Susan’s Musings

The Rev. Susan B. Bowman’s thoughts and stories on life in the church, life with her grandchildren and other family, holidays, and journey with God.



I was in that riding grocery cart (in the white circle) in a Food Lion store in Louisa, VA – approximately 4-5 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. A little background as to how I, a residence of Delmar NY, happened to be in Louisa VA at that moment. I was on vacation with my sister and her family on Lake Anna near Mineral VA. Who had ever heard of Mineral VA before Tuesday, 8/23/2011?? I am FROM Virginia and I had never heard of it. I knew of Louisa but had never been there. On Tuesday, I had to find a post office to mail the wedding license for a ceremony I had conducted on Saturday and we needed a few groceries so I took off with my nephew’s teen-aged son, Ben, and his friend Oscar for the closest grocery store (as it ended up, I went further than I needed to for a grocery store but I didn’t know it at the time). We found the post office in Louisa, visited the Walgreens store (which seems to be Ben’s most favorite store in the whole world!! Go figure!), bypassed the Hardee’s for the moment (which turned out to be a huge mistake for me since I haven’t had a Peach milk shake since the many daily trips to St Mary’s Hospital in Richmond when Dad was so sick 6 months before he died), and headed for the Food Lion.

Since my knees are really painful at this point, I grabbed a riding cart, the boys took off for more interesting places than dairy products, and I started my search for the few items on my list. I hadn’t found any of them so I cruised up the soda aisle to grab a Diet Coke (what else?) and saw a store employee so I had stopped to ask her where to find Bagel Chips when there was a huge noise that sounded like an explosion, the floor and shelves started shaking violently, soft drinks in 2-liter bottles and six-packs of cans and bottles started falling and flying off the shelves, exploding as they hit the floor, my cart began to move around – not enough to be terribly hazardous but enough to scare the h— out of me! – and the woman I was speaking to looked at me like I had three heads when I asked her, “Do you have earthquakes in Louisa?” After the shaking stopped and the flying sodas were spewing their contents all over the floor around me, I figured it was time to get moving – as I got out of the cart my brain finally kicked into real time again and I began yelling for Ben. I was trying to run down the aisle but heard a voice yelling, “Lady, be careful!”  The caution that has become second nature for me since I first injured my knee in 1964 kicked in and I realized suddenly that I was moving way too quickly through a foaming, slippery sea of soft drink and that this was the kind of situation that usually ended up with me on the floor! BUT I didn’t know where Ben and Oscar were and that trumped everything else so I kept moving, yelling “Ben!” at least five times before I reached the end of the aisle and heard his sweet voice calling for me with as much panic in his voice as I was feeling, “Aunt Susan!”

We finally met up and the last time I felt such relief was when I found Scott after losing him in a mall many years ago.  I was trying to decide what to do – after all, I had left home with a mission – to get groceries. A woman was rubbing her ankle where she had been hit by a flying can of peas or something, a man in a Coca-Cola shirt was taking pictures with his phone camera AND, as it turns out Oscar was also taking pictures, but I just wanted to get us to safety. As we started moving towards the door, Ben said excitedly, “Aunt Susan, you gotta see this – come on!” He took off toward another aisle and I was in such shock that I followed him without even thinking. As we got about half-way down the aisle, he turned and said, “You gotta see this huge crack in the floor – it just opened up…” I didn’t need to hear any more – my good sense finally kicked in and I said, “Ben, I don’t want to see a crack in the floor – I want to get out of here” and we turned and headed for the door.

People all around us were either just standing in a dazed state of inaction or talking on a cell phone. In fact, almost every person we could see had a cell phone in their hands and were either punching in numbers furiously or talking anxiously to someone on the other end. We finally got outside and while I felt another huge sense of relief to be out of that building that didn’t feel like a really safe place to be, that was when I really began to shake. The adrenalin kicked in with a vengeance and I could tell the boys were having the same experience. We headed for the car and as we drove away, we decided that we needed COMFORT FOOD so we pulled into Hardees only to find out that they were not operational – of course – doh! – and I had missed my Peach milkshake! We took off for Mineral where we did find an open store with cherry topping all over the floor but ice cream waiting in the cooler. So we got our cones, decided that groceries could wait, and headed for the house. I missed a turn and we ended up on some road which took us about 10 minutes to realize wasn’t the right one. Ben fired up my phone GPS and we discovered that we had gone 5 miles in the wrong direction. 45 minutes later, we finally found the house and were greeted with hugs and stories of pictures falling off the walls and stuff flying off the mantelpiece while the house felt like it was coming apart. Everybody had a tale to tell and it took some time before we could get the word out to family from Woodbridge VA to Delmar NY that we were all safe. The internet and cell phone networks were jammed and we found that the most available vehicle for communication was facebook.

We have had many conversations and experienced several aftershocks – a really hard one in the middle of last night – and I have been reminded of a conference Mom and I attended many years ago where the keynote speaker was the Bishop of California. He had just lived through the SF quake (when the double-decker interstate collapsed) and he shared with us his “earthquake theology.” It all came back to me – it goes like this: God made the earth with its overlapping plates that would shift whenever necessary to relieve pressure within the planet. These “natural” occurrences have been happening since day one, just as God intended. Humanity, in all its wisdom, has for the most part decided to either ignore the hazards of certain spots on the globe where these plates overlap causing “faults” (aptly named but not strong enough I guess to ward off our need to build what and where we want) or that we are somehow going to be immune to such dangers. We have built homes at the top of seaside slopes, skyscrapers on unstable property, and all sorts of structures way too close to those fault lines. We have built and built and then wondered why God would let such awful damage and loss of life occur as earthquakes destroyed our man-made treasures. Bishop Swing ‘s theology had 2 main points:

  1. God does not “cause” earthquakes – they happen as a natural consequence of the way the earth is made. He said, “Since God loves us more than anything, it’s obvious that God never intended these “faults” to cause us harm. I guess God gave us more credit than we deserve since we didn’t use the gift of reason in such a way that would keep us away from the faults where we might be safe.”
  2. God allows us to build our lives with the free will given us after creation – this means we are free to build our structures wherever we want just as we are free to build our lives in whatever environments we choose, according to whatever moral laws we choose to follow, and with whatever belief and faith system we choose to guide us.

