Yesterday I got an envelope from the Kentucky Foundation for Women saying I'm a recipient of an economic hardship grant that will fund my mailing an original collage and document to leadership in the United Methodist Church to stimulate conversation about the church's attitude toward homosexuality and women leaders. These funds, from an anonymous donor, are micro-grants. The maximum each person could request was $500. My request was for $258.
The KFW letter goes on to say that 48 feminist social change artists requested funds; 24 were funded. The requests "bear powerful witness to the impact of the national recession on the feminist artist community in our state" and also "bear witness to the great strength, ingenuity and persistence that KFW grantees are demonstrating in seeking solutions to their financial hardships." A check for $258 was enclosed.
I was totally happy until this morning when I re-read my grant proposal, in which I say I'M GOING TO CUT UP MY PREACHING ROBE and use it to make the collages. Good God, people. What was I thinking? Why didn't you stop me?
It's the theological equivalent of flag-burning. Let's be clear. I approve of flag burning as political statement, as performance art, as a way of knocking us out of the doldrums of familiarity, as free speech. And if somebody else had told me she/he planned to chop up a preaching robe -- well, cool. Free speech. Performance art. Political statement. Let's get those fools to open their eyes that they may see glimpses of truth. Right on, my sisters and brothers.
Right on, indeed. But it's my preaching robe. MY preaching robe. My PREACHING robe. Embedded in its warp and woof is every day of my life from 1995 to 1998, when all was well with the world (or at least with Fred, my late husband); and when the congregation, God, and I danced -- a waltz, a tango, a Fox trot, the twist, the funky chicken, the swim -- on Sunday mornings. I wore the robe when I performed my first baptisms (Bradley and Devin, two of my grandsons). I wore the robe when I performed my final baptism (Seth, the baby my friend Lisa was pregnant with when she preached Fred's funeral). The robe hung in my closet in South Carolina, and I brought it with me to Kentucky, and here I stuffed it into a sack and later I set the sack on a shelf in the garage. I brought it back to the house after I wrote the grant proposal, and now the ratty old sack sits on a shelf in the laundry alcove.
I'm going to chop it up; I really am. And I'm going to make fiber collages of it and mail them to United Methodist leaders along with a statement, and I'm going to post that statement here, and I'm going to e-mail it to newspapers and magazines. But not quite yet. Soon, but not quite yet. I want to hold on just a little longer to my preaching robe and to what it used to represent: my life; my local church; a kind, open-hearted, open-minded, open-doored denomination.