|The 8 interviews included in this collection were conducted for the Old Dominion University History course 495/595: "Recapturing Women's History: Local and National," taught by Dr. Dorothy Johnson in the Fall of 1982. Each interview includes a brief biographical sketch of the person interviewed and a typed transcript.|
In 1982, Pat Merchant Park became the first ordained woman priest in the Diocese of Southern Virginia at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach. This interview recounts Park's background, her views on women and religion, and her experiences with the Episcopal Church. The interview also includes a biographical sketch of Park.
PR: This is a tape of Pat Park, ordained priest in the Episcopal Church; who is also very active in the ordination process and is still politically active in obtaining jobs for women priests in the Episcopal Church. To start, I think we need to talk about some of your reasons for entering seminary.
PP: It's hard to do that without giving you a little bit of personal background in the sense that I went to seminary in 1971. I was 24 years old. I had lived, most of my life, all over the world in the sense that my father was in the military and we traveled and I had gone to college in "65" and lived through the whole kind of upheaval of the antiwar movement and the questioning of authority of the late 60's and I went to live in Washington D.C. in 1969. When I graduated as a social work major and it became very clear to me after I tried to be a secretary and was totally lost at it, that I was going to have to go to graduate school sometime. I hated school. It never had been something that I did well. I think part of that was because my education had been so spotty. Just whenever I tried to learn anything it was... moves, the conflict. the connections were never made. So I was pretty naive is what I guess I'm trying to say and naive in the sense or sort of worldly principalities. I married a man in 1970 who was in seminary which is pretty typical of lots of women over the years through the generations who probably have had spiritual callings of their own and really play them out through their marriage to men who are in seminary. I had been in love with a man when I was in college who did a lot of civil rights work in terms of registering people in the south to vote and a lot of anti-war, early antiwar movement, and I was really very influenced by him. And he was in the Canterbury Club I was in at Emmanuel Church in Harrisonburg and I had become the president of the Canterbury Club (1) when I was in college and had really struggled with the church over sexuality issues and moral issues. I remember one of the biggest things to make an impression on me in terms of what I remember was that we spent over a year discussing what the changing roles of
women were and that was in 1967-68. I remember I must have been struggling with it even then though I wasn't aware of it and I had never heard the words 'women's liberation' at that point in my life. I mean I don't ever remember ever hearing that topic until the early 70's.
PR: It seems that you were more concerned at that time with the war movement...and civil rights.
PP: And we never thought of it in regard to ourselves as women it was always in regard to men or race. So, I got married for a couple of reasons. One is because obviously I loved Steve Park and I... but more than that I thought that getting married was something that you just were supposed to do and I might just as well do it and get it over with. It was sort of a very practical feeling in that he was...you know, he had come from a similar background. He hadn't traveled but he lived in Northern Va., his family was there and I was really afraid of the dating cycle. I wasn't very competent at it. It terrified me. I'd had a couple of really bad experiences with men that I had met at parties. I think that the combination of all these things and the fact that he was in seminary; it was very attractive to me. So we got married in 70, in September in this wonderful church called St. Stephens in the Incarnation which is well known in Episcopal circles as probably one of the more radical Episcopal Churches and between when I went there in the fall of 69, they were having, they had thrown out all the... it was in a time of liturgical renewal. They were doing everything like having services where nobody would speak and one time I remember we were having a service where the processional was led off by a rake instead of a cross as the symbol of ecology. I mean they were wild services. I mean they were wonderful. And they were wonderful for me. They really expanded my idea of what the church was. I was just so amazed to be in a place where the church wasn't boring and it wasn't rigid and it wasn't somebody else's...
PP: Yeah. And it was so exciting to be at that church. I remember Malcolm Boyd came and he said profanity in the building and of course I loved it in those days. It was very exciting that went there at that time and there was a very strong antiwar movement at that point which ironically, my father had been in the CIA at that point, in Viet Nam, so you can imagine what that was like. So I was beginning to perceive the world in a completely different way than I had before. So that was the sort of aura of the transition for me from college to seminary. I had gotten a job as a secretary and I was terrible at it and I hated it. And then after I got married I worked. The summer before I got married I worked as a director of a camp which I was very good at and I loved doing but unfortunately camps only last three months then you have to come back, like a kid you know, you have to go back to school. And then I got another job as a secretary again and it was clearly some thing I was not going to be able to do the rest of my life.
PR: It seems like, then, you were trying to put together a very traditional and very non-traditional role models at that time, which must have been a tremendous conflict.
PP: There was terrific conflict. Plus we lived in a commune. Right after we first got married, and there were... the people who shared the bathroom. the couple that shared the bathroom with us were both avowed communists and of course they never married, they just lived together for years. All that exposure to that... she was getting her masters degree at George Washington and she was really beginning to be into feminism and that was where I first began to hear about was from her. That was so different. My mother and father would come there and they would walk around with me in tears. And they couldn't believe I was doing all these crazy things which to me didn't seem really that radical at the time.
PR: And yet you were married which was the traditional.
PP: Right. Right. Then I was safe from a lot of that. Sexual
conflict and being alone which I'm sure is equally threatening.
PR: And so how did this lead into you beginning seminary?
PP: Well, I mean the combination of lots of things. One is that I began to... I always knew I wanted to have children, but I never thought of that as a career. It... I don't know why. I guess I knew that I had to do something with my life and I had had social work at Madison. It was clear to me that I was not going to fit into a conventional social work model primarily because I knew I always questioned rules. I fought against authority when I questioned it and I knew that I would never be able to be an eligibility worker or food stamp worker because I would either cheat or lie for people. I just knew I would be in trouble. So I knew that social work probably was not the way to go. And yet I knew I wanted to work with people at some level. Then I had this job as a secretary which I detested and which I was treated like a piece of dirt under people's feet and then Steve was in the seminary at that time. At that time he was in his second year in the seminary. So I would go to all the functions where they treated wives like. you could not believe the way they treated the wife. And I immediately began to see that I was questioning that and pushing up against it and I remember in the winter after we were first married I went to a party at the seminary and I met a woman there who was a student. I was blown away! She said, You know, women can go to the seminary." I said, "You're kidding me" Well, to back up quickly, my senior year at Madison I had asked the priest at Emmanuel Church in Harrisonburg if I could get a job in the church and he said yes, you can be a Well, in those days, that sounded to me like being a nun. And I thought well, forget it, you know I mean this place had been bad enough... I'm sure not going to devote my life to being holed up... I mean the idea of the nun or deaconess (2), it was just inconceivable to me. I had no role model for a deaconess, so the only role model I had was a nun and that
was totally out of my-- I mean I had trouble with social work, I knew I would have trouble as a nun with all those rules. So that had been that, and I had asked about seminary... or at least I had inferred about seminary, and he said no the only thing for women was being a deaconess or a DRE (3) and I knew I wasn't very interested in doing either one of those things. They seemed very passive roles. I'm sure that's the way I perceived them. So when I met this woman, two years later, and she told me she was in seminary, that just blew my socks off. And so that was what planted the seed and I was thinking...I had already gotten the application for Howard's School of Social Work and I felt the more the seed planted, the more I knew it felt exactly right for me. I mean the kind of work I had seen ministers do was perfect for me. I loved it. I loved social events, I loved being with people, I loved family occasions, I loved all those things. The more I found out, the more I felt, my God, this is exactly right. And plus all the history I had... I had a grandmother who was a deeply committed Christian and who had made a terrific impression on me when I lived with her in Ireland. I had all that experience in the Canterbury Club and youth groups and the church had always been a part of my life It just made absolutely perfect sense. It was like somebody had just told me who it was that I was.
PR: Women were not being ordained at that time in the Episcopal Church.
