Thursday, June 9, 2016

Me and the Beards

by the Rev. Kate Bradsen

When visiting our church for a social event recently, one of my friends, another young woman, remarked at the pictures of the church staff up on the wall: “Look at you and the beards!”  I am not only the youngest person on our church staff, I am also the only woman.  And, as my friend noted, the only one without a long grey or white beard.  

At least once a month, and more often at church gatherings on a diocesan level, someone unfamiliar with our church approaches one of the pastor associates or our deacon and asks them questions about their role as rector of our church.  Sometimes they even do this right in front of me.  The blessing of “the beards” who are a part of my church is that they always say something to the effect of: “Oh no, I work for her,” and gesture to me.  

I don’t fault people for these assumptions.  In the Episcopal Church, men outnumber women in the position of senior rector or solo rector four to one.  Guessing that one of “the beards” is my boss is a fairly safe bet.  It’s just not the truth.  

In over a decade of ordained ministry, I have too often found that men make the difference in female clergy’s careers.  If women have a male mentor or a man looking out for them, they tend to do better.  Obviously I am grateful for the gifts these men bring to all of us, and for the clergy and staff of my church who continually stand up for me and my role as a leader, but I wonder how we as women can do more to tell our own stories.  

I know that women have come a long way in our church.  If it were not for the work of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, I would not be in role I am in now.  I hope that as a group we can work together to bring the stories of strong female leaders, be they lay or ordained, to the forefront of our church.  I look forward to the work we are called to, and to challenging the assumptions we all make about who is and should be in charge. 

The Rev. Kate Braden, Vicar, St. Andrews, Tucson, AZ and Board member of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

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