Lady Father’s Blog

The Trinity Explained … the Best I Can!

Symbol for Trinity

I received a question in the comments: Can you explain the Trinity – three in one, one in three – it just doesn’t make sense. Well, you can’t believe how many times I’ve been asked that question in the last 30 years! But I love being asked so let me give this a shot. First, I have to say that I wish I could just say “Yes, of course…” It’s not that easy because there is really no simple answer but there is an explanation. So here goes.

The Trinity is a doctrine – that means it’s something we believe is true through faith. It isn’t provable but if it was, then we’d only have to believe in the proof and not the Trinity. So we can only try and understand it and believe it with faith.

Let me use my favorite image to explain it. I don’t know if you bake bread but this works anyway. If you make up a batch of bread dough and divide it into 3 equal pieces, you have 3 identical portions. If you braid one and baste it with butter, you have Challah. If you add raisins and cinnamon sugar, you have cinnamon bread. If you add fruit and icing, you have a Danish. All three are bread – at the core of each one is pure bread. The additions give each one a different purpose. Each one is made of the same basic elements and each one has a specific purpose. But there’s more…

The Trinity is God – pure and simple … The Son is God – pure and simple … The Holy Spirit is God – pure and simple. Let’s break that down …

  • God created everything and continues to create and sustain and strengthen us.
  • Jesus, God incarnate (God who came to earth in the flesh), saved us for eternity and gathered believers together and made them disciples then taught them and still teaches us to love and comfort and give and spread his message.
  • The Holy Spirit is God’s fan, spreading God’s essence all around bringing us God’s love, God’s comfort, God’s healing, God’s strength, all of God’s blessings AND the desire and ability to spread all of God to the world around us.
Day of Pentecost

The Holy Spirit is how God is present to us as humans, how God hears and answers prayers, how God gives us His power to heal and teach and love and comfort each other. This is how I am able to share this with you. The Holy Spirit not only gave me God’s blessing to be His priest but also continuously gives me the words and power to share God’s truth. Without my connection to God through the Holy Spirit (in prayer), I would be an empty shell, unable to teach or share anything true about God. 

All of what I have told you is what I believe to be the truth as God has told me, using Jesus as my model and guide, and using the Holy Spirit as my teacher and what I call my “filler-upper.” Not a real word (I do love making up words about God) but it says what is. The Holy Spirit fills me up with everything about God – my love of the church as a child, singing in the choir, and wanting to be a boy so I could grow up to be a man and do what the priest was doing – my love of the church that brought me back to the church and God after college and a bad marriage – my calling from God to be His priest (He called me just the way I was, Bible-illiterate, divorced, scared, but determined) – my continued love of the church, the Bible, the Prayer Book (what makes us Episcopalians), preaching, the sacraments, ministering to the people God puts in my path – all of it.

Without the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all three – I would be either an empty believer in God with nothing Godly to give to others, a “walking Bible” (that’s the way I think of those who spout the Word of God with no real understanding, guidance, or power), or a “blowhard” (that’s the way I think of those who knock people down with what they think is God’s Spirit but is really their own misguided though well-intentioned attempts to lift people up). There are many of those folks walking around “preaching” God’s word and gathering up empty and spiritually needy people who probably don’t have a real grasp of who God really is because they believe that God is just a vast, indeterminate being hanging around heaven waiting for us to arrive or a great teacher or a ghost.

So many people just have never been taught that God is Trinity. No doubt – don’t get me wrong – God is God. Jesus is Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. God is Three. But the other part of the reality of God is that God is God. God is Jesus. God is the Holy Spirit. God is One. God = One in Three/Three in One = Trinity = God.

So, if it sounds like a circular argument, then you got it – sort of…because we will never completely “get it” this side of heaven. Personally, I am looking forward to my arrival in heaven (wherever that is) when my first question to whoever or whichever greets me will be: “What’s with this trinity stuff?” I make light only to ease the heaviness of this for me because it is heavy stuff. It is what God is and that is what we need to live. My brother-in-law and I have serious talks sometimes about what I call “God-stuff.” That is the stuff we need to know about God – some, actually most, of which we can only partly understand. But that’s OK.

