Women in Ministry: Lady Gaga, Vocation, and Incarnation

I am so grateful to Corein Brown for her willingness to share her experience of being Catholic, female, and ordained. It is a joy to join in the voices affirming her call.

Lady Gaga reverberates through the space of my small apartment, her rhythm my glad tambourine, her lyrics my psalms, her voice God’s proclamation.

To her music, just weeks prior to my ordination, I adorn my coffee table with the things I love. She alone accompanies me as I transform my table into an altar, my little apartment into the house of God.

On my coffee table I lay my grandmother’s worn rosary beads, a woman of immense faith who I always wanted to meet. There I lay the images of the Saint John’s Bible, the word of God manifested in art that will be proclaimed at my ordination. And there I lay a book of Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons, both convicting me of my failings as a Christian and citizen and proclaiming a hope of who I might be, if I just believe in God’s power within me. And scattered around the table are the trinkets from my dad, the champion of my life – the one who has always called me to follow the rhythm of my life.

And there alone, with Lady Gaga calling me in the background, I dance around my coffee table turned altar. I dance in praise of all that brought me here – the voices of encouragement from family, friends, and strangers; the countless late nights spent writing papers in seminary and for tears shed in CPE; the women and men who first opened the doors of ordination to me.

And there alone, I dance to drown out the words that held me back. I dance against the words of my own imagination and those spoken to me, the voices that told me I could not do this, the voices that called me appalling. I dance to shake off the memories of my beloved childhood faith that would no longer welcome me to the table.

Catholic, female, and steps away from ordination, all I could do was wait, pray and dance for what lay ahead in the next few weeks and for the rest of my life as I accepted this calling.

So much of life is spent wondering and wandering, listening and shouting, walking and running, as we come face to face with the terrifying mystery of vocation and call. On rare occasions there are moments of clarity, moments that feel like falling in love, moments of peace and moments of bravery when we are able to gather up all our beauty and brokenness and proclaim, “We are called”

It took all the courage, all the bravery, and all the wild dancing my tired legs could muster to take those final steps to ordination, to kneel before my bishop, to lay prostrate as my community invoked the prayers of the saints, to accept the hands of my parents, my brother, and my friends as they surrounded me in prayer.

After the excitement and celebration of my ordination came to an end and my family flew back home I returned to my tiny apartment. Alone once again, I laid out all the ordination cards and gifts on my coffee table. In silence, I sat down, brokenhearted, heavy with an unsettling feeling about what exactly I had just chosen to commit my life to.

While I had felt certain, and continue to feel certain, about my call to ordination I was unprepared for the brokenness. I was unprepared to feel the weight of the church’s torn history enter my soul. I was not ready to accept that I was not only ordained into service of God and God’s people but that I was also ordained, forever tied and convicted, into the scandal of a divided church that continues to exclude and fight in the name of the Gospel while forgetting the Good News.

As the months have passed it has become easier to ignore this brokenness, this scandal and consequently this beautiful call. On evenings and Sundays, I am Deacon Corein or Asst. Pastor Corein but the rest of the week I am just Corein. I separate my identities and protect myself from the questions of how I can be Catholic, female, and ordained and protect myself from possible confrontation and worse yet, rejection.

Recently, in the silence of my apartment, in the face of my cluttered coffee table where lotion, coasters, and notebooks have long replaced the gifts of ordination and symbols of my faith, I realized that I was denying my call, failing to incarnate God’s voice in my flesh. I was letting the disintegration of my two identities replace the possibility of integration and the embodiment of this call.

I am discovering I need of so much more courage, bravery, wild dancing and grace in order to set out on the difficult work of incarnating and embodying God’s call, to integrate into my daily life and my very being this call and to imagine what this call might ask of me in the days and years to come.

I am mustering up all my bravery, dancing around my coffee table, and imagining that there is possibly something so much more within my broken call, within this divided church I am called to lead, within the beautiful faith of my childhood that stands apart from me today.

Since my ordination there are fewer moments of clarity and peace and more moments where fear masquerades as courage, but I am opening up to the daily opportunities to gather up all my beauty and all my brokenness and proclaim, “I am called. We are called.” I am asked to put flesh to this call, to embrace what it means to be ordained into a broken church: to be a person who transparently exposes her beauty and brokenness and believes it is an essential part of healing and ushering forth God’s grace in this world.

We are all called to take the still small voice, that intangible feeling that God is asking something of us, and set out on the difficult, everyday work of putting flesh to that voice, incarnating that feeling, and of course, dancing.

About Today's Contributor: By day, Corein Brown is the Research and Communications Associate at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. By night (and weekends) she serves as a transitional deacon at Spirit of Hope Catholic Community, TOCCUSA. When at home, she enjoys life with her community members and navigating what it means to be a good neighbor. In her free time, she enjoys thrifting, convincing bars to sell gluten free beer, biking in 30 degree temps (thank you Minnesota spring), playing three chords on her mandolin, and kayaking (when the lakes aren’t frozen). She also serves on the board of Fidelia’s Sisters and the Franciscan Community Volunteers.

About the Women in Ministry Series 
The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry and encourage women to explore their God-given callings.

Contributions Welcome: Contact Katherine at katherinepershey[at]gmail.com to pitch your post idea in 2-4 sentences. You can stay updated on the latest post each week by signing up for the weekly e-mail list.

Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome to leave a comment. However, this series takes for granted that women are called by God into every facet of ministry. This is not the place to debate that point and such comments will be removed. Women have been told “no” in far too many places. This is one place that is committed to saying “yes.”

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