WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE BY THE SWEDENBORGIAN ON-LINE COMMUNITY
July 18, 2010
Light a candle
FROM THE BIBLE
Exodus 28 (New International Version)
The Priestly Garments1 "Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. 3 Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. ...
39 "Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. 40 Make tunics, sashes and headbands for Aaron's sons, to give them dignity and honor. 41 After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.
Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 9814sRef Ex@28 @2 S0' 9814. 'And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother' means a representative sign of the spiritual kingdom lying adjacent to the celestial kingdom. This is clear from the meaning of 'garments' in general as truths, and more particularly as truths clothing good, dealt with in 5954, 9212, 9216. The meaning of 'garments' as truths owes its origin to things in heaven, where angels appear dressed in clothes in keeping with the truths they have that spring from good, 165, 5248, 5954, 9212; and from this it may be recognized that Aaron's garments represented the Lord's spiritual kingdom lying adjacent to His celestial kingdom. For Aaron represented the Lord in respect of the Divine Celestial, 9810, and therefore the garments he wore represented the Divine Spiritual adjacent to the celestial kingdom like clothing next to the body, the Divine Spiritual being Divine Truth emanating from the Lord's Divine Good. It presents itself in heaven as light, indeed it is the light which illuminates both the outward and the inward powers of sight that angels possess. Modifications of this light - which are determined by the subjects, that is, the angels, that receive it - produce different visible phenomena, such as clouds, rainbows, and various colours and brightnesses; they also produce shining garments about the angels. From all this it may be recognized that the Lord's spiritual kingdom was represented by Aaron's holy garments. For there are two kingdoms into which the heavens are divided, the celestial kingdom and the spiritual kingdom, regarding which, see 9277. Those in the celestial kingdom appear naked, but those in the spiritual kingdom appear in clothing. From this it is again clear that Divine Truth, or the Divine Spiritual, which appears as light, is that which serves to clothe.
I didn’t think I had heard her correctly. “We need to shop for what?”
“Fabric.” Marian Kirvin, the school librarian, was being patient with me as I tried to grasp what she was saying.
“So, why do we need to shop for fabric? I’m really busy finishing the semester and getting ready to graduate.”
“It’s for your ordination. For a robe. It’s my gift to you. You buy the fabric and pattern, and I’ll sew the robe. I offer this gift to all the women getting ordained. You can’t buy an ordination robe in women’s sizes; they’re just made for men.”
I was overwhelmed. “Marian, what an incredible gift! Yes, all the robes I’ve seen are way too big for me; I wasn’t sure what I would do.” With my 5’2”, 110 lb frame, I purchased all my clothes in petite sizes. I had been calling liturgical stores in the Boston area, only to find that all their robes were much too large for me. I gave her a big hug. Her husband, Bob, was on the faculty and was my advisor. They were two of the sweetest people I had ever known!
During the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time in the school’s living room for Marian’s fittings. Sometimes other women students would drop by to see how it was going. Mary Kay Klein, the school’s President came by to chat at times, as did faculty member Dorothea Harvey.
Rev. Dr. Dorothea Harvey had been the first Swedenborgian woman every ordained. That was in 1975; fifteen years previous, as these events were taking place in 1990.
I loved hearing Dorothea talk about that Convention of 1975. She said that some male ministers came up to her and said they couldn’t support her ordination because they cared about her, and didn’t want her to go crazy. Swedenborg had written in his spiritual diary that women who preach like men do, go crazy. Dorothea responded, “I have no intention of preaching like men do. I will preach like a woman!”
Since then, about a dozen women had been ordained by Convention.
During out fitting sessions, I shared stories of my journey towards ordination. Before discovering the Swedenborgian Church, I had been an Episcopalian. While a student at the Episcopal Divinity School, I had applied to become a postulant in the ordination process. The first step was a psychiatric evaluation. I was given the name of a psychiatrist in Boston, and made an appointment. As a social worker, I felt confident in understanding psychiatric principles.
I was surprised, however, that so many of his questions were about my marriage – especially why my husband and I didn’t have any children. Neither of us felt drawn to parenthood, and we had made the decision not to have children. The psychiatrist, however, seemed concerned about how I could be happy without having children.
A few weeks later, I was called into the Bishop’s office, and told that the psychiatrist had concluded that I was not fit for ordination. My desire to be a minister was a sublimation of my real desire, to be a mother. I was stunned! When I went back to the school and shared this experience with other women students, one said to me: “I had that same psychiatrist for my evaluation. I had children, but he said I was unfit because I had young children, and would be neglecting them if I went to seminary.” Another woman said, “Oh, I was also sent to that psychiatrist. My children were grown and had moved away. The psychiatrist said I was unfit for ministry because I was suffering from ‘empty nest syndrome.’”
When I became Swedenborgian, I was impressed with the respectful nature of the ordination process. At that time, only Convention ordained women, although he British Conference now does so.
I told this story last week at Gathering Leaves, an opportunity for women from all the New Church branches to get to know each other. I said I wanted to share my experiences of ordination, although – I added with a big smile – I was taking no position on the big question: Are the ordained women of Convention and Conference going crazy? If we are, we would be the last to know; so we rely on the feedback of our sisters! We all laughed heartily together!
When I was studying at the Episcopal divinity School in Cambridge, I had the opportunity to be part of their first D.Min. Class in Feminist-Liberation Theology in Ministry. I learned that women – and other people from oppressed groups – often start theology from the stories of their lives. We tell our stories to each other, and from them, we come to understand God and how God works through us.
Stories are important to me. As women from various Swedenborgian traditions gathered last week, I was happy to hear so many stories from our various experiences with our faith communities.
I concluded my talk with what I have learned from Marian’s robe – now stained and tattered. “We are all part of our church, and all of our stories are important. If the church doesn’t have the right size for our stories, then we can sew new garments for the church. With only some fabric, thread, and needle – we can keep making new garments for our churches – so that all of our stories are part of the whole. “
Climb Every Mountain
Extinguish your candle
Close the Bible
Go forth; knowing that God walks with you as you climb every mountain.