Young Clergy Women on Marching

Post Author: Multiple Authors

Editor's Note: This is a collection of observations from young clergy women around the United States and beyond, not a single person's observation.

On Saturday, January 21, young clergy women participated in the Women’s March on Washington, DC, and in sister marches all over the world. We’ve gathered some of their reflections on these events.

On the visibility of being clergy

  • I intentionally wore my collar to serve as a public witness as a faith leader: I had a conversation with a woman my age who has an advanced degree in Hebrew literature and Scripture, but did not go on to be a rabbi because she didn’t have female role models. She expressed gratitude that I was showing young women today that they, too, may be called to lead faith communities.
  • A reporter interviewed me and another clergywoman, and was surprised to hear that we were pastors. “Wait, you’re Christian, but you’re at this march?” I explained that I was marching because of my faith, not in spite of it: part of my baptismal call is to follow the example of Jesus, serve others, and strive for justice and peace for all.
  • I wore a collar to show that young women clergy exist, and that Christians stand for love and justice. My husband observed that when photographers saw a young woman in a collar, they ran over to snap a picture. It was interesting to notice how young women clergy were “desirable optics” for a reporter’s narrative. I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about that.
  • I had planned to wear my collar, but I start a new job next week at a non-profit that is primarily donor funded, and is supported broadly by churches and synagogues across theological and political spectrums. While I wanted deeply to participate, I also didn’t want my collar to get me on the front page of something and alienate church folks in a new city before I get to know them.
  • I marched beside my mother, also a clergy woman. I wore my collar because the reason why I march is my faith and my role as a faith leader: I was marching for congregation members who are queer and don’t feel comfortable being out at church; for undocumented parishioners who have sought help but come up against roadblocks; for the woman who had an abortion when she learned her much-wanted baby would not live and was in pain.
  • I marched with a group of fellow clergy women wearing matching jackets that said “Nasty Clergy Women.” The comments ranged from “Pray for me sisters!” to “I’m not religious, but that I could get on board with!”

On the witness of the Church

  • I carried 2 signs: “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Perfect love casts out fear.” I left them with the pile of signs people at the conclusion of the march, where there was space for protesters to leave their posters. I was happy to see those words among the many other messages of protest.
  • The Trenton, NJ, event began with prayers and meditations from a female religious leaders: a white Protestant minister; a Rabbi; an African-American pastor; and a Muslim faith leader. That alone made the day worth it: I rarely see female clergy lead public events.
  • I marched at the sister event in Edinburgh, Scotland. Being at the demonstration was a powerful experience of bearing witness. Women often bear of witness in the Scriptures, most notably those who saw and spoke of the empty tomb on that first Easter morning. When women bear witness, we can change the world by doing nothing more and nothing less than being ourselves, and speaking our truth. Millions of people, mostly though not only women, on all seven continents of the globe, stood up to be counted and refused to be silent.
  • As different chants echoed throughout the march, I explained to my daughter what each chant meant for the people calling them out. Sometimes, we chose not to join in, because the chant perpetuated the name-calling and bullying that we are fighting against. Sometimes, we chose to join in, because the chants spoke of unity and love and hope. Marching with my daughter, we were able to model what it means to continue the work of Jesus.

On Hope and Solidarity

  • I cried watching the Inauguration. But I cried more during the march: watching people give their time, energy, creativity, and love to one another, being incredibly patient, generous, and kind. I cried tears of relief realizing I’m not alone. I cried for the possibilities of a better future. My feet are tired, but my spirit is more energized than it has been since early November.
  • I saw an elderly woman sitting in a chair on the grass beside the route, chanting and clapping along with the marchers. I walked over to give her a high five, and her daughter had to tell her I was there because her vision was so bad. Her strength, courage, and witness brought me to tears.
  • I marched with a young Muslim woman holding a sign that read, “THIS IS HOME,” on the back and, “I hope this registers before I have to,” on the front. Person after person came up to take pictures of her or with her, and she graciously stopped dozens of times. “If you have to register, I will too,” said most of these people, among them a Jewish woman, a Finnish immigrant who is a naturalized citizen, an Asian American woman, a United Methodist clergywoman.
  • We as Christians are called to build on the foundation of the kin-dom of God set by and in Christ. Yesterday’s march to me was millions of people, not just in Washington, DC, but around the world, who are inspired to build on the foundation. I know it wasn’t a religious march, but that cause is absolutely Christian.

