22.1.12

Women and the Eucharist

Or

Usha's shoes

I have more of a sense of the appropriate balance in our worship because of India. I can not really remember how this all came about, I ruminated a lot on the corporal and the squareness of it. I thought about the balance of the Word and the Eucharist and Fellowship and Prayer. How each of these needs to be a part of worship and how any imbalance between the four can lead to problems. For centuries divisions in the church have been exacerbated particularly through an overemphasis on the Word at the expense of the Eucharist and the Eucharist at the cost of the Word. I am empathising more with my Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters and feel as though my own evangelicalism is becoming more nuanced.

In India, I also discovered the power of dramatic readings of scripture and recorded two interpretations of the letters to the Corinthians on a friend's mobile phone. I hope she sends me the copies so that I can generate some opinion on two readings that have caused controversy for centuries in the church and been used to bar women from celebrating the Eucharist.

On that note, one of my reflections came about due to the taking off and putting on of shoes. We became accustomed to removing our shoes for worship. We visited different churches on the weekend in Mumbai, a selection of us visited the Cathedral. Not me. I went to the Tamil church. More about that another time. I heard, however, that at the Cathedral, on reading the gospel, one of the Indian delegates had forgotten to remove her shoes. She should have done. She was gently reprimanded. Shoes were removed for the Eucharist. Shoes were removed for the Word. Pragmatically then, this signals to me a right reverence and an equal reverence for the Eucharist and the Word. If that is the case, I found it interesting therefore to hear that ordained women did not celebrate the Eucharist in the Cathedral. This was the preserve of ordained men. There is a discrepancy therefore between what is being signalled pragmatically and what is being practised theologically. I have been trying to read up about Women, the Eucharist and CNI (The Church of North India). I have come across an essay written in 2002 which seems to imply that they have established a permanent diaconate, which I am beginning to think through the implications for, but I have failed to find anything concrete to confirm my suspicions that women do not celebrate the Eucharist in the Church in North India. I am puzzled as to why they do not when they revere the Word and the Eucharist with the removal of their shoes but then elevate the Eucharist somehow in only allowing it to be celebrated by men. I have more unpacking to do with this reflection but think that some of its implications will give me food for thought.

3 comments:

David Ould said...

hi Rachel, enjoying reading your thoughts on India.

I am puzzled as to why they do not when they revere the Word and the Eucharist with the removal of their shoes but then elevate the Eucharist somehow in only allowing it to be celebrated by men. I have more unpacking to do with this reflection but think that some of its implications will give me food for thought.

Which is, of course, the same argument used by some in Sydney to question the issue of diaconal and lay administration of the Communion. If we allow deacons (and even laity) to preach, then does not the barring of them from administration of the Communion signal the same distinction between word and sacrament?

Richard said...

Hi Rachel, forgive me if I am missing something but Deacons are (correctly IMO) not allowed to preside at the Eucharist so this is not a Gender issue but one of ordination, i.e. presiding is the sole perogative of the bishop and then through him it becomes that of the priest.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Indeed but there are women who are priests in CNI but they do not preside at Cathedral eucharist.

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