I believe that all God expects from his imperfect human beings is to try – try to understand – try to share – try to internalize it – try to love it – try to believe it – and above all – do what you are doing — ask questions. That is the best thing you could have done. If you don’t understand something, ask somebody who does. And that is especially true with things about God. So I am glad you came to me because I love talking theology and I love to teach others about God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May all three bless you mightily.


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“Grace Looks Amazing on You”

A Review of the Book by Amy Seiffert

This delightful book is one I will keep beside my recliner chair from now on because it is filled with God’s truth in such delightful, meaningful, insightful, laugh-out-loud, and grab-my-heart ways that I want to read and re-read them every day. I have read a lot of religious books over my last 46 years of ordained priesthood, not to mention 3 years of seminary, and this is the first one I have not wanted to ever finish. Here’s why:

First of all, I opened it when I received it in the mail while still standing in the kitchen and I started to read the introduction. When I reached the end of the first page, I would normally have put it down for later…I kept reading. When I finished the intro, I grabbed my yogurt and headed for my chair, already starting the first chapter. I was hooked!

Then on page 19, she got me for the duration when she said about plants, “I kill them.” I couldn’t believe it! She was me! I remember some 53 years ago standing in my first pulpit and saying, “I have a confession to make…I kill plants.” My mother even had to come every fall and take my bedraggled plants to struggle back to life in her greenhouse so when she described the incredible strength of a Rose of Sharon in her yard and said, “I want to know that I can never be plucked up from the soil of God’s love,” I knew I had found a gem.

And it is. It is filled with her amazing and descriptive images of the grace of God from the world around her, her own life, from Scripture, and from her own God-driven imagination. She used everyday things like a watering can, Target store aisles, train wrecks, darkness, no, yes, apologizing, to make a connection to the grace of God and never failed to show how this grace looks on all of us. The word she used from the title to the last page is “Amazing” and amazing is the very word I would use both for her message and this book filled with God’s truth and love.

Every day, I was fed and uplifted by her descriptions of how grace eludes us in our sinful nature and how God doesn’t seem to notice as he continues to find us, to enlighten us as to our shortcomings, to clean us up, to love us, and return us to the world where grace looks so amazing on us that we shine on the world glorifying God and showing the world how much God really loves us no matter what we do.

In every chapter, she finds another creative way to take a piece of who we are as sinful humans and show us how God drenches us in his love so that, in the end, he clothes us in his amazing grace. And in every chapter, I am taken down to the depths of my own sinfulness as she openly and freely describes her own human shortcomings. I am made fully aware of my own ability to try and use my own power to drag myself up out of that and the inevitable failure of those attempts, no matter how well-intentioned. And then, when all seems overwhelming and hopeless, when I think there is no way out of human depravity, she finds a Godly way to show me where to find the incredible, no-strings-attached, never-ending, and all-encompassing love of God.

Finally, unbelievably, incredibly, and every single time, she makes me so glad I picked this book up, so glad I read it every day, and so glad that I too have a God who loves me this much. And, like never before, I can’t wait to read these chapters again and again. This is because Amy Seiffert has God’s gift of making life come alive as I’ve never heard before, making God’s love more real than I’ve ever heard before, and making my own faith in that love stronger than ever before. Just listen to some of her images of grace – umpire for my own heart, a fresh warm bathrobe, and my favorite image of the penetrating, covering power of God – the tapestry of grace.

I have read many books on grace, listened to many sermons on grace, and pondered many of my own ideas of grace but, nowhere, have I encountered so many and so full and so beloved images of the all-encompassing, all-powerful, all-available love of God that lives in my life as it does in hers. This is the mark of a great book – that its truth can be transferred from the author to one’s own life and have such meaning that it begs to be read again and again. Kudos to Amy Seiffert, for her first-hand knowledge of God’s grace from Holy Scripture, her first-hand experiences of God’s grace in her world, and her first-rate description of the amazing grace of God. 

