As usual I feel a bit unsuccessful and silly. I’ve morphed again.
A friend of mine, whom I love dearly, once told me the fictional character she most identified with was The Little Match Girl. She said she always felt on the outside.
I can identify with that – although, is it possible to have two friends who both always feel on the outside? Doesn’t that make an inside to be in? Maybe not. I’m not sure.
If you’ve read my Hawk and the Dove trilogy you might remember Brother Francis – his story comes in the 2nd book, The Wounds of God, and it’s called The Poor In Spirit. Though my novels are indeed fiction not autobiography, obviously they do also draw down on my life experience – and the visionary experience of Jesus that Brother Francis has in that story is something that happened to me in real life. Gosh. I hope that doesn’t spoil the story for you! I mean I’d hate to get between you and Brother Francis. Erase from your memory all traces of my intrusion if it causes you a problem.
So anyway, I only have to see an ideological group and I want to join it. A nice one, I mean – not the Klu Klux Klan or the BNP. The Amish, the Mennonites, the Poor Clares, the Quakers, the Bruderhof . . .
I was brought up an Anglican, became a Catholic, thought hard about becoming a nun (hey, I’ve been married three times, I’m clearly not a natural monastic) thought about joining the Bruderhof, morphed sideways into the Methodist Church, thought about becoming a Baptist but didn’t, became a Methodist local preacher then a Methodist minister, fell in love with the Greek Orthodox (their spirituality is so beautiful!), and gradually like a bird getting bits and pieces from here and there, made my nest under the shelter of the Most High out of snippets of Taoism, Buddhism, Taizé, the way of St Francis of Assisi, the Rule of St Benedict, George Fox, Gandhi and Thich Nhat Hanh. It is one heaven of a nest.
I raised my little brood and to my amazement and delight they turned into strong and beautiful ladies full of wisdom and compassion which they must have got from their father because I am a bit more dotty than that.
Then everything fell to bits, like a chandelier with all the crystals coming off at once and smashing into shards of glass and drips of candlewax all over the floor.
Ten years on from that, having come out of the Methodist ministry for the sake of my marriage but been divorced anyway then reinstated as a minister then remarried then widowed then remarried again - I kind of ran out of steam and my wheels came off. There were a lot of bumpy things along the way in terms of human relationships, and I made my primary focus and endeavour the establishment of reconciliation, understanding, forgiveness and love. There was a lot of rage and sorrow in there too though, and I came out of the ordained ministry again – to get my head straight, to give myself permission to be as angry as I was, because there were people in my life who thought I was too sinful to preach because of the circumstances of my third marriage, because I had begun to have serious misgivings about paid clergy, because I had begun to have misgivings about women leading in church.
I should say, I have no problems about women who are not me being leaders, or people who are not me being paid clergy, or folk who are not me getting into a mess with their relationships and getting their feet caught in the gin-trap of divorce. But when it’s me, I have issues, because the Bible is for me a holy book, the touchstone of truth, and my life got so bent out of shape in my capable (ha!) hands that it wouldn’t go back into the Bible mould again any more.
So this last year some of you have journeyed along with me into the whole Plain and modest world of headcovering and Pauline marriage. And now my path has taken another turn.
This is where I’ve arrived at.
I almost got to the place of becoming a Quaker member as I had been attending meeting for some while. I got to a convincement about Plainness and simplicity and modesty. After struggling with the concept my whole adult life I merged peacefully with the Ephesians 5 take on marriage.
But I have drawn back from Quaker membership and regular attendance at meeting, because I feel that the right thing for me is worshipping alongside my husband and my family. That means at the lovely, gentle, beautiful Anglican church (here) where my Badger goes. It is a place where understanding flows and kindness overflows and you can just be who you are and that’s all right.
I still feel a deep thing about headcovering, but I also want to be more in the tradition of my own people – to be English, and as the people of the Church of England are. So I am exploring how to interpret modesty and womanly simplicity in the context of that tradition. Sometimes that will be hats, sometimes zandanas, sometimes a prayer cap, sometimes a small lace covering. But I think bonnets would set me apart on a planet with a population of one, and I am not sure the witness is as meant, if you see what I mean.
Dresses, long full skirts, modest necklines – nothing flashy or sexy, no killer heels, no status accessories, nothing that speaks of one-up-man-ship.
The thing that St Paul said in his letter to Timothy here
And the thing St Peter said here
And that beautiful passage from Ephesians 5 here (I love the whole chapter so I put it all).
I might – I have to say this to be honest – I might wear a tiny bit of make-up and my earrings too. This feels like a betrayal of the Plain and modest sisterhood with whom I have been travelling. I’m so sorry if it does feel like that to you. I’m sorry to be a disappointment.
So I think I have morphed from Plain to modest; but while I was there, I learned about marriage, and I am so grateful for that.
Is that okay? I do feel such a failure.