So, he said, “Whenever I feel the tremors of an earthquake, I now think, ‘Go God!’ because I realize that it is God’s way of saving our world once again from its natural pressure cooker. And when I see the images of destruction all over the area, I now think, ‘Look, God, we’ve done it again’ and I pray that God will bless those who have been injured or killed as a result of our stubborn need to do our own thing and give us the grace and wisdom to look at the rubble of our modern civilization and find a new place to re-build.” I remember thinking how weird our world would look with huge empty spaces where these faults are located and my first thought was, “How could we ever avoid them all?” I also thought of the hardship for many people whose livelihoods are centered around places like San Francisco and other centers of commerce and what many people call “easy living.” But, when you look at just that one area and all of the pain and loss that has resulted from earthquakes, it seems that inconvenience is a small price to pay if such destruction can be avoided.

Anyway, I remember Bishop Swing with his serious theological argument for what he called “living with God’s earthquakes.” He went on in his keynote speech, which was entitled “Earthquakes and Church-quakes” to call for the Church to heed the same call to caution and diligence in building our public faith on what he called the ‘faith-faults’ of our materialistic society and a mis-guided organized religion. It was an amazing conference as we all got a glimpse into a new way of thinking about God’s world and the church. It has been good to recall all of that and to remember, as I sat there listening to him, that I had no idea what it was like to live through an earthquake of any size. Now I do and his “Earthquake Theology” has taken on new meaning for me. I have always believed that God’s world is of such divine design that I cannot even come close to comprehending why things happen as they do. I consistently tell my sweet flock in White Creek NY that some things are “God things” and we’re not supposed to know those things but accept them on faith and wait for the “big day” when we can ask God in person, “What the … was that about?”

So I don’t know if this “biggest earthquake on the East coast in 114 years” is a message or just a natural occurrence or maybe it’s both. Only God knows. But this I do know – I’m grateful to be sitting here with my computer on my lap writing about the “earthquake of the century.” For some reason, I was there, I survived, and I thank God for it all. Now, for those who know my family, you will be interested in slipping over to my Facebook page to see my great-nephew Ben and his friend Oscar being interviewed by multiple news crews – all of which ended up on the cutting room floor. But I am here to tell you – they were super!! Very grown-up, very polite, and very disappointed to miss their 15 seconds of fame. So go check them out!


Susan Bowman, the “LadyFather” has written a book on her experiences in the ordained ministry.  Aptly named “Lady Father,” it is now available on  Register below to receive our newsletter and important emails. Don’t forget to check out Susan’s Facebook page at


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Christmas Blessings

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here and it’s only because of one thing – I have been working like crazy to get the manuscript to an editor because – are you ready for this???  I have a publisher!!!

It’s true!  I got an email from a publisher – it may have even been spam!! – inviting me to send in a query package.  I read through it and realized that this was not a self-publisher and I liked the in-depth questionnaire and its emphasis on marketing with a clear program of what I would be expected to do and what help they would provide.  There was no upfront outlay of my funds required and it all just felt good after I had filled out their forms. They said I should hear something in 6-8 weeks and if I hadn’t heard by then to assume that they thought I’d be a better fit with another publisher. (Isn’t that a sweet way to put a rejection?)

So I sent off a prayer and clicked send on the email with its precious cargo.  Four days later I got a phone call from one of their representatives asking me if I was serious about publishing my book and how close it was to being finished.  I almost fell out of my chair!  Four days – not four weeks!  And there was no “well, maybe we’d be interested” or “we’re considering this” – the guy told me if I was willing to move forward, it was just about a done deal.  They still have final refusal if they decide they don’t like the final manuscript but this guy told me that his boss had never done an over-ride on one of his choices – except for one Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde character that turned into the alter ego when he talked to the boss and he didn’t like him.

I told him – don’t worry – what you see now is what he and everyone else will ever get – I am the real thing and I don’t play.  He liked that and I liked him – when we hung up, he told me that his job now was to cajole, push, prod, bully, encourage, and basically do whatever it took to keep me motivated and my only job is to get a completed manuscript to him as soon as possible.

That’s where I’ve been for the past few months – I was working on it at the time but had to ratchet it up a few notches as I found several parts at the end that weren’t anywhere near complete – a fact that had completely slipped my mind.  I called my editor who has evaluated the first part of the book, absolutely loves it, and was waiting for me to call back.  She said she would have the time to do the edit if I could get it to her within the next week because her family was coming for Christmas and they had already laid down the law about her needing a vacation.  So I wrote like mad and I made it.

She has it and will have it ready in a week so I can do the final changes and get it to the publisher, hopefully by the 2nd week in January.  I can hardly believe this is happening – this has been my dream for so long that I keep pinching myself to see if I’m still dreaming!  Well, it hurts when I do that so I’m not dreaming!

My big job now while I’m waiting for the edited manuscript is to put together a marketing plan that has to be submitted with the manuscript – once they approve everything, we sign the contract and they say the book will be printed immediately and guess what then???  You get to buy it!  And tell all your friends to buy it!!  And tell all your enemies to buy it – heck just tell anybody anywhere – that’s what I need – the proverbial and never-failing word-of-mouth promotion program.