You can grab your own copy of this remarkable book at

And check out her sweet video at

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StStephensEasterI just spent three!! hours on Facebook Live and Zoom with my church family at St. Stephens’s Episcopal Church in Delmar, NY. (The picture is our altar at Easter which we all can’t wait to see soon.) I can’t tell you what a high that was!! First, the live Holy Eucharist service was beautiful – I got to sing one of my favorite hymns (“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy”) – I got to hear my favorite preacher preach (Super Sermon Fr Scott) – and then I got to spend almost 2 hours with some of the members at our Virtual Coffee Hour. It was truly an amazing morning, one I’ll cherish for a long time. In fact, I made the point during Coffee Hour that this is an experience that, while we don’t like doing it so much now, we will remember and tell people about for a long time.

That is what community is all about – creating memorable experiences. And the church community is about creating memorable experiences with God and each other. I don’t think it could have been done any better than it was done at St. Stephen’s today. Many thanks to Fr. Scott Garno our Rector and Preacher extraordinaire, our guest Celebrant, Fr. Bill Hinrichs, Rector of St. John’s Cohoe’s and his members, Helen our Organist who brings our church, and today our homes, her music, our basic choir, Michelle & Tim (I hope I’m remembering right who was up there) who led us in singing, Mark our acolyte, and of course, the Holy Spirit!

The Coffee Hour was spirited and very much alive with the personalities of members of all ages, genders, and technical abilities. The main “Techie” was Patti Gibbons who made it possible for us to view the live service on both Facebook Live and Zoom and then produced our Coffee Hour experience. She is a phenomenal talent at many things, but today it was her technical expertise that took center stage. She, Fr. Scott, and others are meeting tomorrow to begin planning Holy Week worship, which will take place, but in different ways than ever before. We look forward to the outcome!!

May God bless this church, all churches, and all of God’s people in this uncertain, scary, and, for many people, lonely time. +

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We WILL get through thisIn these dark days, we have a sign from the very light of God that includes every color – every person – every thing – every need – even every almost overpowering disease. This is the basis of the Good News that God will overcome the world and that he will never again destroy His Creation. And we know this is true because, in His own time, He sent His only Son to assure us of His forever love and our forever life with Him and Jesus. So while we hunker down and try to find things to do, remember to pray for deliverance from this virus AND to give thanks for His love, His Son, and His Promise! God bless us all.

Let me share with you – for your use and anyone else who needs it – the Prayers of the People from this morning’s service from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Delmar, NY. It was telecast live and brought the congregation together in a moving tribute and plea to God.

The Prayers of the People

Celebrant: O God, our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. In this challenging and uncertain time of global pandemic and public health crisis, we come before you offering our prayers on behalf of those in need, the Church, and the world. For the Church, that it may not grow weary of proclaiming the gospel of Christ and serve as a beacon of hope to a suffering world. We pray for all who minister in your name.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

For all affected by the coronavirus around the world. For the leaders of the nations, that they may work together for the common good as the outbreak spreads. May barriers that divide be brought down so that bonds of trust may be strengthened to benefit the entire human family.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Grant public health and government officials in our nation the strength and will to act swiftly and decisively, with wisdom and compassion in service to all. We pray especially for Donald, President of the United States; the Congress; Andrew, our governor; and our local elected officials.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they have access to medical care and regain their strength and health; grant them your healing grace. Give strength to all who are caring for loved ones.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

For healthcare workers, who with hearts of service, stand on the front lines of providing care. Grant them courage and protection as they put the needs of public safety before their own. Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Bless scientists and researchers around the world as they combat the virus, that their work may yield knowledge to develop a vaccine, treatments, and improved measures to reduce its spread.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

For the safety and well-being of all who travel and those who remain quarantined.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Remove the presence of fear and anxiety from our hearts, that confident in your providence we may be generous in sharing our resources.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Grant that our church and other communities of faith may reflect your love, as they minister to the most vulnerable among us; fill them with your Holy Spirit as they work to be your healing hands to all in need.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

For those who have already lost loved ones to the virus and those who may yet suffer such loss that they may know the consolation of your love.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

For all who have died in the hope of the Resurrection, and those whose faith is known to you alone, that, with all the saints, they may have rest in that place where there is no pain or grief, but life eternal.

Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Celebrant:  Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


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I did it – I actually did take a trip – left on a jet plane – rented a car – the whole shebang!! That was something for me but the greatest thing about this trip was that God sent me. An old friend from EYC days in Southern Virginia invited me to make a presentation on “Women in Church Leadership” for her parish in Simpsonville, SC (close to Greenville).

HolyCrossChurchLynda Leach Clark was the ideal hostess. She advertised it on Facebook and all around her diocese and surrounding areas. She had the whole event so well organized – all I had to do was be there. Everything ran like clockwork. She and members of the Holy Cross Faith in Action Committee squired me around town like a major VIP.

We ate out in wonderful places with wonderful people. Lynda and I had some alone time to catch up after 30+ years. The really wonderful thing was when my dear friend Cindy Cox Suddeth and her son Anthony showed up and surprised me. In fact, I was actually speechless when I saw her standing at my table!

It was a major shock! I had no idea that Anthony lived close by and that she was coming down to babysit his new baby. So I had no clue that they had decided to come and surprise me. Every time I looked up and saw them, I was almost overcome all over again. Cindy and I were and remain best of friends, working together at Camp Chanco. (She was the nurse and I was a Sr. High counselor and then Business Manager the summer before I left for seminary.)

Chanco 3We loved that holy spot on the James River and grew to love the Lord and each other in that order. She and a bunch of other youth “groupies” had actually driven down to Sewanee to visit the summer after my first year (1984). They showed me the most incredible support I could ever ask for from any friends. I’ll never forget that visit or them and the overwhelming love I felt when they pulled into my driveway. I’ll also never forget my blessed days at Camp Chanco when God reeled me into a new life as His servant.

I Was Back!!

This special event was the first time I had done anything like it in more than 22 years and I was in heaven! It didn’t take me long to hit my stride and I knew that God was with me, inspiring and supporting me through the whole event. I received many “kudos” from the receptive congregation. This let me know that I had been listening to God through the whole process of writing and re-arranging a 36-page manuscript until I knew it was right – just what God ordered.

I spent some time looking at the Biblical “proof” that “women shouldn’t be allowed to speak in church.”  I “de-proofed” it, showing that all the anti-women “proof” was cultural. I made the point that when God created a woman to be a “helper” for the man, it was not as a slave. That’s because the Hebrew word translated as “helper” means “working with” and has nothing to do with being “subservient.” Looking at the subsequent Bible verses through that lens makes it all look much different.

The Ordination of Women

PriestDollI then took the participants on a trip through the history of the ordination of women. I started with the very first woman ordained in 1853 . Then I moved through the unprecedented “Philadelphia 11” to the recent election of the first woman as Bishop in the Diocese of Southern Virginia. This took place some 25 years after I was ordained the first woman as a transitional Deacon.

Then I shared my journey to that historic moment and through the next 16 years of ministry in the Dioceses of Southern Virginia and Albany. I described to them the moments of great joy I experienced serving as God’s priest. I also shared some of the agonizing rejections and discriminatory behavior I lived through as what my friends called a “reluctant pioneer.” It was a difficult journey – one I questioned as I wondered many times what I had been thinking back in 1980. I must have lost my mind when I approached my Bishop who was then an adamant opponent of the ordination of women.

Ms Bishop Bear

Who’s in Charge?

Those were the times when I somehow forgot who is really in charge of ordination. I was consistently reminded of this truth every time a person shook my hand after a service and said something like, “I didn’t think women should be priests and started to stay home but I’m glad I came this morning – you are great!” And I was stunned to watch the two Bishops in my life move graciously from a position of unwillingness to ordain women to an acceptance of God’s will that both men and women should be ordained to proclaim His Good News. 

