God's Peace Surpassing UNderstanding: When God's Will is a New Blue Blazer
At 5 a.m. on a Friday morning I stood in front of the mirror in my grad school apartment wearing a navy dress and a new, blue blazer. Blazer on. Blazer off. It felt hot, stiff, robotic. Blazer on. Blazer off. I hung the blazer back in the closet and put on a salmon cardigan. Just right. Like Goldilocks.
By 6:15 a.m. I was at the train station in New Haven, Connecticut. I took the requisite selfie and posted it on Facebook, writing, “First day of internship, The Episcopal Church’s Mission to the UN, NYC. God does what God wants.”
What the photo would reveal if you saw it, is that I am not a 20-something grad student on but one leg of an upward trajectory of learning and service. Rather, I am a 40-something woman who spent most of the past 23 years as homemaker. I worked a few part time jobs here and there, teaching or writing, but home and family— revolving around a fierce devotion to the nest—was my vocation.
Today I am a 2nd Year Master of Divinity candidate (MDiv) at Yale Divinity School in New Haven. My children are grown, in college by one definition or another, and my husband is living and working in upstate New York where we have lived for the past 3 years.
“You look great,” my supervisor, Lynnaia Main, reassured me when we met in the Episcopal Church Center in New York City, beginning an encouraging conversation about UN protocol that ended with the innocuous question, “Do you have a blazer?” Lynnaia is the Episcopal Church Representative to the United Nations. I make a mental note to wear the blazer around my apartment until it feels broken in.
With gradually increasing degrees of accuracy, I introduced myself to people around the office:
Hello, I’m Lynnaia’s intern.
Hello, I’m the Episcopal Church’s intern to the U.N.
Hello, I am the Office of Global Partnerships’ intern to the U.N.
Why do I spend so much sharing my introductions with you? Well, any woman who has reentered—or tried to reenter— the workforce after years caring for children will understand. Rather than digress here, I recommend the book Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who writes,
“[W]e see a common discriminatory assumption embedded in our view of a woman’s caregiving years spent out of the paid workforce as a yawning gap on her résumé . . . we assume that care work is not work that really matters, even though it is essential to the dignity and the wellbeing of the elderly and the sick and to the very brain formation and growth of the young. Nor do we assume that it can in any way benefit the caregiver in ways that are individually valuable and desirable in other contexts."
After years of telling strangers, acquaintances, doctors and my husband’s colleagues, “I stay at home with the kids,” it was monumentally hard this day in New York City to introduce myself to a broad range of accomplished people.
Last year I arrived at divinity school feeling called to work as a hospice or hospital chaplain. As a former Roman Catholic and a new Episcopalian, women’s ordination to the priesthood is a very new concept to me that I am still working out. Never my goal, ordination has moved into the realm of remote possibility, a fact as scandalous to many of my Catholic friends and family as it is old hat in Episcopalian circles.
Discerning where specifically our good God may be calling me to work is my bailiwick during these three years of seminary. The opportunity to serve and learn at the Episcopal Church Center seemed rich with possibility: I can learn the breadth and scope of the wider Episcopal Church while engaging in its even broader, global mission.
The biggest undertaking of the Episcopal Church’s ministry with the UN each year is the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) which occurs every spring. I am a woman who has experienced a spectrum of statuses, from the invisibility and security, limits and blessings, of a marriage with very traditional gender roles, to this new role as seminarian and intern to the UN, I find myself in a here-to-fore unfamiliar status which affords me agency, visibility and empowerment, and makes me particularly eager to hear the voices of women from around the world.
One of my responsibilities in this role will be to blog regularly about the experience, sharing what I learn at the the United Nations with Episcopalians in the pews throughout the Church. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. If you have any questions or issues you’d like me to address, please feel free to email me at GPIntern@episcopalchurch.org.