has been, not a call to subversive ways, but bold, prophetic words, actions, and embodied activities that invite God to form me as God’s living artistry, with all my cracks and scars and hard spots; publicly, for the sake of Christ. If I refuse, then however will God work through weaknesses to bring forth strength in me and in the church and communities I am called to live in? If I give up the truth that I am messy, if I behave in public differently, adopting a cultural polish of adaptation to a mask of privilege, what heart and activity of Jesus forming me, Jesus being seen in me, can ever be witnessed?

If I get stuck in, give in to the lie that I am any less Imago Dei because I am a woman, a lightly brown woman, of lower class origins, where will I find Freedom in Christ to be a reflection of the Beauty that is God, breathed into me at birth? So I stand in the fray as a woman pastor and I say, lets look at the mess we are in! Lets engage the human struggle of walking in to just community together!

The actions of betrayals, dismissals, dis-respect, disdain, dis-honoring treatment and dis-enfranchisement I have experienced in my vocation as a woman pastor have received merciful, graceful healing touch by the Lord, and God’s people and I am helped, and healed and made whole, with scars. God has reminded me whos’ story I am in. I am asked by Jesus, as we all are, to stand in God’s story, which began, endures, and ENDS WELL my friends! For all of us who believe!

This means for me that pastoral strengthening comes in reading women and men theologians whom have been born outside of dominant culture and countries while enjoying expressive artistry from these same people groups. Being with Jesus for me requires being with people whom have suffered much greater indignities perpetrated on them than I have. This allows me to see my own position of privilege gained through systemic unrighteousness that is thriving in this unjust world. Remaining in Gods story requires remaining in fellowship with others even when we see things differently, as long as we are striving to live into God’s story with humility and Love. Being in God’s story is about embracing my life as an embodied, fleshly woman, full of an ability to sense God’s presence in what I see, touch, taste, smell and sense as well as what I might think. I work to regain what the Enlightenment sought to strip humanity of. I experience life and therefor I am! Finally, moving my feet from human debates of particular scripture snippets, to a firm grounding of place in Gods story re-aligns me from a focus on brokenness to the seeking and facilitating of beauty within and amongst us.

Beauty is for me the manifold witness of God’s love showing up in the midst of life as sensorially perceived attraction drawing unto itself, that which is distant. I experience God’s presence, the Holy Spirits activity in my life and in community through seeking God as Beauty. As theologian Garcia-Rivera points out, the Greek word for “beauty” has two forms; hallos (noun) which means to call, and Kalon (adj) which means “the called”. Garcia-Rivera expands this definition in his book, God’s Garden writing; “Theological aesthetics attempts to make clear once again the connection between Beauty and the beautiful, between Beauty’s divine origins and its appropriation by the human heart”(p.10). God is Beauty, present in all creation and all of us, calling us unto God’s self.

As a woman, a theologian, and as a pastor, I work at becoming welcoming through artistic practice, the practice of seeking Beauty. I work to regain individually and communally, the abilities of experiencing God’s presence through sensing. I practice alone and with others, imagining, improvising, and forming in embodied ways of movement, dance, music, visual arts, poetry, and play, that which the Lord inspires, breathes into me and us through prayer, meditation, experience and study. This risky work of being in community working to form expressions and installations of God’s Beauty, God’s efforts to touch the human heart, move us into kingdom people. It is vital for me, and transformational for the church. Expressive Arts practice in community serves as a beckoning light of hope rising amidst, as I serve as a woman pastor, in a world rife with anguish, despair and ugliness brought on by human betrayal of our Creator, one another and our beautiful Cosmos.

Serving the church is messy work. I am messy and way far from right or right or righteous. And! I Am ALIVE! And I am well in my soul, living out my vocation as a woman, as a pastor, as one who loves Christ, living in God’s embrace.


“We must seek beauty, study beauty, surround ourselves with beauty. To revivify the soul of the world, we ourselves must become beauty.(Chittister, 180)”

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5 comments “ALIVE!”

Good post, Mary!  Thanks for your continued willingness to be a wounded healer and proclaimer!

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While I too am grateful for your words, I have to ask about the artwork that is included in the post. Is there anything that you would care to share about this art and is there a connection to the words shared?

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Hi Jeff,

This particular piece is titled “Hope Rising Amidst”.  This piece was created during a time of prayer as I was preparing to work in Nepal with Human Trafficking survivors.  This painting has spoken to me about troubled waters and Hope Rising Amidst us, are often of the same stuff!  God does trouble the waters and calm the waters… often with the same effective result of strengthening and healing and growing us.  I am so thankful indeed for the Holy Spirit bringing forth this piece, and further establishing a sense of peace in my heart.

Thank you for your response, and your question.

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What a beautiful artistic representation of a clergy woman’s journey Mary! Simply beautiful artistic rendering! You’ve also captured the questions and the pain of our journey so well. I know that it is difficult for many to stay in relationship with messy people who have a call to speak bold, prophetic words, actions, and others simply struggle with embodied activities. If we could just learn to be in relationship with the various gifts that we have in the body of Christ and stop wanting cookie cutter leaders what a beautifully diverse body we would be. Jesus modeled going into the messy places of the world and He spoke bold, prophetic words, and his actions were not about leaders all saying and doing the same thing. What diverse gifts we each are to the Lord’s kingdom work, even more so when some don’t understand how we are to be used or why we were chosen. Thanks Mary for adding your voice to the conversation!

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Mary, it’s nice to hear your voice again. Thank you. Beauty growing amid pain is a testimony to the presence of God with us. It can be hard work to stay hope-filled in this broken world, but hearing from each other helps. Thanks for the challenge to care broadly and to slow down to appreciate variety. I appreciate you and your words. 

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