Do You Need Ordination?

A friend’s teenage daughter recently asked us how she could respond to peers at school who told her the Orthodox Church is sexist because it doesn’t ordain women. Inevitably, we began to discuss why it doesn’t.

My ignorance of the church’s theological stance on this subject is quite vast. I offered her the very basic answer I use myself: Jesus picked the first 12 “priests,” the apostles, and all of them were men. We’re the apostolic church, so we do the same thing: we pick men. Q.E.D.

But that doesn’t answer the larger question: Why did Jesus pick only men?
There are obvious answers to this, such as the culture in which His apostles would have to operate. Men had a much better chance of being received and heard in leadership roles at that time. As human beings, let alone as leaders, women in Jesus’ time could hardly be said to exist.

But how concerned was Jesus with the prevailing culture? How many scandalous and impossible things did He do Himself? He hobnobbed with unacceptable people on a regular basis, and He announced His resurrection first to women, the invisible and powerless. The Holy Fathers teach that He chose to announce His resurrection to women first because He wanted to change their status in the world. Add to this the fact that the one human being ever chosen to be blood-related to Him was a woman, and you would have a hard time arguing that Jesus was a chauvinist.

It is important to recall that in the Orthodox Church, all believers are ordained into the Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) at baptism. In that sense, both genders are ordained equally in the eyes of God and of the church. There are no “laypeople” in Orthodoxy.

Traditional arguments in favor of ordaining only men often center on qualities that men are perceived to have, credentials for the position that are somehow linked to gender. Only men, it is argued, are able to do this job. This suggests that men do the job because the church needs men to do the job.

Something about this argument feels backward to me. Gender could not be more than one facet of the dynamic and beatific cycle that is ordination. Ordination is a sacrament. So is taking the Eucharist. Would anyone argue that the Eucharist needs us to take it? By definition, isn’t it the recipient of a sacrament that stands in need?

No one can know the mind of God, but as I pondered, I began to wonder if men are ordained because men need to be ordained. Women have spiritual needs as well, but it is possible that they may be different from the spiritual needs of men, at least in some respects. Perhaps God fills the needs of women in other ways. Perhaps there is some need specific to men that is filled by the ordination of a male priesthood.

There’s no way to know. But I wonder. Odds are, God is not considering most issues from the same angle that we are.

In the meantime, I suggested to our friend’s daughter that she ask her Protestant friends how many of their churches have large icons of a woman displayed prominently at the front of the sanctuary. Mary, the mother of God, the beloved intercessor for all men and women, is remarkably absent from the Protestant world. Is the ordination of women really the final proof that sexism has been vanquished?

Response to Tree Change Dolls

One of the most fascinating things about Tree Change Dolls is the response to them.  On the day I discovered them, the Facebook page had 23,000+ likes. I checked again at intervals, during the day, and every time, there were about 10,000 more likes. Today, three days later, there are 84,580.

The comments were my favorite part – the dolls look happy, the dolls look like my children’s friends, and (the best) “The dolls look like you gave them back their childhood.”

The rapid, overwhelmingly positive (even emotional!) response to these dolls, world-wide, says a LOT.

A lot about toys – who’s selling them, and to whom? How could a Bratz doll possibly be a good idea? Who is the person who thought it was? Why did so many people believe this person and buy the dolls?

A lot about women – women are buying the Bratz dolls, women are hating the Bratz dolls, women are LONGING for Tree Change dolls for their daughters and even for themselves. Women are still, after centuries, struggling against the disintegrating apathy of that losing fight to be equally human, equally valued in their natural state.

A lot about problems – what Sonia is doing seems simple and obvious, now that she’s thought of it and showed us how she did it. It’s not high-tech, or expensive, and although her artistic skills are a gift, the project itself can be done by someone who isn’t as talented. Why didn’t it occur to us before? How can the weight of a cultural trend become so heavy? If we are so relieved to see it shattered, why must we allow it in the first place? Why didn’t we all think of this, on the very first day the very first Bratz doll came out?

But perhaps the most thought-provoking response came to me from someone I know, who said, when he heard about the dolls, that it’s not that easy when it’s a person – not a doll – that you are trying to rescue. We all want the darkness washed away, don’t we? You’d think so, until you actually tried to help someone who needed the help.

I don’t argue that. Not at all. Never forget that if solving the problem were simple, the problem would already be solved.

I think that explains the powerful response to Sonia, rescuing one little doll at a time.

We wish it could happen for us that way. We wish we could heal our loved ones so simply, so gently, and so completely. We wish that we ourselves could be so well healed.

So we click on Sonia’s video and watch her do it again – watch her wash the make-up off the tiny face, paint the eyes, and the smile, and the freckles, watch her mom knit the tiny sweater and sew the tiny skirt, and we see the recreated doll sitting in the grass in Sonia’s garden. Sitting there for all of us who wish we could make it to that place ourselves. Clothed and in our right mind. In the garden.