PP: Yes they were. They were being ordained into the deaconate. Which had just happened because this was in 1970. That had sort of begun, that was sort of the initial hint of real radical change coming. And that had happened as an accident in the Episcopal Church. A whole group of people had asked the general... lay women had just been seated as deputies in the general convention (4) in 1970, for the first time in the Episcopal Church. So they had asked since 1947, I was born in 1947, they had asked to be seated on the floor of the House of Deputies. And they were not seated,
for 25 years they were not seated. To me, it's mind boggling. So that change had just happened. And at that convention where there were first a few, maybe ten or fifteen, lay women and an interesting sideline of that is that the... In voting in the Episcopal general convention, half of the House of Deputies was lay and half was clergy. The clergy all voted to let the lay women be seated and the laymen all voted against it because it always meant that fewer of them would come back you see (5). And later on, when the Episcopal women wanted to be ordained priests, it was the clergy that voted against them and the lay people, men, that voted for it. It's interesting in that's for somebody else not for yourself.
PR: Was there any...did you feel any kind of special attitude or treatment toward you as a woman in seminary? Were you treated the same way as the men?
PP: Well, I knew something about the seminary when I got there because I had been a seminary wife for a year. When I went to apply, there was a lot of nervousness about (laughter) we've never had any couples here before. I didn't. none of it seemed to phase me. I was very much protected by my naivete. And I'm deeply grateful for that. And I really am grateful that I was so innocent because I think I could have become much more bitter and angrier much faster had I not have been, and I would have burned myself out. But I really didn't look for the worst so I didn't see it, even though now that I think back on it out of my experience, if the same thing happened to me now, I'd go for blood. The insensitivity and the lack of any perception beyond their nose; these men had none. So at any rate, I met with the seminary dean and a couple of faculty members and I was just very up front. I loved God, I felt the call. You know, I'm sure they didn't know what to do with me, now that I look back.
PR: You didn't know you were a political issue?
PP: No, No, I had no concept of that at all. And was so excited about going to seminary and learning about God and understanding about God intellectually, because I didn't understand anything about theology. I just knew that I loved God. And I was very attracted to that and that I really wanted to know what it meant or why it was and all that, I wanted to hook up the intellectual part. So when I got to seminary I was so excited about being there and I loved it so much, learning about God, I mean to actually spend all day learning about God to me sounded like heaven, It was just wonderful. I mean you could wear jeans, you didn't have to type, which I could never do anyway, and so I was in seventh heaven. And then I began to see that there weren't any other women there; there were a couple of other women there. You know, one of my professors would still insist on coming into the room and saying, "Good morning gentlemen," even though you were sitting right there. I began to get my feelings hurt by that. But I didn't connect my feeling getting hurt to political action, or that there was anything innately wrong with that. So, that was sort of the way... In the fall of 1971, which is when I was in seminary, a group of women called a meeting of all professional women, women in the seminary in the Episcopal Church that met at the seminary. And at that point, Kilma Meyers who was the Bishop of Calif., released a statement saying that women could not be priests because they could not initiate a sexual act. And that was a very. such a crazy statement to make and people were so angered by it. It made it to the House of Bishops (which) met simultaneously with this meeting. I mean I do believe in the spirit of God, and I don't believe that's an accident. I don't understand it, but it just happened that we were meeting at the same time, so we wrote a letter to the House of Bishops objecting to this particular piece of theology. We cited the Episcopal Women's Caucus (which was the first meeting of the Episcopal Women's Caucus) and out of that group of women, we formed a political coalition which was very small and very unpowerful, to begin work toward the Louisville General Convention (6) in 1973, to change the canon to allow women to be priests.
PR: So it was necessary to form a political vehicle in order to achieve any kind of move forward.
PP: Oh, absolutely, I don't think any of us were naive enough... well, I didn't know anything about anything then, but I think those women there were women like Marion Keller and Cynthia Wordell, I don't think Cynthia was there. (7) But some other women who are institution women in the Episcopal Church, who've been around for years and years. You know that they and women in Christian education have been treated like dirt under the church, They have no retirement, they have no benefits, they have nothing. And, their anger fueled our understanding of what it was we had to do in order to get women ordained priests. And the fact that they saw priesthood for women affecting all women in the Episcopal Church and not just the issue for women who have the vocation of priesthood. I didn't understand that then. Today I can understand it a little. Years, that I think now if I look back on it, certainly they did. They knew exactly what they were talking about.
PR: In reading about what happened at that time, there were theologians, males, and male priests, who objected to the political aspects of the whole discussion of women being ordained, and yet, it seemed that there was no other way to accomplish it. I mean, you can't separate the theology from the political as you move forward. You were very active in the ordination process, obviously, from the beginning, almost not realizing what you were going to be, but worked into it?
PP: I think that that was fueled by the idea that I began to see when I got to the seminary that women were not equal to men at all. And that the whole history of Christianity was like women were not there. I mean I think I was so shocked at the absence of women, not just the deliberate hurting of women in any way, but, the absence of the whole consciousness of there being another half of humanity. I think that, day by day, I became profoundly
moved by that, and angry about it, and confused about how it could have gone on all those years. That fueled my sense of the political urgency of the issue. Plus the fact that my vocation was growing and I was beginning to feel it. This was what God really wanted me to do, I didn't understand why, but, God can't you find someone else we know? You know, someone older, wiser, dadada... I mean all these things merged and they fitted in almost like a perfect puzzle.
PR: Did you have a difficult time as you studied feeling that theology, the experience of theology, was dealing with, was predominantly male but didn't take into consideration certain aspects of female experience?
PP: Yeah, I think chiefly after the first year of seminary. The first year of seminary is pretty much where you study the Old and New Testaments which to me was wonderful because I wanted to understand. But then when you get into your second year, you're doing church history, dramatic theology, ethics, pastoral theology. And when it began to be applied, I could see that what I had learned in Old and New Testament was just taking the patriarchy and applying it to the whole world view, and then applying it to the ethical system, and then applying it to everything without any concept of the historical perspective of patriarchy being one thing for 3000 years ago and a whole other ball game for the 20th century. No sense in which there was... there wasn't any sense in which there was male consciousness that this was a male act. It was not a male act, this is the way it was. I don't think I could have articulated it then. What I do know is that after I got out of seminary, I began to realize that I didn't learn a lot. I didn't absorb a lot of what I heard. It just went like water off a duck's back, I just didn't pay any attention to it. I think that I learned what I had to learn to get through and after a certain while, I began to question things. I wasn't able to articulate them because I had just enough experience to question. I knew in my gut they were wrong, but intellectually
I couldn't explain why it was I didn't accept things.
PR: And your experience was not to question?
PP: Right, of course, I mean who was I, the little wimpy kid, at 24 or 25 years old, to question the authority of thousands of years of historical tradition? I mean, there was no way. But it was very confusing to me, and particularly when I was reading books like Beyond God the Father. (8) If you can imagine reading that book while simultaneously being in one of the most patriarchal seminaries in the world. Also in the southern tradition which is another whole layer of cultural interpretation and, then coming from my background which was very traditional. I think I did pretty well. Actually, I'm pretty proud of myself. When I think about ... (laughter) why I didn't completely freak out and go into a lesbian commune...(laughter)
PR: I think it's interesting that your traditional role model somehow might have been responsible for your hanging in there. I want to talk to you about your grandmother. I've heard you talk about your grandmother. As I said to you, Florence Howe said that she equates her Jewish background with her grandfather Rabbi and God and it was really hard to separate those. Talk a little about your grandmother and the impact that she had on you; perhaps in giving you a female role model, being close to God, as opposed to Florence Howe's grandfather, or male image of God.