This was a most astounding fact – what God had actually been doing. I knew that those who had told me that God was using me in the lives of these two Bishops were right. I didn’t want to hear that but as I watched them they allowed God to show them the truth – that I was only interested in being the best priest I could be – that I wasn’t “fighting a cause.” That was when I knew for sure that God was and is in charge of ordination.

This is also when I became certain of what I had been led to believe throughout my journey: Bishops and Commissions on Ministry and Standing Committees are God’s servants appointed to guide future priests through a process that God intended to be one of discernment, guidance, and support.

Women in Church Leadership

WomenChurchLeadershipTitleI ended my presentation with a look at women in Church leadership today. Women are now canonically allowed to serve in all levels of Church leadership – from lay ministries to Presiding Bishop. However, there are still women, mostly parish priests who are mistreated, harassed, and rejected. The “glass ceiling” is still in place as some women continue to be paid less than men in the same position. So, the process and the people who oversee it are still less than perfect as are those who look at a priest and still see a man.

It was truly a blessed experience. I felt alive again as I did what God had created me to do. I loved this opportunity to tell the world about how God had brought me from a biblically lliterate Christian in name only to a dedicated priest of God’s church.



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StStephensSome time ago, I posted about my first trip to Sunday service at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Delmar, NY. It was wonderful! I felt so welcomed by all the people and by the Rector whom I have known since he was a teenager. I was particularly blessed by his sermon, which was actually aimed at the newly baptized and the little ones who had just received their first communion. But I heard Fr. Scott talking right to me.

When we all recited the Renewal of Baptismal Vows, I knew that I had come home. I knew that God had brought me there on that particular day for one particular reason – to welcome me back to His Church. The night before, as I prepared for bed, I heard myself say, “I want to go to church” instead of my usual “I need to go to church” or “I ought to go to church.” And I really did WANT to go so the next morning, I got up and went, ending up in the perfect setting for a return to my beloved Episcopal Church.

I Was Home!!

Jermain United Methodist Church PulpitWell, on February 25th, just 7 months later, I really and finally returned! Thanks to Fr. Scott Garno’s gracious welcome, I was the celebrant and preacher at services that day. I was celebrating the 34th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. It was the first time I had been in an alb and chasuble standing behind an Episcopal altar. It was the first time I had stood in an Episcopal pulpit in 12 long years. During that time, I had been “on loan” to a little Methodist church as a “Sunday Pastor” (a great retirement gig!). While the Methodist prayer book is very similar to the Episcopal prayer book, the layout of the church is very different. I missed the altar setting and, for some reason, the lectern above the altar just wasn’t the same.

I was excited but nervous as we prepared to enter the church. It was the first time I was going to be processing down the aisle behind the choir, my favorite place to be on a Sunday morning. It didn’t take long for me to feel the same thrill I always felt when processing into my church as a member of the Jr. Choir at St. Paul’s in Petersburg, VA. Before the 1st line of the opening hymn was out of my mouth, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was where God had intended me to be all my life.

I was unsteady on my feet and needed assistance navigating the steps around the Altar, but it was absolute heaven to be back at God’s holy table to bring God’s people the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus and I soon forgot how awkward I felt hobbling up and down the steps on the arm of Fr. Scott. It soon became just what it took to be back home.

Preaching the Perfect Gospel

I’m a good preacher and really enjoyed delivering my sermon about the call of Jesus’ disciples (how appropriate huh?) and my own call by God. That had begun when I was 5 years old sitting in my grandmother’s pew wishing I was a boy. I wanted so badly to carry the cross and then grow up to be a man so I could do what the minister was doing. My confession that what really attracted me was the colorful “scarf” (stole) the minister wore got a good chuckle from the congregation. They were also amused at my constant battle with the “technology” I wasn’t used to using. I had finally gotten accustomed to turning it on and off when I got up to pronounce the offertory sentence. I triumphantly turned it on only to NOT hear my voice booming through the church. Turns out the batteries were dead!! But Fr. Scott just scooted out and got new ones and by the time the Deacon had prepared the table, we were ready to rock and roll!