I have to say – I am so grateful to all of you who have weighed in here and those who have emailed me and to all my family and friends – your encouragement and kind words have kept me going and going and going . . .I really do feel like the Energizer Bunny of the Computer Keyboard – I just type and type and type and type – well you get the picture.

So, you must be wondering about the Christmas Blessings, which is the title of this blog.  So, here’s my thing about blessings – they are gifts and they can come from anywhere.  Here are my Christmas Blessings:

1. I am blessed by the gift from the God of the Universe who loved me enough to give me the wondrous gift of being able to communicate my feelings and beliefs through simple words.

2. I am blessed by the gift from the God of the Universe who loved me (and all of you) enough to give me a Savior, who in turn loved me enough to hang on a cross, suffer, and die for me.

3. I am blessed by the opportunity to stop and celebrate the birth of my Savior with all my faith singing loud and clear “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”

4. I am blessed by the opportunity to stop and celebrate this sacred moment within the love of my family and friends, and I am particularly blessed that my son and family are staying home this year!

5. I am blessed by all who believe in me and are genuinely happy that I have finally finished this labor of love.

4. I am blessed by the stupendous gift of an editor who loves my book and a publisher who is excited about getting my book out into the world where everybody else who will love my book will buy it!

5. I am blessed by something that feels like a combination of courage, insanity, confidence, cockeyed optimism, and a whole lot of faith.  This blessing has resulted in my resignation from the “day job” at AAA, where I had become increasingly unhappy and stressed out and has me in front of my computer at home full-time.  I am waiting for all the blessings that I know will be coming from my websites and freelance writing jobs!!

6. My blessing for you all is that God will continue to shower blessings on you as we approach the Christmas season and start a new year.  May you enjoy all the blessings of the season with your family and friends.

So keep watching – very soon you’ll be getting the big Publication Announcement and you’ll be able to tell everybody – I have this friend who wrote a book . . . .

Merry Christmas to you all and may the year to come be filled with blessings from everybody and everywhere, but especially from our loving and generous God.


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    As you can tell, Susan Bowman, the “LadyFather” has written a book on her experiences in the ordained ministry.  Aptly named “Lady Father,” it is now available for purchase on  Register below to receive her newsletter and important emails and don’t forget to check out Susan’s Facebook page at

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    Happy 4th!!

    Happy 4th!!

    It’s Sunday, July 4th and I’m loving this day!  It’s gorgeous outside – although a little too warm for my tastes – and I have the rest of the day and all day tomorrow to enjoy! So, what am I doing? Working! But, this is working I like.  I’m pretty much done with punching a time clock and taking orders and am SO ready to do just what I’m doing today – working at what I want to do.  Although I really like the work I do at AAA – making TripTiks and helping people find good, cheap hotels and the best way south without going anywhere near the dreaded DC Beltway – my passion is writing and all I want to do is stay right here under my laptop with my feet up doing just that!

    I’m getting closer as I have found several options for insurance that will cover me until Medicare kicks in – and I’m looking for one more gig that will bring me enough income to make up for what I would lose if I would just do AAA part-time. Not quite ready for the total break – still feel the need for a cushion – just in case….

    As for my book – which I am trying desperately to get time to finish (another reason I need to be at home working) – I have a dynamite editor and she’s helping me a lot and I’m close – the comment below from a woman named Mable has stirred me up to get out there and really do some serious searching for another home job that’s not some scam that I have to pay $37 a month to possibly make $500 a week, but which in reality will only end up costing me $37 a month and make me mad!

    Ring Around The Collar
    Ring Around The Collar

    In the meantime, I’m working on a newsletter – Ring Around the Collar – with a special message about the 4th of July and freedom and what it all means to me. So if you haven’t registered – it’s right there on the right – see the red arrows?  Go ahead and sign up – I don’t do this a lot so you won’t get inundated with tons of unwanted email – just a note every once in awhile until I get my book finished – then you’ll get the first word in a publication announcement!  So, have a happy day if  you’re reading this on Sunday, 7/4 – if not, hope you had a happy day – hope you are enjoying a day off – and hope you have spent a little time thinking about how great it is to be free in a world where so many aren’t.

    If it’s Sunday and you’re reading this – don’t miss the Boston Pops Concert from the harbor – nothing better out there to enjoy the 4th!  Peace to you all,


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      Susan Bowman, the “LadyFather” has written a book on her experiences in the ordained ministry.  Aptly named “Lady Father,” it is now available for purchase from  Fill out the form below to receive our newsletter and important emails and don’t forget to check out Susan’s Facebook page at

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      “I Knew I Recognized Your Name”

      Today at my “day job” with AAA, a man came in for passport photos and I told him I would be right with him and just to hang on for a few minutes.  I really wanted to wait on him because he had on a clerical collar and it was obvious to me that he had a wife, so I knew there was a good chance that he was an Episcopal priest.  Since I didn’t recognize him, I was very curious.  When it was his turn in front of the camera, I asked “innocently” what kind of priest he is and I was right.  “An Episcopalian,” he said.

      I told him “So was I,” and we introduced ourselves, shook hands, and he said, “I knew I recognized your name.”  He had that “I’ve heard – you poor thing” look on his face so I knew he really had heard about me and my 2 unfortunate parish experiences.  I found out that he was a trained “interim” (a “specialty priest” who fills in for a parish in the interim between clergy) and he had been in the Diocese for several years.

      Since I have been seriously “out of touch” with the Diocese, I had not heard of him but by the time he and his wife had left the office with their new passport photos, we were “buds” and they promised to check out my blog and “sign up.”  He and his wife were very gracious and supportive and wanted to know “what happened” – then they commiserated and made all the right noises until I had to get back to work.