PP: Well, my mother was born in Ireland. She met my father during WW II and they were married. She spent most of her life, married to my father. She became an American citizen. They traveled, so she didn't live much of her life in America. She spent most of the last... as an American citizen within an American community. When we were small, my father was overseas and we went home a couple of times with my mother and we lived with my grandparents, and my grandmother whose name was Laura, which is my daughter's
name, yeah. They lived in this big house over a pub. They used to own a grocery store too, but as the children grew up, they didn't need it any more, so they just ran the pub. My grand-mother's passion was the church, I mean that was where she was. She had enormous energy and she had very strong convictions about things, like you must go for a four mile walk a day and it doesn't matter what the weather is like. Then on that walk, you do lots of talking which is exactly what children need, lots of time. We had conversations about anything and everything. I don't ever remember being afraid to ask her anything. I can remember being afraid to tell her things (laughter). It was very special being able to sleep with her because she had this huge bed and it was very warm and in Ireland, it was very cold. She would say her prayers and she was very frustrating because they took a long time and it was very cold and she would say her prayers for everyone. And then she would get into bed. She was so full of life and obviously her sense of life and of passion came from her belief in God. There was never in doubt in my mind where the source of that was, I think that at the age of ten, that made a tremendous impression on me. She had a passionate feeling for other people. Ireland has a terrible problem with tinkers which is the same thing as gypsies or street people. She was always giving stuff to the tinkers and being taken over by them and giving them things they probably had better than she did. But that never seemed to bother her much. She had her own sense of religion. I remember going to the church but thinking that her religion was much more interesting and fun than the one that I got in church; although I'm sure she never saw the distinction. The other thing I should say is that, as I got older, I see now that my mother is much more like my grandmother than I ever thought she was when I was a child. Now that my mother and I are very good friends and my mother is only 23 years older than I am, my mother was so gutsy. To marry my father, leave her country, and to travel all over the world with no roots and no support system, was a really courageous act. She has a thing that's much more questioning than my grandmother's.
She's been a sort of doubting Thomas part and I'm sure that that has balanced the impact on me in ways that were not easy to claim, particularly ten years ago, as they are now. I've really come to respect that, a lot about her. And that she is very complicit between, one: things the way they used to be when she was a child in Ireland; and realizing that young people, just... it doesn't mean anything to them. She has been a person who has always been self-taught. She reads more than anybody I know. She is very up on TA or whatever it is that's going on and is very willing to look at her own life in regard to that. So, I must say, in the past when people have asked me about grandmother, I've always waxed and waned on her because she has been dead since I was sixteen and that was devastating to me. It's always easy to see your grandmother in a different light than you see your mother because your mother is the one who stuffed your nose in it and disciplined you.
PR: And had the responsibility...
PP: Right, and fought. It's who you fought with and who you had to separate from in terms of your hurt or your being alive. I must say that I have to answer that question with her in there because I really think that, in a lot of ways that I'm not even aware of, she's probably been as much if not more of an impact; and has really felt outrage when despicable things happen at church, like the rector doesn't view some people in a loving manner or people seem petty and anything but Godlike. It just deranges her and I think I've gotten a lot of that from her. I think my grandmother probably just overlooked all that by the time I knew her. You know, she probably knew that people were going to be that way. My mother still had much more idealistic streak within her, which I'm sure I still have and I know she has.
PR: Does the combination of that joy from your grandmother, but then the real questioning of your mother...
PP: Both very strong role models
PR: Both women...
PP: Yeah. I don't remember thinking that the institutional church was anything other than the outside of that, and I think that I must be totally protected by those images. Clear without memorable... I mean, I've been hurt by the church, devastated by it, but I've never given it total authority over my spirituality and I think that's an important issue.
PR: Let's talk a little bit about... go back to some of the political issues. Can you talk a little bit about how you felt when the General Convention finally decided that women could be ordained? Were you aware that this was just the beginning process or were you so relieved that it was finally over that you didn't realize what a struggle there was beyond that?
PP: Well, first thing I need to tell you is that when I graduated from seminary, in '73, it was the year after that, '74, it was the spring after the Convention had defeated the ordination of women in Louisville. That was devastating to me. Feb. 2, 1974, like four months after the Convention, I gave birth to my daughter, Laura. Which, as you know, is a rather absorbing task. Plus, it was my senior year in seminary. I was president of my class, I was really nervous. Why was I arrogant enough to think that I could do all those things? So Laura was born and I finished my seminary. I had started doing my field work at this wonderful parish across the street from the seminary called Emmanuel of the Hill, and they were incredibly supportive of the ordination of women. I mean, they put up with more crap from me. I mean, I was preaching sermons on the injustice of who makes it there and they would take it, which was amazing in those days if you think about it. A lot of those people, I'm sure, hated my guts, but I never knew that. I was so selfish and into myself. So then in '74, they hired me half time as an assistant there and I immed-
iately got back involved into the whole ordination of women struggle, political struggle, and went to convention in Dayton. I became part of the political group and then I became part of the steering committee of that group. Well, lo and behold, in Chicago in 1975, maybe it was December of 74 January of 75, we set up the National Coalition for the, Ordination of Women to the Priesthood, I became the co-convener or the co-whatever, and this man named George Reagus who's the rector of All Saints in Pasadena was the co-convener with me. I had no idea what I was doing, I just went into it like, you know, Daniel in the lions den. Except I didn't even see the lions. At any rate, we started this organization and we just laid out the Episcopal Church politically and we decided that we would not deal with anything other than the canonical change. We picked one specific thing that we were going to go after and we were not going to be diverted by anything. Now, the other thing that happened in the middle of all that in the summer of 74, the women in Philadelphia were ordained. I went to that ordination and I read the gospel. (9) I really believe that had I been ordained a deacon long enough, I'd only been a deacon for two months, two and a half months, when the ordination took place, I probably would have been ordained. I mean, I was at that point.
PR: That sure?
PP: Yeah... that it was right and that we really have to stop asking men for permission to be people, that the church really had to come to grips with that on a deeper level. They've just got to discuss it... women are not just women, we're people. That service was so powerful. I mean to hear a man with a collar get up in front of thousands of people and say a woman could no more be priest than...
PR: Just reading about that service, I can get emotionally involved in it. It's almost like something out of another historical period, though, when you read the description of what was going
on and hear, "the clergy in black comes to the forefront..." Where did they go?
PP: There's still people who believe that. I mean, that man was not unrepresentative of clearly a whole group of people who sincerely believed that. In those days, I just thought those people were evil, horrible, icky people. Now I have a little more respect for their humanity. I don't like it. But certainly I think they have the right to have those feelings.
PR: What was the theological argument against women at that time?
PP: Well, it's the whole concept of priesthood that is partly traditional, partly interpretive, partly biblical, although that's really stretching it. The Catholic idea of priesthood is that it has been handed down from generation to generation through apostolic succession, coming from the disciples on down. Now that's really difficult to prove, but at any rate, it really doesn't matter to me, but it does to a lot of people matter. If that's provable and it's part of the, ah, static expression... But that concept of the priesthood is that that spirit is transferred in the laying on of hands and the spirit of ordination. And that a Bishop has to be there and that Bishops are ordained by God and chosen by God. It doesn't, in reality, in my opinion does not take much into consideration, the humanity of people, not to mention the humanity of man, in terms of some of the sickest and worst people in the World and the Bishops and the clergy... That originally the whole idea was that priesthood ordination was an act of God. If you did something that was perverted or evil then the sacrament was not affected because it had nothing to do with humanity, it was God that was present.
PR: Were we just symbolically there...
