Mary Kate is an inspirational pastor. She leads a small flock of Episcopal believers in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. When she finished high school, she traveled across the country to Dartmouth to pursue a degree in dendrochronology (tree ring science). At some point along the way, she heard a call to ministry, took a giant leap of faith, and was eventually ordained a priest.
The first time we met was on a phone call in 2005. I was planning to move to Boulder for school and she had just accepted an appointment at a local parish. Someone had put us in touch with each other because she needed a musician at the church – pronto! And so, Mary Kate began her ministry in June of 2005 and I followed just a few months later. Together, we comprised the entire ministry staff of the church. That is, except on Sundays.
On Sundays, our staff grew with the addition of a second priest. We were not a big church, and certainly didn’t warrant two priests. I noticed that the second priest didn’t do very much. He just sat in his high-back chair through the prayers and the sermon. But, when it came time to take communion, a time which comes every week in the Episcopal church, he stood up and took over. His name was Father Dan.
I asked Mary Kate one day, “Why is Father Dan only around on Sundays and why does he always take over at communion?” She said, “It’s complicated.” But it really wasn’t that complicated. I figured it out pretty quickly on my own. Father Dan was a man, and there were people in the church who didn’t think a woman should preside over communion. And so, Mary Kate employed Father Dan to come to the church every week and preside over communion.
I was furious. I was even mad at Mary Kate. I told Mary Kate that she should stand up for herself. I reminded her that the Bishop appointed her and not Father Dan to administer the sacraments; I suggested that anyone who had a problem with that could take it up with the Bishop. Better yet, I suggested they could just leave. I specifically remember saying, “What is so important that you would sacrifice your dignity like that!”
Calmly she said, “The sacrament is what is so important. I can live with my wounded pride. What I can’t live with is empty seats at the table!”
Her wisdom proved true. By Christmas Eve, Father Dan’s services were no longer required. No one left the church. The very people who resisted her appointment are now leaders in the church. All found a seat at the table with room enough for their various shortcomings. Mary Kate is still the pastor at that little church – only it’s not so little anymore. She is an inspirational pastor.
Lord, as this bread upon the table was in separate grains and being gathered together became one good thing, so let all men and women be gathered together into one family.
Ah…what food these morsels be!
(Peter Barnes, Red Noses, Epilogue, 1985.)