      It was great to meet this new clergy and his wife and I realized how much I miss my clergy friends, especially those I don’t see very often any more since I can’t attend all those mid-day-mid-week clergy events now that I’m a “worker priest.”  I was reminded for the umpteenth time how much I detest being a “worker-priest.”  (That’s a priest who also has a secular job.)  In fact my being a worker priest ranks so high on the “detest-a-meter” for me that it’s really off the scale.

      So, I’m writing and writing and writing some more – and I’m posting on this blog hoping to build up my online community that is some day going to free me from worker-priest-prison.  My book is almost ready for buying and distributing  as I am in the hunt for a publisher.  Anybody with a tip (no self-publishing – I’ve decided to go the traditional route) for a publisher who would accept an unsolicited manuscript – send it on!!

      Well, I guess I’d better get used to people saying, “I knew I recognized your name,” although my years in the “woman-priest” spotlight made it a daily occurrence for a long time.  Now I hope it will be more like “I knew I’d seen your name on a book at Borders”!!

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        Susan Bowman, the “LadyFather” has written a book on her experiences in the ordained ministry.  Aptly named “Lady Father,” it is available now for purchase at  Fill out the form below to receive our newsletter and important emails and don’t forget to check out Susan’s Facebook page at

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        Wii, Wii, Wii – All the Way Home!

        That’s what we’re doing tonight – my grands are here and they’re playing the Wii while I write this blog post.  I would normally be playing with them but recent shoulder surgery has sidelined me for a few weeks.  Funny I can still type on my laptop – in fact, I found out the day after surgery that I could type without actually moving my shoulder – so the operation was last Tuesday and on Wednesday I started typing on my book and it’s now finished!!  I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am!  Not only am I just happy to have it done but I have been writing this book for so long that I feel like I have come to the end of a long journey and am finally home!

        I actually started this book about 10 years ago when I was a Fellow-in-Residence at Sewanee for 2 weeks.  That’s a great program where the seminary actually pays a stipend and provides a nice room as well as use of all the facilities to do a project.  It’s really a grant and I applied for it to write my book.  It was before the days of my laptop so I used the pc in the the student lounge.  I wrote and wrote , then brought it home on a flash drive and stored it away for awhile.  Then I got the drive out for some other projects and somehow it got bent in the port and everything on it was lost.

        I spent $200 trying to get files off – but to no avail.  Everything was lost and I figured I wouldn’t ever write this book.  Then I was encouraged by my mentor who was helping me with this blog to go for it again and the rest is  history.  It’s taken me a long time to actually write it, but it is finished.  Now comes the really hard part – finding a publisher.  I’ve looked at the self-publishing idea and the agency/traditional publisher route and I’ll tell you,  it takes a lot of courage and stamina to get a book on the shelves.

        I know I have it in me but it is WAY more work than writing the book!  So if anybody has any suggestions – I’m all ears!!  In the meantime, I have seriously gotten in touch with a lot of the feelings – both good and bad – that I experienced during those years and they were many.  As I have described them, I’ve re-lived them and now I keep thinking about any of you out there who have experienced similar things or are going through it right now.

        My goal now is to create a community – a place where anyone who has ever faced discrimination can find a place to talk about it – get support – whatever.  It’s a place where anyone experiencing discrimination in the workplace, in school, anywhere, can come and find a willing ear and maybe even some ways of getting through it, over it, and on to the new life that always awaits us on the other side.  Maybe you have never been through this but you probably know someone who has – pass on the web address, send a link or think about buying my book as a gift.

        I don’t know about you, but one of the most helpful things I found in the middle of my journey was someone who had been there.  Unfortunately, they were few and far between, especially after seminary when I was pretty much alone in my agony.  I wished that I had found a blog like this one back then.

        So, let’s get at it – post your comments and let’s get a healing community going here.  Looking forward to hearing from you…

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          If this is your first visit, just register below to receive our newsletter and important emails. Lady Father is now available for purchase on  Susan is an Episcopal Priest of 33 years with a compelling story to tell about the discrimination she suffered in the ordination process of the church in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia the the Diocese of Albany from 1987 to the present.   Visit her Facebook page at to read more of her articles and posts.

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          Another Anniversary!

          On February 23rd (yesterday), I celebrated another big anniversary – 25 years ago, I was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church by a Bishop who was a leading opponent of women’s ordination.  What a miracle!  I’ve told you all about him – Bishop Charles Vaché, 7th Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, who died on November 1st, 2009.  It was not only an amazing February day in southeastern Virginia – 72 degrees, bright sunshine (we had the windows open in the church it was so hot in there, not only because of the temperature outside, but because it was PACKED! – it was a life-changing experience for a number of people.

          Not in any order, these people were:  Bishop Vaché, my mother, two other women in the Diocese who were awaiting the Bishop’s decision on their admission to the ordination process, some people in the parish who were very unhappy about my ordination, and – of course – me.  Let’s start with my mother.

          Mom was a cradle Episcopalian (like her mother and her siblings and me and my siblings – not my Dad – he was a Baptist who hated the Baptist church so he became an Episcopalian when he married my Mom), raised in the south (like all those other people above), and very conservative (again like all of the above).  Until I announced that I was going to seminary, I don’t think she had ever entertained the idea of a woman being a priest – I know my Dad hadn’t.  Of course, she would have never used that word – in the Virginia and North Carolina of the 1950’s, 60’s, & 70’s, we called them “Mr.” and they were “ministers,” not priests.  None of us knew that there were Episcopalians who called ordained ministers by such a “Romish” word as “priest” and if we had, we would have been horrified.

