Thursday, September 30, 2010

40 yrs of Women's Ordination

40 yrs ago, Beth Platz, serving as the chaplain at the University of Maryland, was ordained, making her the first woman ordained in a Lutheran denomination in North America. She has served generations of Lutheran students humbly and faithfully. Read more about her here.

As part of the recognition of her extraordinary ministry, the ordained women of our synod gave her a communion set that I made.

It was a great honor to make this for Pastor Platz. Pottery is such an obvious metaphor for the journey of faith that it hardly seems worth elaborating. The first thing you do as a potter is "center" the clay. Ya. The lump of raw clay is molded and tended in an artful process that takes time and is somewhat unpredictable. Even after being beautifully shaped, it's worthless and dull until it has felt the heat.

As I made this chalice, I reflected on the heat that the first women pastors had to take 40 yrs ago. Many of them are still taking it, though I'm happy to report that I've experienced very little discrimination as a woman in the ELCA. I more often feel uplifted as a woman pastor.

But still, I recall that ordained women are not the norm everywhere. Last week a teen-aged visitor came to Bible study and said something about how "cool" it was to see a woman pastor. Cool only because it wasn't, for her, normal.

I love being a pastor and I am grateful to Pastor Platz and all the women and men who helped blaze this trail.

About the chalice. I went around and around with ideas for glazing and decorating, but ultimately decided to do very little. In an interview, Pr Platz said "The pastor's 'I-ness' is to be put aside … for the total focus is on the altar and the cross." I kept the chalice simple to keep that focus.

The cross-shaped hole in the stem is a reminder of the scars that discipleship demands us to recognize. It also makes the whole thing more beautiful. Healing is not yet complete, but the celebration of Pr Platz's ordination is a sign that we're on our way.


  1. Beautiful chalice, and thanks for the anniversary reminder. I remember a sermon you gave at a Lutheran-Episcopal joint Eucharist where you talked about being a woman pastor coming out of the LCMS tradition - still one of the most powerful sermons I've experienced. Thank you for carrying on this tradition of being a strong leader for the church, further paving the way for women and others formerly excluded to live out their calls in the body of Christ.

    - A. Tengwall

  2. This is gorgeous. What a beautiful gift. What a wonderful celebration.


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I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...