PP: But then the whole symbolism grew out of the image of Jesus
as male and Jesus as human. The maleness of Jesus has become worshipped in the sense that clergymen representing Jesus which I have real difficulty with. But there is that whole concept that at the altar, Jesus, I think there's a Latin word for it you might want to look it up. (10) I don't remember it. It's Christus something dadada. Whereas at the altar the priest becomes the symbol of Christ. I don't believe that and most protestant theology has never accepted that. You can get into some pretty heavy kinds of negative and positive symbols both, but it certainly overemphasizes the maleness of Christ. So that was one of the systemic theological problems. The other was the whole history that there have never been women priests, and God started this, and how come and there were no women disciples. That was a whole other issue. What were some of the other ones? There was a place for women, women's role was to be nurturer and supporter of man. That's certainly biblically supported. You know basically those were the most obvious arguments that were embellished and worked on a much broader perspective.
PR: When we talk about women traditionally not being ordained, do you feel that to be removing, almost in a way, women from God by an intercessor, even though we are no longer... the Episcopal says that we don't need to have a priest to be the intercessor when they broke with the Catholic church... But is that not still the role modeling for women in certain respects? That there must be something missing or we wouldn't need just male priests or women could be priests? Doesn't it in someway kind of fault our experience?
PP: I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.
PR: When we talk about having.,. I think about it in the triangle, We've got God, we've got the priest, and we've got women over here. And somehow, it seems like, that men, from the role modeling we get, don't need the priest in the middle.
PP: Oh, I see what you mean, because he is already male, whereas
women do. I hadn't quite ever thought of it that way. But, I certainly think that's true. All you have to do is look at any parish that has a male priest in it. Ninety percent of the people that come to him for counseling, ninety percent of the people that follow him around, are women. Certainly that says something to you about their needs, the priest's needs, the church, the way it's set up. Absolutely.
PR: Sexuality. There's a tension between the priest and the parishioners...
PP: One of the ways it's been rationalized to me, that we've arrived at where we are is that in the early church, Fathers were terrified of the heresies. Most particularly, the Gnostic Heresies. (11) And gnosticism, if anything, is a sort of early feminism in a sense that it was egalitarian. It took women as persons and that the fear was that if they let any of the Gnostics, or any of the heresies out, that we would lose the concept of Christ being both male... I mean human and God. Well, I think that they have their own gnosticism in that Christ became both human and male. I mean Christ was male and Christ was God, not Christ was human. That's what we have now, not Christ was human and Christ was God. The perversion was based on the Paulinian theology not on the Gospel. Most of the theology we have now is much more Paulinian than it is Jesus-oriented, and that Paul was so brilliant, he appeals to the masculine, a rational. the intellectualization of theology. And then they go into this grovel about this and that and, you know, tying his shoes, dadada, well I don't believe that. I think that's just fake, I think they really did a lot of what we believe in Christianity is not Christianity but Paulianity. That's not to say I don't believe that Paul had some very profound insights to make, but I do think that he over-intellectualized theology and the church fathers were bound and determined that the Christianity they knew was going to go down in the ages the way they perceived it. That happened through four councils. And who's to say whether that was good or bad. At this point, it kind of... it's a ridiculous argument. I do think they seduced themselves
into thinking that, and for their time who could blame them, in the sense that women were not considered human beings. They clearly were part of the property of men.
PR: It's a little more difficult in 1976 to allow people to follow that train of thought.
PP: Absolutely. And I think that men have been so unconscious of the power of their own sexuality just by the fact that they are male that they never had to really think about it. It's a very uncomfortable place if you have never had to think about that; to all the sudden view everything in a conscious manner coming out of your own sexuality. And I think most men, well of course they don't want to have to do it, It may mean they have to change their behavior maybe, that they have to give up power or comfort and none of us want to do that.
PR: The power is an issue all the way through.
PP: Absolutely. I mean religious power... I don't think there's anything equal to it.
PR: Tell me a little bit about your ordination. We've never talked about this and I don't know anything about it. I would like to know something about your ordination
PP: Well, I was ordained on January 2, 1977. It was the day after that it was legal, it was legal on the first, I remember Bishop Hall and I, he was my Bishop in Virginia, talking about it and he said, "I want you to be the first." And I said, "I don't want to be first." I said that if I'm the first woman ordained, the TV will be there, all the people who are opposed to it will come and harass us, and they'll stand up, because there's a point in the ordination service where anyone who believes that this should not; step forward. I knew that the camp people would come into the first ordination and make a big
deal out of that and that just terrified me. I hated it, it just made my skin crawl and I didn't want to have to deal with that. So I clearly picked the second and I was sure that someone else would be ordained first. Indeed, that's what happened. I sometimes regret that because it makes you look and sound so important, and yet, in other ways, I really think that it was wonderful that I stuck to my ideas right down to the wire because it was wonderful they didn't come. We had it in the fieldhouse at the Episcopal High School. (12) The other funny thing was that I picked the second because the first was the Feast of the Circumcision...
PR: I know, I've heard you say that.
PP: And I was damned (laughter) if I was going to be ordained on the Feast of the Circumcision. Men were very embarrassed by that, what a ridiculous thing it was. It is ridiculous, but at the time, all those things came together for me, and I do think it was right. So it was a Sunday afternoon or evening at 4:00 in the afternoon. We had it in the fieldhouse because we invited people to bring food and wine and bells. We sent out hundreds and hundreds of invitations and there were a thousand people there. It was incredible. The National Coalition for the Ordination of Women, which I had done, we had our last meeting at my ordination, so everybody flew in for it which was wonderful. We had everybody in the world I loved there, and that's rare.
PR: What an incredible support system.
PP: It was really, and it was very emotional. I had everybody do one liners, I had to fit in a thousand people. My friend Marion Kelleran who was at the time head of the [?] preached. I was determined to have a woman preacher and I took a lot of flack from the men who had supported me along the way for doing that. Although they knew I was very honest with it,
but they were disappointed. I know Phil Doles (13) was disappointed that I didn't ask him to preach. But I'm still glad I did that. I thought it was wonderful to have that, and she at the end of her sermon had. they give a charge at the end of the ordination service. I don't know if you know that, if you've ever been to one or not, but the preacher usually gives a charge to the priest. The priest stands up and she made everybody stand up with me and say, "fear not, fear not," three times. She preached on... it was Epiphany because it was right after Christmas and she preached on the angels coming to the shepherds saying "fear not". I mean of all the things I need to hear then... That has over the years... I have thought of that you know, fear not, when I have been trembling or furious or angry or not wanted to do something because I was (?) at the church, that sound comes back to me so it's very powerful. There were TV cameras there and I was on television. We had this huge party, I don't remember how. I was just in such ecstasy. My family came, my father, my brother, came, they had never come to anything in our family. Steve and Bill Doles presented me, and my best friend was one of the lay women workers, and there was a woman there who was a Presbyterian minister and a Catholic woman nun who read the prayers for the people, and another friend of mine who had been supportive in the lay movement. You know it was just filled with so many people and there are people who still today come up to me and tell me that they were at my ordination, and I had no idea. I really have very little idea of who was there.
PR: What a profound ceremony...
PP: It was.
PR: You were very young; I mean really...
PP: I was 29.
PR: And your experience was really very young.
PP: Yeah. In that there was, you know as we talk, there is so much that comes out. Emmanuel on the Hill had a tradition of planning liturgy as a community. We planned the 9:00 services as a group and we planned... this service was not planned by me, I mean I was part of it; clearly I was part of it. But I felt that what the ordination of women was about was not about Pat, it was about women and people and that that ordination was their ordination as much as it was mine. I really profoundly felt that and that I was just sort of the symbolic person. I loved being that. That's what I wanted to do all along, so I just sort of. That's a very free feeling if you can get out of feeling like it's all up to you, it's the most ridiculous thing about fear. I'm just the symbolic person and I think I have always known intuitively what it means to be a symbolic person. I have over the years become more comfortable with that. It's a very difficult thing, I think particularly for women, to be comfortable with being symbolic people because we have been taught not to be that way, to always be the background or the one who's... that's the nurturer, not the one, you know, the one supporting, not the one that is it. Quote, unquote.