          So, when I made my big announcement, my Dad said, “OK,” and my Mom looked at me like I had 2 heads and asked, “How are you going to do that?”  She couldn’t fathom the idea of me quitting my great job with the City of Petersburg (after all, I had a badge and a city car and everything) and traipsing off to God-knows-where for 3 years!  After I explained it all, Dad said, “OK, how can we help?” and Mom said, “Well, we sure are proud of you.”  I was blessed with the most wonderful parents in the world, wasn’t I?

          I’m not sure that either of them really understood it all, but my mother slaved for months on a beautiful red stole for my ordination (red for Holy Spirit) and, as she tells it, she “nearly lost her religion making this thing for a minister!”  It was a gorgeous material onto which she cross-stitched a silver descending dove with shimmery thread that looked great but was nigh unto impossible to draw through the material!  She blistered the walls of their living room every day for almost 6 months trying to get that stole to look just right.  And she did!

          The day of the ordination, she was beaming!!  You’d have thought I had been elected the first woman President of the United States – I don’t think she would have been any prouder.  She cried, of course, and even my Dad teared up – although he’d never admit it – and when it was all over and I was standing with the Bishop (whom she loved!) in the parish hall with my crisp new clergy collar around my neck and greeting old friends and introducing the Bishop to all my family, I saw her over by the window watching.  She had a look on her face that I had never seen before and I knew that she got it!

          The people in the parish who were horrified at what was going on in their church that day stayed away, as I’m sure you figured out, but I have to say that they didn’t take too long to come around.  There were two people, a man and a woman, who had refused to received communion from me as a lay person and they just couldn’t believe that our Rector had been so supportive of me before he left for Nags Head NC during my first year.  I think they were glad he was gone because they were so angry at him.  But by the time, my ordination took place, they had mellowed somewhat and when I went back to the church some months later as a visiting clergy, they showed up at my end of the communion rail like nothing had ever been wrong.  Go God!

          There was one woman waiting to be ordained (and she was about 3 months later) and several more waiting in the wings to be admitted to the process and they were so happy for me and I know when the Bishop laid his hands on my head, they could feel it as well.  They walked around beaming the rest of the day too.

          The Bishop was also changed that day.  Although he had ordained a woman to the priesthood about a year before, I was the first woman he had allowed to go through our process and I know he felt very much like I was “his first.”  Sounds like a date or something, which couldn’t have been further from reality, but there was a connection between us that is very hard to describe.  He had told me when I started seminary that he had been through all the Biblical and theological arguments for and against women’s ordination and he was convinced that there was nothing in the Bible or in the history of the faith that prevented women from being ordained.  That was a long process for him but in 1980, he was still caught in the emotional struggle between his head and his heart and his hands.  He said that at that point he just couldn’t bring himself to lay his hands on a woman’s head and say the words of ordination.  He freely admitted that it was an emotional issue that he just hadn’t resolved yet.  He also said that I was the first woman who had knocked on his door without trying to break it down and that helped him come around.  On February 23rd, 1985, it was resolved and he was free from the tug of war.  Not only was he free, he won!  Actually, I think God won because I’m convinced that God had been working on him for years and his efforts finally bore fruit.

          Finally, I’m sure that I was the most blown-away person in the church that day.  I went into the church a lay person who loved my church and supported it and went to church every Sunday, gave a little money, and sang in the choir – and I came out a Deacon – a clergyperson with a collar around my neck that screamed to the world, “be good – this woman is clergy!”  I remember the moment it happened.  It came shortly after my dear friend and most favorite professor Don Armentrout had finished his dynamite ordination sermon.  The Bishop and I had been through the question and answer thing, we had all done the Litany for Ordinations, sung by the Rector of my parents’ parish, and I was kneeling (ouch!) on my bad knee in front of the Bishop (who was well over 6′ tall so my eyes were directly in front of the end of his stole) while he finished the first part of the ordination prayer.  I remember I started to sway a little if I closed my eyes like you’re supposed to during prayer so I concentrated on the end of the Bishop’s stole which had alternating batches of silver and gold trim – I counted them and there were 18 – 9 gold and 9 silver!

          Then he put his hands on my head and at that moment God touched me – I know that because I began to burn inside – like I was on fire.  I felt like my face was flaming red and that there was a torch inside of me.  After it was all done and we were passing the peace, I asked the priest who had done the prayers if my face was as red as it felt and he looked shocked and said, “No, you were cool as a cucumber.”  NOT!  Just goes to show you how God works sometimes.  As the Bishop lifted his hands from my head after pronouncing that I was now a Deacon in God’s Church, I knew that my life would never be the same – I knew that I had been transformed into God’s newest servant and it was the happiest I had ever been in my life.

          Twenty-five years – it hardly seems possible that it has been that long and then it seems like yesterday.  I can close my eyes and picture the entire day with all the people I loved and still love all around me and my favorite Bishop grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat and I know that we both became new creatures on that day.  What a blast!

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            63 Years Later

            Yikes! It’s been 63 years!