Tree Change Dolls

Today, I discovered Tree Change Dolls. It was a happy moment!

Tree Change Dolls are abandoned in thrift stores, or “tip shops,” until Sonia Singh finds them and recreates them. They are old Barbie dolls, or Bratz dolls – the kind of toy that make you clutch your head and mourn because all the little girls you know are walking around in a world that does not welcome or cherish womanly beauty.

But then, there is Sonia.

She washes off their terrible makeup, paints natural faces on them, and dresses them in tiny homemade clothes, provided by her mother. The result is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Their little dolly faces are full of joy – even relief? – and they look just like ordinary little girls, ready to play in the garden.

I love this. For many reasons. Here are a few.

1. When I was a little girl, I loved dolls. There is a tiny corner of my mind that still refuses to believe that they don’t get up and dance the minute I leave the room.

2. It’s such a METAPHOR!!  It’s redemption. It’s all of us, painted over with the grime of worldly life, sin, disillusion, and error – suddenly snatched out of our despair, washed, and recreated with loving hands, so that the image of God shines through again, no longer hidden.

3. It’s upcycling – recycling  – happy cycling – call it what you will. She’s taking something that was thrown away, and making it useful and loved again.

Here’s the whole story.


This story I wrote needs an illustrator. That’s a first, for me. All of my stories have an illustrator – it’s inside my head. The storymaker in my brain provides vivid images for every face, every scene. I can see them all.

But only I can see them. And because I am not an artist, that makes them invisible to anyone but me.

Perfectly understandable. The idea of working with an artist, who will read my words and draw a picture of them, is deeply thrilling.

But also disconcerting.

Her pictures will not look like my pictures. They can’t. She can’t see into my head, and I can’t draw what I see in my head. And there you are.

And where are you? Why, back at the same place I often find myself. It’s a familiar twist in the writing path for me. I imagine it has a bench with my name on it. “Melinda was here. Again.” It’s the spot that muses endlessly on what is real and what is make-believe. What is fiction, really?

Are all human creations fiction, to an extent? We aren’t God, any of us. Our ability to create at all is derivative, in a way. But some of the things we create can be seen by other people exactly. For example, if I bake a loaf of bread or knit a scarf, you can pick them up and look at them, and eye-sight permitting, you will see the same loaf and the same scarf that I see.

But what happens when our more intangible creations are tipped over the edges of our minds and fall into the tangible world? What happens when someone else tries to draw a picture of them, or even to describe them? Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to a film version of a favorite book and thought “That’s not what he looked like at all!” when the first character walked on screen.

Are the images in my mind the “real” ones? Are they memories of something that actually happened? Yes and no. Is the author the final expert on what the story and its people look like?

Careful. That’s a dangerous question.

If you answer no, you set the text adrift from the author, which is always a tricky business. There would be no text without the author, after all.

But if you answer yes, you disqualify the readers. All of them. None of them will see and hear what the author saw and heard, writing the story. But without readers, the story has no life.

Without readers, the story exists only in the author’s imagination. No one sees or hears it “perfectly” except the author. But if this perfection is necessary, no one but the author will ever see or hear it at all.

I need an island tonight

I am tired.

Too much thinking and trying and scolding and focusing and fussing about. Too much hearing and responding and listening and trying.

Too much talking. Too much watching. Too much trying not to watch.

Too much counting through until something relaxing can happen again. Too much clock staring, finger flexing, mind numbing situation management.

Too much.

I need an island tonight. Warm darkness. Waves. Stars, as long as they are quite, quite far away. Palm trees. Breeze. Sand whispers. Hammock. Nothingness. Flower scent.

Nothing to sustain. Nothing to solve. Nothing to survive.



To sleep, perchance to dream…

Sometimes, late at night, after a long day, I don’t want to sleep. Not because I’m not tired. There is more than one way of being tired.

Sometimes, a few hours of uninterrupted time is more important than a few hours of unconsciousness. Sleep is essential, but you don’t remember it. You feel better for having it, but you can’t savor it while it’s happening. You aren’t there, or, if you are there, you’re dreaming, and dreams of this kind rarely bless us.

To me, the most exquisite rest of all comes in the moments when I can choose, without compunction or consequence, what I will or will not pay attention to.

Reading, writing, knitting with large light needles that click a little as the yarn slides over them. Staring at walls without seeing them. Staring out windows at blades of grass, or a single leaf, or a passing runner or a thought that isn’t really there at all….back-lit by the afternoon sky and raindrops on the glimmering roof of a parked car.

This is another kind of sleep, a time of selective unconsciousness of the things that make up daily life. Sleep shifts the burdens forward to the next day. You will resume them as soon as your eyes and your brain refocus on the morning light. But free time is a chance to experience those burdenless hours, before they pass, to enjoy the good they are doing, the sensation of weightlessness while it is still happening.