PR: Particularly in a time when we are grappling with looking for new symbols.
PP: Right, right. I think that my feeling is that women would transform the symbol of the priesthood. As I get older, I question it more, but I still believe that that's true and that we need male and female symbols. I worry sometimes that if women clergy continue to imitate male styles as much as they seem to be doing, we won't ever, ever change anything. But I have no control over that, I mean I hate to admit it, but even I can't make all women priests be feminine.
PR: Let's move on to your assistantship job that followed your ordination. Where was that and what capacity were you serving in? Were you preaching, what kinds of things were you doing in that parish?
PP: I was doing everything. I mean I preached, Bill Doles was a fantastic preacher, he's an eloquent preacher and brilliant and I never felt I could preach well. That' s always been a real hard issue for me in life, in my ministry. I think it's partly because I was where I was. We were preaching in the seminary so you were preaching to your professors half the time, which is intimidating. So, I preached maybe once a month probably. I did a lot of pastoral work and I had a baby which was hard. Bill Doles was a workaholic and he never went home. I was bound to the baby versus family versus the church. Then I was getting ordained or involved in the ordination movement. So after seminary, after I was ordained, I stayed at Emmanuel until that summer. Then I came to Richmond in 77, and took a job as assistant to the rector at St. Paul's Church and that's when I started working full time. Laura was then three and I moved into a house there. I moved to Richmond because when I was in seminary, Steve had agreed to stay in the northern Virginia area because of me and because of all that was going on. Then he got this job with the chaplain at MCV and wanted to do this training. So I agreed that I would move to Richmond although I swore I'd never move to Richmond because I knew I'd never get a job there, So I talked Craig Bidile into hiring me and he and I started the first day that he was there in 1977, as assistant. By the second month, I was already being harassed about the fact I wore too big earrings, I said dirty words on occasion, I didn't do this and I didn't do that right and it was continued. I mean it was a very painful time for three years. Not to mention the fact that I was aware that, I was beginning to deal with the fact that I was in a marriage I was not comfortable in and that I was dealing with a lot of guilt about really having a lover in a sense. That I had been so committed to the ordination of women stuff that nothing, including my baby, came before that. I mean I just was myopic. I was absolutely focused, unnegotiable. There was one thing in my life and that was to get that passed.
PR: Had the priesthood at all changed at that time? Do you feel like you were being asked to come in as a woman and be the tradit-
ional male priest?
PP: Oh, absolutely. The more I was like a male, the more they liked me. The more I was like me, or a woman, the more negative stuff I got. So, I was constantly compromising my integrity which made me hate myself and then I was thinking, what's the matter, dadadada. It was very confusing, very confusing. I mean, one of the things I feel so passionate about in the priesthood is that a lot of what you should do are things that people never see. It's like being a mother, a lot of what you do, no one ever sees. But that's what it's about, I mean that's what it's intrinsically about to me. That in the church like St. Paul's where everything is show, show, show, it's completely unbalanced, totally unbalanced. So whenever I spent my time counseling people nobody cared about or listened to a drunk, or talked to a child or made some secret phone calls to make sure something happened to help people, nobody ever prized that. So it was always time that was, I viewed, in conflict, that I valued but nobody else valued.
PR: How did the experience finally culminate then? You obviously were torn, you weren't allowed to be the nurturer.
PP: It wasn't like being the priest I felt I was called to be. Everytime I did anything that was good for me, it was always negative, or perceived as negative by the parish. First of all, I was in therapy to work on the marriage. I think the first year was OK, it was hard on Craig. He was miserable a lot of the time. The other part was that I think I was bonded with him in terms of him being the rector so I sort of took the part of his wife. You know, I did all those things at the church that she did at home. I remembered things that he forgot and I took the traditional role with regards to that.
PR: So you became the minister's wife?
PP: Right, in fact, except I just happened to be ordained and I could celebrate. I was so terrified of being vulnerable there, which I was right on the target about being terrified about. I felt the only way I could survive was to make him love me and be dependent on me enough so he couldn't get rid of me. I don't think I thought that consciously but I know that emotionally I certainly acted that out.
PR: Make yourself indispensable...
PP: Absolutely , so he just couldn't exist without me. So I remember as I began to feel more self-assured there and less needing of his stroking and I was feeding a very specific group of people who did an enormous amount of work in that church , who I needed and my ministry was their sustenance. I have always felt that a lot of what a priest does in the parish is nurture a small group of people who then in turn nurture another group. It's like a puddle, you know you match your ministry.., no way you can minister to 2000 people. It's insane. .. there's no way you can do that and be real. I mean people know that. I remember putting pressure on Craig about the fact that there was such salary discrepancies on the staff. Like the men, the two black men, who worked there, in this barren racist church, you know they got nothing. They were there for years and years. So we got on salaries and the first inkling I had that things were not right was when I came back from the 1979 convention in Denver and my salary...my job was being questioned. I didn't do newcomers right and I didn't do the youth group right, I didn't do anything right. I preached terrible; so. First thing Craig started in the fall that he'd always make me do the new sermons a week in advance, and that was humiliating, just totally humiliating. Then when I gave them, I was so nervous I had diarrhea and threw up, I couldn't think about it. I just couldn't even think about preaching, it just made me sick physically ill. I knew that my marriage was in a worse and worse place, I felt wrong everywhere in my life.
Then in January, after Christmas, I went to the vestry where they voted on the budget for the next year and clearly my salary had only been increased a hundred dollars or something ridiculous like that, and this is going into my third year. In my third year. The other assistant, who was a young man about my age, had gotten a fifteen hundred, about two thousand increase you know, after six months.
PR: You had become then, in some ways, political; so that it would have been difficult for them to ask you to leave. Did you have the feeling that they were trying to make your life miserable enough so you would resign on your own?
PP: Oh, yeah. They were doing it through Craig. Nobody was doing it to me directly. I was so confused, I mean here is this man who is supposed to love me and why was he doing this to me?
PR: What was his... did you feel that there was simply not room for two different kinds of ministry at one church?
PP: No, I had the idea that there were people there who really did not want me around. They were making it very difficult on Craig. I think it had a lot to do with class, and that I did not cater to the upper class. I did not ass-kiss well. I was very uncomfortable around very, very wealthy people. I did not affirm their value system, I talked about feelings, I was earthy. I was lots and lots of things that really chafed people there and they didn't like it. Not to mention the fact that on top of all that, I was a woman, which was very, very embarrassing. I think that part of it was being in the southern culture, I think of the southern culture as incredibly matriarchal and that the way it gets power is by... behind the scenes with the.., you completely control everything but the male looks like the ah... and to put a woman priest who's up front immediately challenges that way of being and that's a statement you don't have to do it that way. I mean you can be up front about it. I think that unconsciously
that's very threatening to a matriarchal society that has acted that way for so many years and survived. So there was always that kind of love-hate relationship. On the one hand, they loved me, I was a rebel, I was an up-front woman, I was earthy, I was funny but on the other hand, I was an embarrassment. I was not controllable, and I didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. So I think they were all those things. I also think that Craig's situation there was that he was seen as sort of radical and not doing... he wasn't controllable either, so that one way to get at him was to get rid of me. I mean I think that was...
PR: It was a clear message to him also.
PP: Right. I think he began to feel that if he could get rid of me, then everything would be fine. He could reestablish him self as sort of a semi-conservative and his problems would be over.
PR: Perhaps you were the extra liability that made it impossible to deal with.
