2 January 2017

Hagia Sophia, holy Sophia, wholly God

This year promises to be an interesting one. As part of seeing the new year in, the whanau and I reflected on what our dreams were for 2017, and what the best thing was from 2016. 

For me, the dreams for this year could create an interesting time. The work dream is to find my joy in my work again as I experiment with new ways of working, particularly with contracting. 

The more interesting dream comes out of some events recently. I frequently lead the weekly intercessions at our parish, and early in Advent it was my turn again. These are the prayers I led our parish in on 11 December:

Blessed One, this day we celebrate the joy you bring us.
You came to us in an ordinary event
Of a refugee mother giving birth
In the only shelter that could be contrived.
In the joy of the face of the exhausted mother,
The joy in the face of her husband,
We see a very ordinary miracle.
We pray for ordinary miracles:
Life, peace, hope, joy, love.
Holy Wisdom, Holy Sophia,
Bring your ordinary miracles into the faces
And lives of those in pain, in places of war,
Or affected by your restless earth.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

Coming One, in this Advent we remember the baby who came,
Jesus, Light of the World,
The baby born of a refugee teenager.
And we know you promise to come again
In joy and love and peace and hope.
We pray for teenage mothers, refugees,
And those for whom this season means fear and violence.
May they know your peace and hope.
­­We pray for those for whom Christmas is a reminder of loss,
And for those who have gone on that have left a hole in our hearts.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

Holy Sophia, Wisdom Spirit of God,
We pray for leaders everywhere
That they would hear your voice,
Listen to your heart, and act with justice and compassion.
May they follow your star,
See your love and kindness,
And return by another way, changed.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

Most Holy, may we look with your eyes,
Hear with your ears.
Help us to experience your coming
In the touch of those we love, the smells and tastes
That make this season special.
May our senses show us your ordinary miracles.
May we have the courage and kindness
To share those ordinary miracles
With those that we find it a challenge to love.
Holy Wisdom, holy Spirit, hear our prayer. Amen.

Quite simple and innocuous, I thought. Apparently I was wrong. I got a snarky email a few days later from the vicar telling me that I shouldn't have named God by her ancient name of Sophia in church, and that I wasn't to lead intercessions again until after he had "talked to me" in January, as it "wasn't appropriate" to name God by a female name in church and "someone had complained". 

I saw red. I still see red, as this is the third time he's tried to do this - he told me I couldn't edit the church magazine after I wrote an article about Sophia, and that I wasn't allowed to even submit any articles on that subject, and now he tries to remove me from the intercessions. Patriarchial oppression and censorship at its clearest and most obvious. 

I will not allow someone else's narrowminded, patriarchal, androcentric ignorance allow the knowledge of Sophia's beauty to be crushed again. The vicar seems to be of the opinion that the only person that this affects is me - well, he'd be wrong there. I asked a whole lot of people I know that this matters for to speak to him, and the next day in church (I wasn't there - I was both too angry to go, and wanting to visit a friend of mine in hospital) lovely hubby spoke during the "sharing" time at the end and identified how much discovering Sophia had meant to both him and me - and why I wasn't there, because the vicar was trying to shut me down. 

Lovely hubby also helped me make my Christmas present: he got a t-shirt printed for me that says "Hagia Sophia | Holy Sophia | Wholly God" on the front, and "Wisdom-Sophia is vindicated by all her children" on the back. I wore it to church yesterday, and intend to wear it to church every week.

So my dream for 2017 is that we see full equality in the language we use for God in church. And I am going to fight for it. I have been fairly quiet, asking nicely for this to be included especially as we combined the 9 and 10.30am services recently and changed all the liturgy, but as nothing has happened its time to get significantly less vocal - and significantly more Anglican. After all, the Fourth Mark of Mission says that we are called to "Transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation." Patriarchy is an unjust structure of society and it's time that our language for God reflects our commitment to a just society where women and men are equal in Sophia's sight and made in her image. 

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