Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Sunday daydream...

As I sat in church on a Sunday morning two years ago, listening to religious language that gave God only one gender and excluded the full participation of 50% of the human race (and would only get worse with the new translation of the Roman Missal), an oft-recurring daydream came to me for the first time...

People come to the church on a Sunday morning, but rather than going into the building, all of the women stay together on the steps and sidewalk outside. One of them brings a guitar, another sets up a small table, two more bring earthenware chalices, and several young girls pass out song books. As mass begins inside the church, the women outside, young and old, raise their voices in joyous song to begin a liturgy that includes femininity along with the masculine.

Inside the church, the men conclude their opening hymn, as the final verse of the women's song wafts into the church, sweet and clear. The men look at one another, confused. Some of them frown, but a dozen or so (who have daughters and wives who have made them well aware of the sin of sexism) smile and slip out the door to join the women.

The Roman Catholic woman priest invites her congregation to begin with the same sign of the cross as the men inside, only with inclusive words that speak of the All-Holy Mystery: "In the name of God, Source of All Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit," and the women (and the few men who have joined them) respond with reverence and enthusiasm. They sing Glory to God, scripture is loudly and joyfully proclaimed from the top of the church steps, and as three women sing the verses of the psalm in gorgeous harmony, a few more men and their sons trickle out of the church to pray with their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters.

After the Gospel reading, the woman priest invites several of the crowd -- who have discussed the scripture with her in advance -- to give the homily together, and comments are invited from the listeners, responsive women  and men who give thoughtful reflections on the lessons they have learned from the Word, and how they plan to live more like Christ in the week ahead.

Then the entire crowd begins the creed, "I believe in God, the Tender Almighty..." followed by the prayers of the faithful, which are voiced by the gathered community as even more men come out of the church to join the women, whose eucharist prayer emphasizes the priesthood of all. The outside congregation prays for the pope and their local bishops, naming both women and men among them.

Inside the building, the male congregation is rapidly dwindling. With every sung eucharistic response that wafts in through the windows, a few more venture outside. By the time the crowd begins to pray "Our Father and Mother in heaven..." the priest and two acolytes are alone in the church. They look at one another, the priest shrugs, picks up the chalice and paten, and the three process through the empty church to the small altar outside -- just in time to share a joyous sign of peace with everyone.

As the communion song begins, the female and male priest stand side by side to offer the chalices to the people, who share them with each other until everyone has partaken of the eucharistic feast. Then two small children bring the chalices back to the priests, announcing, "The Body of Christ." The man and the woman, both of whom have been ordained as Catholic priests (though the woman is not yet fully recognized by Rome) say "Amen," and receive communion last of all, signifying their equality in the community, and their servanthood. Then they wash the vessels with the help of the children while another song of thanksgiving is sung by the congregation.

As the liturgy comes to its conclusion, the two priests pray the closing prayers together, and then briefly confer before announcing that next Sunday, if the weather is fine, mass for all will be held under the trees in the park next door because all of creation is a holy place. If rain is in the forecast, they say, everyone is welcome into the church for an inclusive eucharist, and in either case, both priests will preside together.

And all the people say, "Amen." 

As the final song is sung, young children moved by the Spirit (and others not so young),dance.

I can see it all. Can't you?

1 comment:

Laeli said...

I think that sounds just lovely for everyone.