PR: Right, exactly. I think that's the way he perceived it at the time, And there were two or three various kinds of things I think; very threatened manhood, powerful in their own right, and they really hated me. I know they did, And they really put the screws to me, I mean they were ultimately what put the screws on Craig. We had a meeting in the middle of June of all the parish committees that we called a planning tree where you decide what... you evaluated what you had done the first six months and you planned for the rest of the year. My ministry came out smelling like a rose. I mean I had the teacher of EYC down and it looked wonderful,and as a matter of fact it turned out to be fantastic, even though I wasn't there which says something. My newcomers things... every thing I had been criticized on. my sermons were good, they were nothing... I mean they weren't fantastic, but they were good. They should have been, I spent days on them. There was very little
for them to go after me professionally on then, which was a great relief to me now, in retrospect. I remember I went away to the beach and I came back the following Monday morning which was like the 30th of June 1980. Craig came in and said, "Well, you know there's something wrong, your chemistry is wrong." I knew after that it was. there wasn't anything else I could do, It was clear that they had decided that they were going to get rid of me.
PR: Did that make you question your being in the priesthood, your ability to function?
PP: Oh, absolutely. I questioned everything. I mean, I thought I was incompetent. I really... even though I said to you they couldn't question me professionally, they continued to do it. I mean when people wanted to rationalize why I left or why they put pressure on me to leave, to resign, it was always on my competency level. And that just, you know, gets you in the gut.
PR: What is more painful, though, having them say still it was professional but knowing in your heart it was personal?
PP: I don't think I could tell you. I think that they were both so equally painful that... and they were both such ultimate kinds of rejections, You know, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't sort of thing. Not to mention the fact that on May 1st of that year, I'd separated from Steve. I'm sure that gave them impetus to do that. It was sort of under the guise of, not only is she all of those things, but she's separated from her husband. Although as I look back on it, I spent a week and a half visiting every member of the vestry and talking about it, which took an enormous amount of guts, I mean, I can't believe I did that, I told them straight out I had no lover, which was true,., that I had therapy all those years and I told them things they had no business of knowing. The only thing I could say is that I took care of my own
integrity which, to this day, I am deeply grateful for. The only thing I learned that summer when I was at Shrinemont, and I had some time to think, and we were dealing with, kind of, life choices and where you change and passages and all that and I... One of the things that came to me was that one night after that vestry meeting and I was livid; livid when I found out about my salary. I went back to the junior and senior wardens, who were two men, who really were out to get me and they were like dealing with two pieces of ice. I mean I never remember a cooler time in my life. Three men sat at one side of the room and I sat at the other and they were about as warm and friendly as a piece of ice. Awful to me. I mean, I can't imagine I even did it, I mean just the idea of it makes me wet my pants; thinking about it again. But I remember about two weeks after that, I was struggling about what to do, I remember one night I couldn't sleep. I can sleep and I can eat no matter what, and that's not terribly good in terms of eating, but generally I am able to get through things because, I don't know, just my body, I guess. But I could always go to sleep and I could always eat. I woke up at 2:00 in the morning and I couldn't go back to sleep. For me, it's very rare that that happens. I woke up and I paced and I paced and I thought in the middle of that night I should resign. I didn't, because everybody told me not to do that, you know, get another job, do this, do that. Do what he says he wants you to do, it'll blow over, all that. I still wish now that at that point I had just let them have it, Said, you know, I'm not going to tolerate this any more and just leaving, because... I knew that night that it was a question on my integrity versus what they were going to continue to manipulate me into trying to be or do which I was never going to be able to do, clearly. But I... my parents were just terrified of me not having a job and I was terrified of being separated from Steve without a job, knowing full well at that point that I was going to do that. So that those were all the reasons that I ... Well you know it's interesting when you have time and reflect a couple of years later. If you'd
listened to your gut, at those points, often... Six months was no big deal, but I think it probably would have put the onus back on them and would have given them less excuse to have kept it on me.
PR: And been probably a more honest reflection of what was really going on. You left and then, is what when you began working with the rape/crisis center.
PP: No, no, how I wish. I left July 1st and they paid me through the end of October, so the 1st of November, I had no money. I was living on what it was I was making. So I didn't have a job and I didn't have a job. I had some awful experiences looking for a job. I was still grieving, I was in so much pain, I mean I don't remember a whole lot of that time, I mean, I remember, but it sort of all blends together, In November, December were like the two longest months of my life, I borrowed money from Bishop Hall to live on. I was determined to stay in my apartment in Richmond, and Laura was in first grade. It was real hard for her. She was ripped from not being with her daddy, but living in a church with two thousand people, to just being with me. A part of her loved that because she had me in a way she never had before, That was probably the best part of all that time was that she and I had an enormous amount of time together which we had never had. That really helped me get with the fact that I really never could go back to living like that again, which was really good.
PR: You learned about yourself?
PP: Yeah, I really did, It was a wonderful forced time to be alone which was probably the healthiest thing in the world. I needed... just the worry about not having money and surviving and it was just so overwhelming.
PR: It seems like you have been through incredible highs and lows in a period of not too... you know you were talking about your ordination and the joy and the support and the power behind that, to go through this experience...
PP: Yeah. It was horrible. So at any rate, in January, I got this
job with some friends working on the sort of, action guide for the Episcopal Church and that paid me a little bit of money, but not very much, I worked on that off and on for the next six months and then I got this job a year later, on July 1st just a year later to the day. So I left St. Paul's and I had terrific debts and I got the job...
(end of tape 1)
... And there was a job opening in Richmond at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. I really wanted to be the Vicar at that church. I had good friends there. So I went and I talked to people and I was interviewed and it went on and on. The opening had come long before I left St. Paul's so this was like a year and a couple of months later. They still hadn't called anybody. The church is maybe a half to two-thirds black and white. This wonderful place in Richmond where lots and lots of different kinds of people go. One of the people on the call committee had been my secretary at Saint Paul's Church. She had given me a big hug and said if there was anything she could do to help me when I left and all that... So, at any rate, time went on and I was hanging on each day in Richmond because I thought if I got that job I was, you know, it would save me. So it was right before Easter in the spring of that year, and they voted three times. They finally voted a tie vote and this woman, Janie Murray, voted against me. So I lost it, and they called in this man who nobody liked. They had to have a man, Turned out he was a white man who'd been fired from another job, or let go. I'm not quite sure.., that' s not really true, but he hadn't had a starlit career. Well, that was like adding insult upon injury. I mean I couldn't believe it. I waited months for this job to happen...
PR: Did you confront this woman?
PP: Oh, yeah. I did, I called her up that night and I wasn't very nice. It's probably one of the few times in my life I've ever confronted anybody in quite that way. I called her a two-faced bitch on the telephone and I've never done that, I've always said I'm going to do it... But I actually did it to her.
And she deserved it. I mean she played games with me and she was terrified of her own sexuality. She should have never... she never even went to the church, I mean the whole thing was so filled with craziness. It was very bizarre. As I look back at it, I'm thinking, that guy saved my life. I mean I think I would have had to work 5000 hours a week to make that church go. It was in a lot of ways I had sort of fixed myself that this was going to save me, that I was going to go to this church and everything would be just hunky-dory. Then I had two other interviews where I was the second person that they were going to call. That was devastating. Plus I had oodles and oodles and oodles of other rejection letters. I think I had forty-three or forty-four. I don't know somewhere in there. So when I got this job interview at the Y for this program, I went down and two days later she called and offered me this job. I just could not believe it, it was like the relief I felt... I must have cried for two days. Just the relief of being wanted by somebody and to be able to think I could do work again. I mean I had started having these fantasies about getting up in the morning and having a place to go, people that wanted to see me. Just, you know, an incredibly awful experience. One of the worst ones, I went to this church in Kentucky. It was in Murray, Ky. which is in the far western edge of Kentucky. out in the middle of nowhere. So when the plane landed, I landed in a cornfield, and they pulled the plane up with a little tractor mower and then they fly you out to Knoxville. I mean it's way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. They just thought I was wonderful. You know before, I had people say I wasn't a good enough preacher. Well If you'd been through what I'd been through, at St. Paul's, you wouldn't be much of a preacher either. Now I see that. At the time I was defensive about it. I preached a great sermon there. I did a Sunday service and they thought I was wonderful. The place was packed. It was an old mission church. The Bishop thought it was wonderful that I'd been there. They called me back and told me I wasn't spiritual enough. I think of all the things that were said to me, that hurt me the most.
