What it Means to be Church Together
Mar 25, 2021
By S. Dcn. Gayle Ruege, Executive Assistant to the Bishop
As we come to the conclusion of our Celebration of Women’s History Month, I wish to express my deep gratitude to our MNYS Communications Team for the coordination and presentation of a delightful mosaic of encouraging stories, testimonies, and videos from the faith-filled women among us. It was truly a feast for the soul!
I, like many of you, felt privileged to have had the opportunity to enter the hearts and lives of the extraordinary lay and ordained women featured in our E-letter throughout this month. Their stories, though uniquely their own, are wonderfully communal. I am thankful for their willingness to be vulnerable and authentically honest about their own faith journeys and the path that prepared the way to say “Yes” to God’s purpose and call. Their struggles, challenges and doubts resonate with us—but so does their expressed moments of joy, wonder and awe. That’s the communal experience. Our lives are integrally connected. We are Church Together!
When I reflect on what it means to be Church Together, I am often drawn to the relationship between Mary (the mother of our Lord) and Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist), as described in scripture and celebrated in the Church as the Visitation. The deep bond between these two women was forged during the time when they came together to love, support, care, comfort and listen to one another, while awaiting the birth of their sons. Their lives were steeped with struggles and challenges—and yet, their “Yes” to God brought joy, wonder and awe! Christian tradition names the Pentecost event as the birth of the Church—but one might wonder if the picture of Mary and Elizabeth, carrying the Savior and the Forerunner in their wombs, might be the model for being Church Together. Their desire to lead a godly life and their “Yes” to God made them agents of God’s life-giving salvation.
I’ve been a Lutheran all my life and have known this model of Church from the countless women who have mentored me and shaped my life and ministry. You know them too. They are the women in the family that God brought us into—they are the co-workers God has given us to work with—they are the voice that cries for justice—they feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and bring healing to the broken hearted—they are the pastors, deacons and beloved church ladies who serve on committees, create opportunities for social outreach, and provide the hospitality that nurtures and builds community. They are humble, courageous, adventurous women who trust that God loves and cares for us and is faithfully shepherding us through the complexities of life. They are us.
In the Western Church, the Feast of the Visitation is celebrated on May 31—but, in the Eastern Church, the Visitation is celebrated on March 30th, which fits beautifully as we close this celebratory month.