The Rev. Edie Bird - Retired Priest
This reflection is part of a series to celebrate women's ministry, June 2022.
As a postulant for holy orders in the Diocese of Oklahoma in 1985, I was visiting with Bishop Gerald McAlister of Oklahoma. He asked me where I felt called to serve.
In rural areas and small towns, I told him.
"I'm not sending any women out there!" he said.
During the past 33 years, I lived and worked "out there," raised my children "out there," while serving a number of small congregations in the Ozark bioregion (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri). I also administered a campus ministry, taught school, and worked in restaurants to support my family.
Prior to ordination, I had lived and worked in what was then called the "radical Christian movement" in Boston and Tulsa. Dorothy Day (Catholic Worker) was a huge influence on me.
Another strong influence is the Mutual Ministry movement. I learned a lot from Jim Kelsey and Kevin Forrester over the years. The shift from resource management to deep ecology is connected with the Mutual Ministry shift in consciousness. Mutual Ministry is like moving from conventional agriculture to permaculture or natural farming. If you have seen the movie Biggest Little Farm, you know what I mean. Just like in that movie, making the transition is a wild ride.I also learned a great deal from my mentor Hal Greenwood in Oklahoma. A profound lesson he taught me came from his perspective on church history as a member of the Choctaw nation. He explained that the 19th century white missionaries and reformers thought they knew better than indigenous communities what was best for the people and for the land. They intended to be helpful. But it is clear that the reforms they enacted were destructive of places, living systems, communities, and people. Hal pointed out that I, too, operate from this same mindset as a seminary-trained priest given privilege and authority in the church. He was right. The reformer in me runs rough shod over persons and living systems all in the name of doing good. In all my interactions, this razor's edge between ego defenses and the unfolding soul is where I have to walk and learn from my many mistakes. The mysterious interconnections of these living systems of earth, humanity, and universe, of body/soul/heart/spirit have become what matters most of all. A big thank you to Hal for encouraging me to pursue the soul journey of deep ecology, non-violence and heartful embodied contemplation.