Well I think it was they were afraid. They had to think of a reason to say why they didn't want me. So that happened and then three weeks later, I got this job at the Y. So I worked. The first six months I was at the Y I worked ten hours a day. I so much need to work and to be busy and to feel fruitful and useful.
PR: To be successful?
PP: Yeah, and it was a very difficult job, in a lot of ways. Now that I understand it, it's not nearly as difficult. To begin with, it was.
PR: In looking back, do you think that it was good for you to get away from the Episcopal Church?
PP: Oh, I know it was, I worked with women and to see violence and what it does to women; not just spiritual violence, but physical violence; and the whole impression of the male culture in terms of feeling an ownership of women. It's been wonderful for me to be out of the church and see to look at it from... and to see people who think the church is the biggest anachronism in a modern society. That was wonderful for me because I had become so identified with it myself and so wanting it to be other than it was, that I couldn't see anything else. So my having to live outside of it and to be judged by different standards and all that, it's been very good for me, I think it's the best thing that's ever happened to in the sense that I was 24 when I went to seminary.
PR: Has it reaffirmed your own confidence in your ability to minister even though you are outside of the church?
PP: Oh, yes. In fact, it's let me see myself, I think, a lot more reality oriented and make judgments that I've been able to make to you today that I've only been able to do within the last year maybe not even that long, in terms of where I claim I really
screwed up, or and where I can see it was my age and the time that I lived in, and lots of things I had no control over and didn't see. And then other places where clearly I mean I was discriminated against and people were afraid of me and the reasons they were, I think to be able to do that is a great relief because you can then work on that which you need to change within yourself and let what are other people's problems.
PR: You have talked about, before, being a symbol at your ordination. It seems to me, in one way, what you're saying is that by taking this other job, you aren't as much a symbol and you're allowed to somehow work on your own...
PP: Right, my own stuff. People are not looking at me all the time and saying.. ah.. I'm not having to be all things for all women...Which after a while, everything I did, if I did some thing well, then women priest were good. If I did something bad, then women priests were bad. Not Pat was bad, or Pat screwed up, but women priests, you know... which is a terrible burden, It means you can never express your own individuality. And as you know, if there's anything I am...
PR: it's an individual?
PP: It's a character that happens to be a priest. I'm not good at being nothing, at being a bland thing. I've never been like that and I never will.
PR: You are..you, your being is the priest. There's nothing separate there.
PP: But I think that there was so much conflict in me about that that I've been able to let go of; which is great.
PR: What made you accept the job from Emmanuel? (14) Or make you
receptive to come to Emmanuel this summer, given this history?
PP: Well, I think part of it is just what we were saying, that I realized that I had worked through a lot of that stuff I had been out of the parish setting for a year and a half, I knew that I had left with such terrible grief and guilt and anxiety about competency and all those things. I really wanted to see if indeed that really was true and there really was something about me that was not meant to be a parish priest because I had always been one of a few women priests who had always said that my commitment was to parish ministry. That was nuts, I mean, why would you want to go and get beat up in a parish? I mean, you can get beat up better at a counseling center, or someplace where you are less.., where it's less of a stigma for a woman to be. [ ] It's easier to get a job as a woman counselor, or a chaplain, or things like that. So, I really had that curiosity to see if I could function in a parish, to see if I could preach 16 weeks in a row which I hadn't done since I was out of seminary, which is insane. All these kinds of things... I had a real desire to try that out again. Also I have always, like when you fall off a horse, you know the old story, you have to get back on. I mean I knew I would have to face my fears about rejection and I knew that it was a safe environment to do it... You only have to be there for four months. They're not going to fire you in four months, You can do a lot of things in four months because you know you aren't going to be there and it's a very free sort of thing in a lot of ways. Clearly on both sides of us. I mean on the Emmanuel side and on my side.
PR: But you came personally very vulnerable...
PP: Yeah, but I think that had always been my commitment to that style of ministry. I don't think that was anything I did special for Emmanuel.
PR: You did not come across as being vulnerable. I think I would have to say the thing you came across with most was being joyful, so that it's obvious that you had worked out a lot this because your vulnerability was not right up front. As a matter of fact, there was a great amount of strength that I felt personally.
PP: I think it is very difficult to know how you are observed by other people because we live in these little "body-houses" that tend to keep our perceptions pretty much out of our own experience.
PR: What do you think made Emmanuel ready for a woman clergy? Or were we ready?
PP: I think there are lots of things. I think that part of it is the fact that this is a very cosmopolitan community. People come to this church from lots of different background and cultures. It's not staid, "the same people have been coming here for a hundred years" they tend to have grown out of their staid...not staid, but traditional role models...that sort of thing. People, there are lots of different people here who have very very different kinds of experiences and backgrounds. That includes not just personal stories, but the fact that they come from different church backgrounds. Protestant, Catholic, lots of different people I've talked to have been to many different Episcopal Churches in this country at different Naval Stations. So that's a very important piece of it. At least it is for me coming from Richmond which is exactly the opposite. The other piece of it is Mike (15) who I think has some sensitivity to the whole understanding of sexuality. I think a lot of it's intellectual, but I think that he knows that it's there. I think he has sort of a love-hate within himself, you know... on the one hand, he wants it, but on the other hand, he knows exactly what he wants is very dangerous and it can change a lot of things. I think the tradition at this church has become one of
openness and of trying new things and of not being afraid of that. I think that makes a big difference.
PR: I think perhaps, and I want you to comment on it, that we have been exposed to the concept of the feminine in ministry. One comment that Michael made when he came back is that he has gone all the way to Switzerland looking for the feminine and it had been here and he had missed it while he was gone. So I understand what you're talking about.
PP: I think it has more to do with the congregation, I really do, than it has to do with Mike. Now of you had asked me that four months ago, I would have given you the opposite answer. But I really do believe that's true. I think he's an important piece of the congregation, but this congregation has a sense of itself apart from and including him, and I think that's a big piece of that. I think that congregations that are over-identified with their clergy probably could not be accepting to a woman priest. Because of the whole identification being a sexual one, you know, we want a male person to be our priest.
PR: Did you feel that kind of pressure coming back that you had felt before in being what people thought you ought to be?
PP: Oh Lord, yeah. Don't you remember? God those first couple of Sundays, I was a wreck. I was so terrified that I was going to do something right off the bat that would just turn people away completely; which really was an unrealistic fear as I look back on it; but given my experience, it wasn't unrealistic. I think I have spent far more energy holding back than I have giving. If I was just to let it go, I have this fear that I would wash out the James River, which is probably not realistic, but it's a protection that I need at this point in my life. Yeah, I feel that, and I think that. Remember there was the point this summer in July where I was going to do this wedding and then I came and it was a Lutheran pastor and he said, "no, you're not part of it." Had that happened to me the first couple of weeks that I was here, I would have been just devastated. I think I probably would have been driven back to Richmond. I was so prepared for rejection and so terrified of it at the same time, that had it happened in any way, and there was a little bit of that, remember the night the vestry voted on it. The meeting went till eleven and I was sure by ten thirty that I would never come because it took too long and there was too much arguing about it.
PR: I think that from the point of view of you coming, the vestry had gotten very uptight because we had asked several women and for various reasons, they had dragged their feet so long they couldn't accept. I don't know if you are aware of this, but the first time we talked, well I wasn't there, but it was mentioned "How about a woman," everybody laughed. They thought the person who brought it up was kidding.