On Not Attending

  • I couldn’t be present at a march today because I was at my church, educating 45 fifth graders about sexuality. It was my own little march. I celebrate that I have the opportunity to educate pre-teens about God’s good gift of sexuality and intimacy, and especially consent, particularly in light of our current President’s views on sexuality.
  • President Trump is my commander in chief and so I did not march. Instead I went with my family on a hike, where I prayed and hoped and dreamed for a world where my little one will see love overcoming hate. I prayed for my troops that they may grow in love even when they have been to places where it seems love cannot exist. I prayed for a culture of inclusion in our forces where fellow women and our LGBT brothers and sisters will not have to fear exclusion, inequality, violence or hatred from those they stand shoulder to shoulder with in the fight. We had our own march out in God’s creation, for God to witness.
  • I did not march today for a variety of reasons. Large protest crowds are scary places to be: I have helped to de-escalate protests before. And I was concerned about the lack of of intersectionality: I noticed social media silence from my brown/black friends. All the people claiming intersectionality for the marches were white, not brown or black. Sometimes we white people who identify as female need to be quiet and listen to the experiences and feelings of our sisters who have more melanin in their skin. We don’t need to prove that we are allies. The marginalized know who the real allies are by their daily actions, words, support. I pray this march is a catalyst for greater justice and action and listening. But I fear it is a spark in the dark and we will all return to our own little corners. In order to overcome the great racial (and other intersectionality divides), those who are open must start by examining themselves and their spheres of influence.

On the Work that’s Left to Do

  • I marched in San Jose, CA. More than half of the marchers were white. That is absolutely not reflective of the demographics of that city, where the 2010 census found that less than half of the population is white. There were two points where I felt this most strongly: early in the morning, in a Starbucks that was flooded with white people, with three brown women working behind the counter; and later in the day when I saw a protest sign referencing the history of the internment of Japanese Americans from San Jose. I don’t regret marching, but I’m trying to sit with my discomfort over those moments, and asking myself how I’m going to change.
  • I went to the march in Tallahassee. There was a huge storm coming through, and the organizers decided to change the route so that the rally would be indoors. People (white women) weren’t having it. They wanted to go to the capitol and be seen. The official rally wound up being on an historically Black College and University campus, which I thought was a beautiful testament to hope for intersectionality. But a group broke off and marched to the capitol anyway. We left early with our kids and got caught in that crowd. Police drove by and told people to get on the sidewalks, but a group of young white people, mostly women, still on the HBCU campus, refused and started chanting “Whose street? Our street!” It was such an example of white privilege. I was so disappointed, but chose not to engage because the organizers asked us to avoid any conflict. It just reminded me that we still have so much work to do.
  • Part of our calling as faith leaders is to model the kind of dialogue and practical work we still need to do. God calls us to love all of our neighbors, not just the ones who look and think like us. It would be easier for me to just read the articles and posts that reinforce my good feelings about the march, but that won’t make any lasting change. I’m still discerning what this kind of leadership will look like in my individual call.
  • I was moved by how thoughtful, compassionate, and peaceful so many of the marchers were. But I was also struck by the differences between this protest and the last protest I attended. This past fall I was in Charlotte, NC, protesting with #CharlotteUprising and #BlackLivesMatter. It was a much smaller crowd and overwhelmingly people of color. We were surrounded by police in riot gear and the national guard carrying semi-automatic weapons. There were tanks pointed at the demonstrators and armored vehicles. In Washington, I barely felt a police presence. On Sunday feeling optimistic and lifted up by so many strong and powerful women, but I am also praying that we will put the same energy everyday toward working for the liberation of all people including people of color and our LGBTQI neighbors.

Image by: Broadway UCC
Used with permission
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