I am pretty certain that at some point in my life I believed God was a man living way off in the Heavens watching us. He would judge our actions and answer our prayers accordingly. The men that stood up and preached before the congregations of the churches I attended were an extension of God. They were the voices that made real the rules of God. The roles of women in those churches were limited to Sunday school teachers and secretaries.
In 2001 one of my best friends was married by a female minister. I remember being surprised. It had never occurred to me that a woman could not only be a leader in the church but could be the leader. In 2007, I started attending Unity Eastside. At the time of my first visit, Rev. Jean was returning to the “pulpit” after recovering from breast cancer. It was the first time I’d listened to a female minister since my friend’s wedding. I was unsure of what to expect and had to quiet the voices of my past that didn’t think it was the place for a woman. Before the hour was up those voices were silenced for good as Rev. Jean was amazing. Spiritually speaking, it was as if I was a tiny babe being cradled by my mother, fed warm milk, and lulled to sleep. Instantly I was introduced to a whole new side of God.
I no longer believe that God is a man. I believe God is a force that moves through everything. This force consists of energies, both masculine and feminine. At various times in history societies have emphasized just one of those sides. There was a time when people worshipped the “Mother” God and only focused on the creative, nurturing, sensual, and loving energies. Then of course there was a shift to the “Father” God. That is the God I learned of as a girl. This is the God who judges, sets standards, leads with a firm hand, and is all powerful. At all times, the spiritual leaders represented whatever “God” the people worshipped.
It seems these days there is another shift happening. I like to believe it is a movement towards the balance of these two energies. I am finding there are many churches and spiritual organizations with women as their leaders. Many of these women (like Rev. Jean) express the qualities in both the feminine and masculine faces of God. Also more and more there are men leading churches and offering new messages of a loving and nurturing God. I think we are taking strides to spiritual equality. I think we are opening our hearts and minds to the idea that God is too big to be limited. The all-powerful and always-present nature of God can not be contained, but moves through everyone and everything. God’s message is too valuable to be withheld from half of the entire population just because they are not the preferred gender.
As a woman who is also a spiritual seeker I hope to continue to watch this shift. I hope that the women who now believe that “rules” are being broken when a woman takes a leadership role in a church will begin to let go of those old beliefs. I hope that women who feel they are being called by God will answer, instead of staying in the spiritual boxes their religious organizations have provided them with. I believe God intends for his (I use the pronoun he/his/him because it’s less confusing) children to be brave and follow the path carved out for them even if it isn’t always easy.