Network Conference

It is now Wednesday night, and our conference is nearly at an end.  I haven’t been able to write much about it on this blog, for a number of reasons.  It has been enormously busy, and draining of energy. But much more, what has been happening here over the past three days among the forty of us who are gathered, is at such a depth and an intensity that it will take me some time to process it in my head, and to be able to make any attempt at describing it.

I suppose I can say that the issue of womens’ place in the Church surfaced today in a way that was far deeper than anything I have understood up to this. And it created enormous dilemmas for most of us sitting around.  There was a great deal of hurt, sadness and tears, with many people clearly wrestling with their own conscience and coming face to face with their fears in a very open way. One of the consequences was that we were unable to celebrate Eucharist together, as we had planned, and instead had a prayer service. But that  bald statement does little justice to the level of sharing that went on, and to the reasons why we felt we could not proceed.

In the context of the people I am working with now the Church’s attitude to and treatment of women becomes a much bigger, more serious, and ultimately a moral issue.  I was glad, sitting in that circle, and listening intently to what was being said and done around me, that I am no longer a practising priest.  I thought of the priest I met in the U.S. last autumn who told me he had made a resolution never again to celebrate a public Mass until such time as women were also able to take their rightful place at the altar.