I recall distinctively the first church I attended with a woman minister - it was Reverend Raggs from an Episcopal church in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Almost two years ago, I met an amazing seminarian who is married to the Priest in Charge at the church where I worship sometimes with my mother - her name is Joanne. She is a former nurse and is my inspiration for returning to school - specifically, she graduated from Concordia College and is the reason I picked that school over Mercy College.
Joanne is soft spoken, with expressive brown eyes, an amazing smile, a wit that is quite sharp and a woman who has seen her share of loss and pain. Her first husband died, leaving her to tend to her small family.
Enter Father Joe, a close friend of the family who helped her through this most difficult of times - they became very close and ultimately fell in love - he eventually chose to leave the Catholic church and they married some 10 years ago.
I digress - the woman priest who is now Reverend Joanne is a remarkable woman - having served for years as the head nurse in a major hospital, she gets womens' issues, mens' issues and wants to truly make the world a more equitable place in which to live.
Having a former spouse who is openly gay and many gay friends and being a strong gay rights advocate, I was pleased to hear in Joanne's first sermon that "all are welcome" at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Hartsdale New York.
Some weeks ago, we learned that during a peer review, she had received some rather scathing feedback on her sermons. She lost sleep that week, and we in the parish were all surprised. We have heard her preach on numerous occasions and have found her to be intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and filled with wisdom and a great vision for our little parish.
As I walked in to the church yesterday and saw Joanne in her robes of the priesthood for the first time, I wept openly. She was a vision of grandeur and looked every bit the part of a priest. The service was lovely - officiating was her husband. Though I have seen the two work in tandem many times over this last year or so, yesterday was rather poignant.
Joanne is going to be a fine priest and for those in other churches - such as the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church - who do not think that women should have this sacred right are mistaken.
Yesterday, a friend asked whether women in the Catholic Church would be allowed into the priesthood before men are allowed to marry in that faith - it is a toss-up, but I think that women will be allowed into the priesthood first.