            That’s right! It’s been 63 years since I made my appearance on this planet! (Actually, it’s now been 72!)  It seems that every day I see someone or read or remember something that reminds me that I’ve been here for more half a century and am working on 3/4.  I have a picture in my bathroom of my mother and 5 of her friends.  They called themselves “the River Rats” because every September they spent a week at a cottage on the James River near Surry, Virginia. They started way back when I was just a little kid and I’m not really sure how they knew each other in the beginning except that Mary Ann Perkins lived across the street from us when we moved to our new home in 1957.
            Some few years after that, we became charter members in the Battlefield Park Swim Club where my Mother, who was a lifeguard and a Water Safety Instructor, worked every summer from the day it opened.  She and a woman named Wesy Chappell worked as lifeguards for the 1st 2 weeks of the season before school was out and the regular lifeguards came to work and for the last 2 weeks after they returned to classes.  Louise Fuller worked the gate and I’ll always remember her fingernails! They were so long and perfectly formed and hard as the concrete around the pool. She would sit at the table at the gate and work on those nails for hours. They were bright red and exquisite and I was insanely jealous of her. My nails were and still are like my mother’s – thin and brittle and they still snap off into the quick if you look at them wrong.
            Mabbot Rideout was a friend of Mary Ann’s and there was one more – Marie Spatig – and I don’t have a clue how she fit into this group. They played bridge together once a month; most of them either swam or worked at the pool; and they decided one summer that they had pretty much had it with kids and husbands so when the pool closed for the summer, they took off for Surry and a friend’s cottage on the river for the day. They left early in the morning and Mom dragged in about 9:00 that night, sunburned and bleary eyed, but beaming from ear to ear. They had thoroughly enjoyed the day and had made a solemn oath to do it again the next year.
            To make a long story short, they slowly increased their “get-away-from-the-men-and-kids” until by the time I was married, they were spending a whole week at the river. No men and no kids were allowed and they never talked about what they did except for one thing. One of their traditions while at the river was to get dressed to the nines one night and eat dinner at The Surrey House, a very nice restaurant that for some obscure reason was located in a tiny town with a crossroads, a gas station, a church, a hardware store, some houses and this very good restaurant.  Every year they would dress the place up even more as they graced it with their presence. They pranced in, got the biggest table in the middle of the room, ordered a glass of wine, and proceeded to talk, laugh, and eat – in that order – until they had driven away all the locals and were watching the waitresses (well, that’s what they were in the 1960’s) trying not to be too obvious about the fact that it was past closing time.
            They learned to tip well on those nights out, which helped with the waitresses and soon they were a welcome fixture. I don’t know if they ever figured out why they were missing so many sugar bowls and napkin holders and cream pitchers during those years, but we all knew because each family had at least one souvenir – we had a sugar bowl – with the logo of The Surrey House on it – a black “surrey with the fringe on top” that was so distinctive we had to hide it when company came over.
            I’ll never forget the time we were taking my sister back to school at William and Mary – the route took us right through Surry and right past The Surrey House, which my father said served the most incredible iced tea in the state of Virginia. My brother was about 8 years old at the time – innocent as a lamb – and he had us running for the car when he grabbed the sugar bowl off the counter while we were waiting for our “iced teas to go” and yelled, “Look Mommy, they have a sugar bowl just like ours!”
            Anyway, one year they decided to really go crazy and they all dressed up like “floozies” for their night on the town in Surry. They had on short dresses with wide stripes, long beads, lots of makeup, high heels, and crazy hair styles. I’m not sure what the style was they were aiming for but they got something between a flapper and a hippy. They caused quite a stir in Surry and Mother told me they were glad they hadn’t told anybody what they were doing because Daddy and all the other men swore they would have been there to drag them out of that restaurant if they had known what they were doing.
            Now, every day I look at that picture and I can’t believe how many years ago the River Rats were tearing up the banks of the James River in Southside Virginia. I look at them and can’t believe that half of them – Mother, Marie, and Louise are gone now. Louise, God bless her, has been “gone” for more than 40 years as she was struck by something they later thought was Alzheimer’s at 39 years old and spent more than 40 years in a nursing home. She never knew anyone again after the first few years and the River Rats always had a little memorial ceremony every year before taking over The Surrey House for the evening, an event which was dedicated to the memory of Louise “Hard-as-Nails” Fuller.
            Wesy and Mary Ann and Mabbot are still going strong – when I saw Wesy and Mary Ann at Mother’s funeral more than 3 years ago, they looked almost like they do in my picture. They were sad about Mother but knew she was better off after her long bout with Alzheimer’s. I was sad too and still am some days, but my huge picture on the bathroom wall cheers me up every day as I look at those crazy women and think about how old Marie would be now – she was the oldest – and that Mother would be over 90 had she lived. I also think – gee, I’m older now than they were when that picture was taken 

            I’m 63!  Yikes!

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              24 Years Later

