t was a glorious morning today at the American Cathedral in Paris, where the choral service at eleven brought back fond memories of my home church, Grace Cathedral, in Charleston. I had the distinct pleasure to hear the homily given by the dean of the cathedral, Lucinda Laird. Dean Laird is one of that rare breed of Episcopal priests in the vein of Nancy Allison and John Zahl who have a Calvinistic zeal for good preaching, and that was certainly in evidence this morning. Elaborating on the story in The Book of Acts, chapter 11, verses one through eighteen, she explained how revolutionary the idea was in the first century that the gospel should be given to non-Jews. In comparison, she noted her own astonishment as a member of the Episcopal Church at a time some decades ago, when women priests were still unknown, at seeing trailblazer Bea Blair raise the Eucharist during mass. Upon hearing a female priest say the words of the liturgy, “this is my body,” a young Lucinda Laird understood fully for the first time that that sacrifice was indeed meant for her and her own flesh instead of as something one step removed in the body of a man.
It pains me somewhat to think that we are still in a place and time theologically in which female priests must so often speak of being female as black politicians speak of being black. No one, I am quite sure, is interested in my thoughts on being male. But lest we forget, not far from the altar of the American Cathedral in Paris where the Eucharist was celebrated today by two women priests of outstanding caliber, competence and holiness, stands another altar in the same place it has stood for over a thousand years, and yet at the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, no woman is yet welcome to consecrate the host. So, therefore, the quest for understanding continues, but we are fortunate to have such guides for the journey as Lucinda Laird and many like her who remind us what a gift much of the world is missing in the priestly wisdom of women.