PP: I do remember that story.
PR: I wonder if you were aware of the profound.. you know you talk about rejection the first couple of weeks, for myself, the visual impact of a woman walking down the aisle in the vestments of the priesthood was so profound, I don't think I really heard much of what you said. Are you aware of the profound impact that that has? I don't know what it has for men, but on women... I talked to other women about how difficult it was to go beyond that in the beginning because that was so profound for us.
PP: Yeah, I do know that. I can't stay with it very long, but occasionally I am so aware of it, I don't even worry about what I say. I'm clearly aware that that's what's going on. I wasn't that particular Sunday because I was too into myself, but when I get very relaxed there are many times I can just allow that to happen. I think that's the only way I will ever grow as a priest. When I can be in an environment where that can happen so that I don' t have to be so self-conscious constantly about, you know,
about being or doing or saying the right thing that I can just let people experience it and not worry about it. But, you know, I was not aware of that that day. I have experienced that before and I do think that... you know, wonderful. When I went to General Convention three years ago, I had something happen to me that really upset me and I told a couple of people about it and nobody responded to me, nobody caught on to my problem, about what it was I was talking about. What it was, I had stayed up real late one night with a friend and she had had an argument with her brother and I had drunk too much and it really terrified me. I thought, "God, am I an alcoholic?" you know I was going through all that stuff. I mean I was really frightened because I felt so sick the next day and I think part of it was I was real tired. I had never really done that before and never felt that way before. Scared me to death. I wanted to ask.., I happened to run into this woman who was in seminary behind me. Her name is Flo Canfield and I told her that story and she heard me. I thought well my God, I've just been... I was practically in tears... nurtured by a woman priest. It's the most wonderful thing. So it happened to me back. And in effect, she had a care and she's a wonderful earthy woman. And I thought, "By damn, I could get into this, this is wonderful." But it was like... and it could happen with a lay woman, I am not into that. But it just so happened that I said that story and it was the third time I had told my story to somebody and I really needed for someone to hear how awful I was feeling. And to connect with that feeling more than to help me judge myself. I was already doing too much of that anyway. So it was great. I do know that feeling and I think that I understand it because I have been places where all of a sudden a woman will go to the pulpit and my heart starts beating fast and I think, "My God, there's a woman and she's going to pray" And she does it and it's something I love, or half the time, like you, I don't hear it anyway, particularly when it's new, So I've had the similar experience myself. I don't have the experience myself when it's me, obviously...
PR: You're on the other side.
PR: All right, we've talked a lot about the priesthood. Do you feel... you know you've said the relationship between lay and priest; you see it differently than might be traditional as the priest as leader of the flock. I've heard you speak about that in sermons. Do you see the whole nature of the priesthood, the necessity for it to change with women being a part of the priesthood? Or do you feel that it's like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole putting a woman in a traditional Episcopal priesthood?
PP: Well, I think that, if there's anything that has kept me part of the church it has been my vision; and it really has been a vision for me that the priesthood will become an understanding of wholeness, not a particular race or sex or class. That it will become, indeed, the vision of the people of God, before God and God before us, I mean it's a mutual symbol that works both ways. I feel that profoundly, and I think that regardless of whether I can control it or not, just having women's bodies there that we are very incarnational, that we are very symbolic in our very makeup of our humanity. And this just trotting women's bodies around with collars is bound to unconsciously change the vision of what ministry is, of what priesthood is, and of what, who God is. That's on a very kind of basic level. My deeper hope is that the whole value system will change around that. That what we women have valued in the past has really not been what the church values in that whole double message of "we really do care, we really do love...But." You know, this is most important. There has always been a yuck thought in Christian theology and I think that's been acted out in the way it's treated women and dealt with women. The things that we value we've been lied about because they were over at the side, you know, they weren't real important things.
PR: And they fit in as a support system...
PP: Right, exactly. I think that an example for me is when you're trying to get something accomplished in a church or a business or what ever,,, the value has always been the buck. How much bucks you have, how many people you have and all that. Yet in Christianity we say that people are more important than money and all that, but we don't really do that. We say that, but we don't do it when push comes to shove. I think that one of the things, for instance, it's like the football, you know, it doesn't matter what happens to the team, as long as the damn thing gets through the goalposts. I think that women's aspect is it's more important what happens to you in the process than it is that you get the goal. I think that life is somewhat in the, in the middle of those two things. The value is that you do on occasion have to get the football through the goal because that becomes the priority, but basically, what happens to the people in the process is more important if not the goal in itself; than winning or money or whatever it is. And that those two values are in tension with each other and that the tension has not been there because it's not been conscious. And that by having women there it will be conscious because it's in the body of the person. The value system that she has carried with her in our unconscious will be there in a way that's never been there before. So you begin to have to deal with those values that you didn't want to have to think about. Because most of the basic ethical principles that Christian theology has are in about as black and white a shape as you can get them. We know that most ethical decisions rarely are approached on a ... can you ever make a decision based on black and white issues? People are just not made that way.
PR: So we will evaluate success a different way?
PP: I think so. I think that success, I think power, I think money, I think authority, I think all these issues are going to
be transformed ultimately by simply having women there present. I would like them to be women who understood that in their heads as well as in their hearts, unfortunately, that isn't always true. But I think I can believe now, in my new awareness, that there are men who are far more conscious of that than there are some women and that's because there have been some women, then those men will provide that creativity. I've seen that happen where there have been feminist men and masculine women. It's like you think you're losing your mind. I feel like, my God what's going on here? Yet, that kind of power I think is going to be released. There is an element of change within this culture now that is very much a part of it.. It's not the majority, but it's definitely there, just about everywhere I go. Even in a place like Richmond, you see subtle kinds of change like that all the time.
PR: Where does Pat Park go from here?
PP: To eat. No, I don't know. I would definitely like to be in a position where I could be a priest in a church again and I'm pretty clear that I don't want to do that as an assistant again. Partly because I don't think I want to be accountable to another man about who's in charge and who does this and who does that, it's such a waste of energy. And generally, I lose anyway, and I'm tired of losing. You know, if we are going to speak in that language, I'd like to win occasionally. So I'd like to do that. I'd also like to pursue some more this whole issue of ethics in terms of sexuality a lot more, and do some writing about that, some reading about it, some trying it out and seeing how other people perceive that. Because I think that that is the crux of where the modern church is going to live or die. Then I think Christianity will become just a joke because it doesn't deal with real issues where real people live and it hasn't and it won't. As long as it won't more and more people will dismiss it outright. I think that that's too bad because I think that the basic, the Christianity that I understand is a very exciting religion and a very meaningful, passionate... Certainly the ethical
standards are wonderful in terms of love and justice and all those principles that I believe so deeply in but which have been interpreted so totally for men. So that's the kind... I would like to do that as sort of my head trip and my further growth and I'd like to be practical and just be able to work in the parish and be a priest.
2. Deaconess is a lay position in the Episcopal Church. A deacon or deaconess assists the clergy. It is an ordained position, but the deacon or deaconess cannot perform the sacraments. Women could not be ordained to this position until 1970.
4. Lay women could not represent their parish to General Convention as a voting member until 1970. The General Convention meets every three years and is attended by representatives from all over the United States.
9. Philadelphia 11 were eleven women who were ordained before the church made ordination for women legal according to church canon. They were ordained by three bishops who then resigned. A tremendous amount of controversy followed this ordination.
10.Consubstantiation: after the consecration, the substance both of the Body and Blood of Christ and of the bread and wine co-exist in union with each other. Trans-substantiation: the conversion of the whole substance of the bread and wine into the whole substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, only the accidents (i.e. the appearances of the bread and wine) remaining. This difference in theology has been argued for centuries in the church. Part of this, is to determine what transformation comes over the Priest. How is the Priest transformed to represent Christ?