              24 Years!! Yikes!

              It’s been 24 years (on January 25th) since the day I was ordained a priest. (Lady Father was written in 2011 so it has now been 33 years.)  On February 23rd, I will celebrate the 25th anniversary of my ordination as a Deacon in the Episcopal Church.  This is totally amazing to me for several reasons:
              • It means I’m old enough to have been doing the same thing for a quarter of a century!
              • Since I didn’t get started until the age of 38, this means I’m over 60!
              • Prior to this, the longest I ever did any one thing was 7 years as an employee of the City of Petersburg VA (but I still had 3 different positions), except for being a mother – 14 years.
              • It means that, when I add the 10 years I did active lay ministry in the church before being ordained, I’ve been doing this for more than half my life!
              So now I feel old!  But I also feel a lot of other things.  First, I am thankful.  It has been a remarkable journey and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my Lord as a priest.  I love being a priest.  I love touching people with love and compassion and I love being the vehicle through which faithful people are touched by God through the sacraments.  I absolutely love being used by God!
              I once heard a testimony by a priest who was distressed because one of his most beloved parishioners was desperately ill.  He shared his feelings with a missionary friend lamenting that he just didn’t know what to do.  His friend looked at him in shock and said, “Well, you grab your Bible and you go over to that hospital and you pray for him to be healed.”  The priest was even more dejected and he said, “I can’t heal him – I can’t heal anyone.”  The missionary grabbed him by the hand, pulled him up from the chair and started for the door, chastising the priest, “Of course, you can’t heal him; only God can do that.  You’re just the donkey he rides into the room on.”  I’ve never forgotten that and I’m grateful that God has seen fit to ride into many a room on my back.
              I also feel sad – sad that the past 24 years brought so much pain into my life, even while I was given so much joy.  My sadness is not only for myself as I look back and realize how much of my ministry was consumed by controversy, conflict, and upheaval – not to mention confrontations which wasted so much of the time and energy of all concerned.  My sadness is also for the churches which were robbed of so much by the pettiness and prejudice of a few people.  I know that I was not blameless in some of the situations which arose in my parish experience; but I know in my heart that there were so many times when I was the brunt of collective and individual anger at the church aimed at me as a female daring to take the place of a man in the traditionally male priesthood.
              I feel some anger at the waste, although that has dissipated to just mostly sadness, and I feel regret at the times I misread, miscalculated, and misplayed the many hands I was dealt as a priest.  I also feel regret that I was unable to break through the wall of discrimination and suspicion that surrounded most females in ordained ministry in the 80’s and 90’s and even into the 21st century.  I am still sad over what I have deemed to be my failure to bring in the masses to fill the churches I served.  I had colleagues who enjoyed long and prosperous ministries – adding so many new members to whatever parish they served and I have to confess to being jealous of them and their success.  The addition of new members in my parishes were always offset by the losses representing those who left because I was a woman.
              All that being said, as I ponder 24 years of ministry, I feel proud – not the kind of proud that goes before the proverbial fall, but the kind of proud that acknowledges that I did my best to serve God as I was called to do, that I was faithful to that call and to my priestly vows, and that I made a difference in the lives of many people.  I preached well and treated people as I know Jesus would have treated them, even in the face of crass discrimination and even hatred.  I took the high road even when it was not fun and got me in trouble but I always treated people with love and kindness, no matter how they treated me.
              So I feel what I would call pride in a job well done, tinged with sadness for a job which many times felt undone.  I guess next year – my 25th anniversary – will bring another round of reflection and, hopefully, some celebration; for now, I am still happy to be God’s priest and grateful that God still uses me.
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                Happy New Year!

                I don’t know what you’re doing on this first day of the year 2010, but I am having the happiest New Year’s Day possible – my grandchildren are here.  We’ve been to eat steak and now we’re all on a computer – Jared is playing Roblox, I’m making a bulletin for Sunday, and Emily is working on her brand new mini laptop.  It’s amazing how good she is on it and how much she knows about it already.

                A few moments ago, she asked if she could read something to me – this is what she had written – keep in mind, she and her family spent Christmas in Mississippi and they drove without stopping both ways!  Read this and see what tree you think she fell from:


                Dear all parents:
                I know that driving long distances will save you money, but it is still not a good idea. You can pack a million toys, but it won’t keep your children happy; they will get bored within 3 hours. You’re better off taking a plane. The first hour you’ll be all excited – second hour is fine – by the third hour you are frustrated searching for something to do. If you haven’t turned around by the fourth hour because of the whining and crying, you are crazy.

                I wish you the best of luck.  If you don’t take my advice, you can’t blame me.  Blame your mother-in-law, your sister, or your cousin, but don’t blame me! Emily Bowman

                After I stopped howling, she asked me for a subject to write about and I suggested, “how come I can’t ever find anything?”  In few minutes, she read this to me:

                How to Lose Stuff

                If you need to have an expert on losing stuff, talk to Susan Bowman. If you can settle for me, I would be happy – let us start. So, you need to set an item somewhere. Then put one thing on top of it and then a few things around it or – how Susan does it:  set it on a desk and come back in an hour. And if someone asks where it is, say the elves took it.  If they think you’re crazy – run. If these strategies don’t work, don’t take my advice anymore.

                I cracked up again and then suggested she continue with how to find the lost stuff – here:

                How to Find the Stuff You Lost

                For this subject, you should not talk to Susan; she will not be any help. To find the stuff, you need to go to every room and every pile you see – take it apart.  If you followed my directions on how to lose stuff, the item you are looking for should be in one of those piles.

                I FOUND IT!!!!

                Now, I ask you, does it get any better than this?  Happy New Year to all of you out there and I hope you are enjoying the first day of 2010 as much as I am!


                  Susan Bowman, the “LadyFather” has written a book on her experiences in the ordained ministry.  Aptly named “Lady Father,” it is slated for re-release in the near future.  Fill out the form below to receive a publication announcement and check out Susan’s Facebook page at

                    Christmas “Firsts”

