Archive for July, 2016

What We Miss When We Keep People Out

7 comments Written on July 26th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

imageRev. Cathy Kaminski is the lead pastor at Trinity Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. She is blessed to be counted among pastors in the Evangelical Covenant Church and strives to be a voice that celebrates the stories of faithful women who have gone before her.

This past month a young couple in our church had their first child. Only ten days after their son was born they made it to our Sunday service. These rock star parents triumphed over the hardship of the early days of new life to allow the community of faith to celebrate with them. We were overwhelmingly blessed to worship with them that day. Nothing about getting to church is easy with a new born. Nothing about leaving the house is easy 10 days after a C-section! But this family made gathering together a priority and sacrificed to make it happen. We were better because we had them in our midst.

As a joke, I sent the new parents an “inspirational” passage in scripture. Leviticus
12:1-4 reads, “The Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.’”

Oops…looks like the new mom was supposed to wait twenty-three more days before coming into the sanctuary! I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. This passage seems absolutely absurd. Though, as crazy as this sounds in our 21st century context, the Law of Moses did at one point have a place. A new mom is susceptible to many harmful things in the first month after giving birth. Some new moms TODAY choose to stay home for the first weeks after delivery because it is better for the health of mother and child…but it was not the Law itself that was absurd to me. It was how it can be misconstrued and abused. The heart behind the law is good, wellbeing of the mother & child, however, the logistics of this law could also have devastating effects on the entire church. Because staying to the letter of the law means we exclude people from worship. And when someone is excluded, the entire community of faith experiences a loss.

I thought about the story of the hemorrhaging woman, (Matthew 9:20-22, Luke 8:43-48 & Mark 5:25-34). Here is a woman who had experienced continual bleeding for 12 years. In accordance with the Law of Moses, during this time she was not permitted to enter a sanctuary and worship with her people. She would have existed on the margins of her community. She had suffered much under this affliction. She spent all her money to see doctor after doctor with no impact except a worsening condition. Yet, even after all that, even after years and years of heart ache, isolation, and being an outcast in her community of faith, this woman still had hope God could heal her. When she heard Jesus was coming through her town, she pushed through the crowd to touch his cloak because she had hope and faith that God would bring an end to her suffering. TALK ABOUT FAITH!

The instant she reached out for Christ she was healed. Jesus stopped to recognize the faith of this tremendous woman. He called attention to her, listened to her story, and declared her healing and forgiveness to the crowd of people.

If I were this woman, I’m not so sure I would have such enduring faith. I would like to think so, but if I’m honest I really don’t know. This is what I am certain of: I want to know this woman. I want to worship with her. I want to see how God moves in her life. I want her in my community of faith. I want warriors like her in my church. Because a woman like this, who endures, suffers, is cast aside, yet still seeks the face of the Living God can impact the church for the Kingdom in powerful ways.

I think about what her community missed out on for those 12 years she existed on the margins. How many blessings did they miss because they followed the letter of the law instead of the heart behind it? What did the community loss because according to the Law they must keep her out instead of inviting her in? Do we fall into this same trap today? Do we keep people out of our communities of faith that could point us towards Christ in unbelievably impactful ways?

In my own life, I was told I could not be a pastor because of what scripture says. The letter of the Law told the church to keep me out. And sadly, I listened for a long time. How many years of ministry did I miss out on because I failed to see the heart of the law. A law that actually points me to being faithful and sharing the gifts that God alone gave me. What did the church miss out on? I’m not saying I’m some amazing pastor and the church is so much better because of me. But God called me to this life. He is that one who equipped me for ministry and set me on this path. He is the one who created me to impact the church for his Kingdom.

So let’s be honest. Let’s name the places where we keep people out. Let’s recognize the impact of the loss. Let’s start there. For all the new mom that are told to stay out of the sanctuary, to the bleeding women and the female pastors. Let’s not put God’s Law above God’s charge to love. Let’s not let the Law dictate how we see people and worship God.

