It is My Place to Believe in the Church


I grew up in the church.
I spent Sunday upon Sunday sitting in the first third of the pews, staring up at the stained glass tree of life, while dutifully taking notes, just in case anyone took notice and needed confirmation that I was, indeed, a pastor’s kid.

I looked out at those velvety pews while singing in the choir, distracted by how the stained glass behind me reflected on the backs of my peers in front of me.

I played handbells in my blue corduroy dress and crisp white gloves.
I was a student leader in the junior high and high school group.
I was even a high school intern for a year between college and grad school.

I don’t know what I would have done without church during my junior high years of incessant bullying. I sat in the back of the library at a small table, hidden by rows upon rows of books because I did not have one friend to share the lunch hour with. When I arrived at youth group, I not only had friends, I felt a part of something bigger than myself. I felt there was a life—a world—outside of my middle school, and that truth stayed with me into adulthood.

It is also where, as a female, I learned that it is not my place to say things.
Oh no, no it isn’t.

It was not my place to tell you that our youth pastor had an affair with a student in the youth group. It was not my place to tell you that another pastor had an affair with a single mom—my friend’s mom.
It was not my place to tell you anything like this. In doing so, I risked retaliation, shame and shunning.

To this day—
I worry about being the recipient of shame and shunning, while standing at the threshold, sharing truth in order to dim the darkness.

As women, we are often told it is not our place to shine a light of truth, even if that very darkness has caused us direct harm.
As women, we are told it is not our place to hold a position of leadership within the church, as elder or pastor.
As a church, we are told it is not our place to ask communal forgiveness for sins such as the racism that has led to segregation, gentrification, or pews filled with folks who only reflect one small segment of the Kingdom of God.

As women, we have been told our place is in the kitchen.
Our place is teaching kids Sunday School.
We are encouraged that our place is to continue to nurture our collective gifts of servanthood, meekness, patience, self-control.

We are told
what is our place
what is not.

I love the Body of Christ.
I love Jesus.
I do not love how the Church has defined my role as a woman.
And I actually believe the Church as a whole suffers when we limit one another’s potential to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth by upholding one gender or race as authority, while simultaneously silencing others.

I am grateful for the glimpses of heaven I have read in books or heard in speakers that courageously proclaim this truth. I have been pleasantly surprised when I show up at church to find me and my daughters’ gender represented in the pulpit. I am ecstatic when both our gender AND my daughter’s brown skin are reflected back at us.

When will it be our place, oh Lord?
When will the collective Church begin to value the voices of those on the margins?
When will the collective Church come to understand that those very voices have the authority of the Beatitudes to not only amplify their words, but also offer wisdom and insights that are invaluable to all of us.

Now I believe:
It my place to start having tough conversations with leaders in my community and spheres of influence.
It is my place to continue growing in the knowledge of my own value, while simultaneously investing in the value of others.
It is my place to believe the Church can break its chains of patriarchy or racism or both.
It is my place to believe the Church can become all God intended her to be and I
believe with all my heart, we can become the best version of ourselves by doing so.