                    I have some of the best Christmas memories!  There are a few that I’d like to not remember, but this year’s celebration will be right up there with the very best! It all started when my son called to tell me that he and his wife had decided to spend  Christmas with his father in Mississippi. When he said the words I was caught between my own selfish “what-about-me?” thoughts and more noble ones like “what-a-great-idea!” and “we-can-celebrate-Christmas-anytime-so-don’t-worry-about-me-I’ll-be-fine.”
                    I know Scott was struggling with the whole idea of leaving me alone at Christmas.  Not only would it be our first Christmas apart, it would be his wife’s first Christmas away from her family and his children’s first Christmas without Christmas breakfast at their great-grandparents’ and without Gabba (that’s me) to pounce on at the crack of Christmas dawn. I could hear the pain in his voice as he laid out their plans to drive to Mississippi and as he related to me how he and Stacey had come to this momentous decision.
                    It’s been a very bad year for them, beginning with Scott’s botched hip surgery, which actually fixed his hip problem but left him with a “drop foot” and the prospect of a lifetime with no feeling in his foot and constant pain in his leg from a damaged nerve. He then traveled to Houston for nerve transplant surgery, which was “successful” but has not yet resulted in a return of feeling in his foot. The children have struggled with their own “growing pains” as Jared nears puberty (which is a daunting experience in itself but is exacerbated by his Asperger’s) and Emily feels the brunt of being relatively “normal” (which is difficult when you’re 9 years old and you have to struggle for attention from a mother who is stretched way too thin by the needs of the other family members). They needed to “get away,” Scott said and I totally understood.  But, my thoughts kept jumping around between “it’ll be great for you to be with your Dad at Christmas for the first time” and “this will be the first time I won’t be with you for Christmas.” It was all I could do to keep from crying, “how can you do this?”
                    As I write this on the 2nd day after Christmas, I am so glad that I was able to “take the high road” and NOT make my son feel guilty about turning Christmas upside down for us all. I struggled through the rest of the conversation but I was able to say, “we can celebrate Christmas any time we want to and THAT will be our Christmas Day.” I heard myself saying, “I’ll be fine – I’ll just treat it like any other day off from work and when the day is over, I’ll still be looking forward to Christmas.”  I assured him that I completely understood and I was even able to say honestly that I was glad he’d be able to spend Christmas with his Dad for the first time. I just wished that there was another way that didn’t involve the words “the first time.”
                    Ginny & Joe's Christmas Tree
                    Throughout the next few weeks, he and my sister went on a crusade to convince me that I shouldn’t stay “home alone” for Christmas, and indeed, that I should jump in my car and drive to Virginia to spend Christmas with my sister and her family.  Well, I don’t “jump in my car” and drive anywhere these days, much less 5-6 hours away.  Just the thought of spending that much time sitting in a car makes my knees hurt and I rebelled at the idea of putting that many miles on my leased car. They tried valiantly to convince me that it would take me as long, if not longer, to make the trip by plane (adding up the time it would take to get to the airport at least an hour before flight time, get my bags and a rental car, drive the 2 1/2 hours to Front Royal through Baltimore and DC traffic to the hour and a half flight). I was NOT convinced and I was not yet convinced that I should make yet another flying trip to Virginia. If you have read previous posts, you know that I attended a funeral in Virginia the first week in November and then flew down for Thanksgiving with my sister.
                    A calm head prevailed and I did my “pro-and-con” list with all the reasons I should just stay home and “veg out” in one column and the advantages of “going home” for Christmas in the other. As I made my list, I was immediately struck with the realization that I had started the process with the assumption that I was going to Virginia as the “pro” column began to be filled with reasons in favor of making the trip, leaving the “con” column for all the negative arguments against it.
                    To keep this relatively short, the “pro’s” won, (especially after we found out that my brother David and his family could come up the day after Christmas), I made my reservation for a Christmas Eve flight and here I am – 2 days after Christmas – and I have survived my first Christmas without my only son and his family. I have survived waking up alone on Christmas morning without my precious grandchildren pouncing on my sleeping body and I have survived the day with only my imagined thoughts of how they were spending their first Christmas without me.
                    This morning I am packing to return to New York and to belated preparations for yet another Christmas celebration – I haven’t wrapped a thing! – and I am flooded with my memories of all the Christmases with Scott, Stacey, Jared, and Emily but I am also flooded with the new memories I made in the last few days as my brother and sister and I made our own “Christmas firsts.” We calculated that:
                    Ginny, my "big" sister
                    Ginny, my “big” sister
                    • this is the first Christmas that the 3 of us have been together for 43 years;
                    • this is the first Christmas that I have ever spent with Joe, my brother-in-law;
                    • this is the first Christmas that I have ever been with Lou, my sister-in-law;
                    • this is the first Christmas that I have ever been with Kelly & Will, my niece & nephew;
                    • this is the first Christmas that my cousin Fran and I have been together for 36 years;
                    • this is the first Christmas that Fran and my sister have spent together – ever; and
                    • this is the first Christmas that my sister and I have attended a midnight service together for 43 years.
                    Not only did we make all those “firsts,” we also made some precious Christmas memories as we have laughed, cried, told stories, remembered our parents, our long-ago Christmas traditions, and how they all had come together to make new traditions in our own families. We have celebrated the monumental “first” of being together for this special day – one that we have always treasured for the fun we had and the family memories we made as well as for the gift that God sent to the world in the person of his only Son, Jesus.
                    When Ginny, David, and I were growing up church was always a large part of our Christmas celebrations and since I retired from active parish ministry (5 years ago), I have not attended a midnight Christmas celebration – until this year when I went with Ginny, her husband Joe, and cousin Fran to a lovely church in Upperville VA. The music was grand, the church was spectacularly decorated, the sermon was terrific and I totally loved singing the Christmas carols. It was beautiful and it was special – after all, I was sharing it with family and making a new memory with them that I know I will cherish forever.
                    It was also “being home” for me as the Episcopal Church at Christmas is about as perfect as it gets.  It was also “coming home” for me as I have mightily struggled with God this last year over the whole “why do bad things happen to good people” thing.  My kids are good people and they’ve suffered through way too many bad things lately and I want them to end.  I’ve prayed and prayed and many other people have prayed and prayed and still the “bad things” continue. So Christmas was looking tough for me but when I walked into that church on Christmas Eve only moments before the first strains of “O come all ye faithful” filled the santuary and my heart, I knew I had “come home.”  I knew all over again what I had been telling people for more than 20 years was true.  God doesn’t bring the bad things, God does help by being there alongside the bad things, and that the bad things can never take away the miracle of God sending his only son to die for the sins of the world, including the “bad things.”
                    So, I was glad to be “home” with God in God’s house, singing about the birth of his son – after all, isn’t that really what makes Christmas celebrations special?
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                    Susan Bowman, the “LadyFather” has written a book on her experiences in the ordained ministry.  Aptly named “Lady Father,” it is now available for purchase on  Register below to receive her newsletter and important emails and don’t forget to check out Susan’s Facebook page at

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