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4 comments Written on July 12th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Ellie VerGowe is currently serving as Ministerial Resident for Community Outreach at First Covenant Church on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Ellie enjoys dancing, being outside and reading a good book on a rainy day with a friend and a cup of tea.

mountainsFrom the moment my parents met in a mountaineering class, my future was determined. My sister and I would be outdoor people.

My parents encouraged my sister and I to hike and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation around us. I grew up being outside as often as our family was free to do so and though we may have complained a little about our camping trips in our junior high years, wilderness was in our blood. We couldn’t help it.

When I got to seminary, I took the “Wilderness and Faith” class taught by professors Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, Jim Bruckner and Phil Anderson and found myself feeling so at home. We discussed together two things I deeply loved: God and creation. And in the middle of it all, as we canoed together over the mostly calm, but sometimes choppy waters of the Flambeau River in Wisconsin, I saw the wildness of creation…in the waves and currents that tipped over our canoes…in the wind in the trees…and in the giant bonfire that we built as Jim recited poetry to us.

But as much as the wilderness was home, I felt…somehow…not a part of what was happening. I felt less than majestic as I commented on the theological readings that we discussed over the course of the trip. I was so aware of what I didn’t know and I felt that I couldn’t speak as eloquently as so many in our class did. The mountains I had seen in my life were big, but I had been kept small over the years. The trees were warped, knotted and unique as weather shaped them, but I took to heart society’s expectation that I always be nice, always look a certain way and always fit into people’s expectations of what a woman was supposed to be. The waters and the trees and the wind were wild and excellent…but was I?

This seems to be a pattern in my life and in the lives of so many women I know. We are taught to think less of ourselves and our ideas. The world around us does the same to us. Many churches we know don’t allow us to preach the gospel. When we state our ideas, some of our brothers interrupt us or summarize what we say, implying that what we said wasn’t good enough the first time. We are told to follow and not lead, though we have the experience, the skills and the calling. Sometimes we women inadvertently take these things to heart. We think to ourselves: “Why would I speak up if my thoughts are so different from what has already been spoken? Maybe I am wrong in my assessment of what is going on. Maybe I am not good at this…maybe I am not called to what I think God is asking me to do.” Sometimes my thoughts (and I hear it in so many of my female friend’s stories too) spiral into dangerous territory of doubting the ways that God has created me.

But a colleague recently gave me a quote by author Ursula K. Le Guin that turns all of these lies on their heads. It says:

“I know that many men and even women are afraid and angry when women do speak, because in this barbaric society, when women speak truly, they speak subversively—they can’t help it: If you are underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experiences as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want—to hear you erupting. You young Mt. St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you—I want to hear you…Speak with a woman’s tongue. Come out and tells us what time of night it is! Don’t let us sink back in silence.”[1]

These words resonated deeply in my nature-loving soul. The wildness of a volcano, the vastness of a mountain glacier…these are strong. They burst into song and in their very being, they tell of the glory and goodness of God. With their own voices and in their own unique and majestic ways, the mountains and rivers and trees and oceans proclaim God’s presence among us. I’ve seen others do this…from the Black Lives Matter activist who works and shouts until her voice is hoarse that violence towards black and brown bodies must stop, to the artist who paints in defiance against the chronic pain she suffers. I learn from them. So many women I know are doing this already and are leading the way, but we can all do the same. We MUST do the same…in our own ways…in the ways that God has created us. We need the voices of women to tell the truth in ways that aren’t heard as often or as loud as male voices in our broken world.

And while we are telling truth in the ways that we are made, we recognize that it can be terrifying, wild and unpredictable to patriarchy. While the destruction that comes from mountains exploding is awful and while we don’t want to leave destruction in our wake, we too are wild. We too are are called to be fully ourselves with our erupting voices that image God and that aren’t unlike powerful mountains. While listening is imperative and necessary (we all have much to learn and we must listen to each other), maybe some of us need permission to erupt.

So, my sisters: don’t be quiet. Erupt with the truth. Tell the gospel as you live fully into who YOU are created to be. Do justice with your words and actions. Love mercy with your words and actions. And as you erupt, erupt with humility, knowing the one who created us also loves us and continues to teach and shape us into the people we have been created to be.


[1] 1986 Bryn Mawr College Commencement Address

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