What a Blessed Event!

All in all, it was a most successful return to my Episcopal roots as the priest God intended me to be. He had so graciously led me and loved me through the process our church has set up to prepare priests to serve Him. I did wonder how my sermon was received, as usual. My fears were laid to rest when, during the peace, I was greeted by the Organist who said, with great feeling, “I really needed that! Thank you!” I knew God had brought me home in fine style!!


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4 Out Of 4 Stars!

online-book-club-orgThis is an official review from I am so excited and grateful for this validation of my precious Lady Father. I am printing the review here in its entirety.

“What if I hadn’t endured the agony of rejection and the long, winding journey that I had just completed?” Rev. Susan B Bowman.

“Lady Father” is a memoir that was authored by The Rev. Susan B Bowman. It is an honest recollection of the events of her life from 1975. It chronicles her courage, resilience, and endurance right from the call to ministry, through training, and ordination as a priest at a time when this was not good news to everyone. The book is 174 pages long. It is divided into three parts and contains seventeen chapters. All the chapters were titled appropriately thus giving the reader a hint on what to expect.

Susan had been challenged by the reflections from a church youth group during a retreat. These youths were different because they were thirsty for God’s word and spiritual truths. She eventually became the Youth Group Advisor in 1976 and found a youth ministry that fed her with more friendship and love than she had ever known before. The youth ministry sparked an interest in her to study Theology. There were hurdles to be overcome in this journey. This was at a time when there was a lot of discrimination against women serving as leaders in the church. She was also supposed to be approved by her bishop who was well-known for his stand in favor of all-male church leadership.

The book handled gender discrimination comprehensively, especially in the church. It was surprising to read that many people did not have any issues with Susan Bowman except being a priest. This was made worse because even some of her closest friends conspired against her. She was forced to resign twice by people who did not involve her in their secret meetings. They did this because she was a woman. The other big problem was non-communication. No one would openly confront her about her alleged mistakes. However, these mistakes would be brought up against her after a long time.
It is also important to mention that she had wonderful friends who supported her through her journey. There were people whom she had never considered would help her or even accept her calling to the priesthood. They stood with her during her lowest moments and some offered financial aid as well. Many of them taught her many valuable lessons in subtle ways. They included her family, friends, members of youth groups, and children as well. Their support and constant encouragement were much needed in the author’s journey.
There are many things I liked about the book. What I liked most was the author’s openness. She talked to her friends honestly concerning her feelings and frustrations. This is what started her journey of recovery when she fell into depression. I also loved the rhetorical questions posed in the book because they ushered me into moments of deep reflection. I was also encouraged since the author never gave up even when it looked like there was no light at the end of the dark tunnel. She kept going on and her resilience finally paid off. There was nothing I disliked in the book.
The book was professionally edited. The language employed was also straightforward. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to all fans of memoirs. It will appeal most to those who may be battling gender discrimination in the workplace. I am sure the book will leave all readers with a great deal to think about.”

Lady Father
Viewon Bookshelves | on Amazon

​​​​​​He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.

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Press Release – January 2020

Background-Welcome Email

For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan B Bowman

 Rev. Bowman’s Memoir “Lady Father” featured in “Per Ardua” (Through Adversity) Winter Women’s Issue 2019 Episcopal New Yorker

Glenmont, New York – December 20, 2019 – Rev. Bowman’s compelling memoir has been showcased in the Women’s Issue of the Episcopal New Yorker, the quarterly magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Entitled “Per Ardua” (translated “Through Adversity”) it is printed in English but the title of the article certainly captures the essence of her tumultuous journey into the ordination process of the Episcopal Church newly vache (125x185)opened to women in the 1980’s. With a Bishop (the Rt. Rev. C. Claude Vache’) who refused to ordain women and a process still holding fast to the traditional all-male priesthood, Rev. Bowman was subjected to discriminatory practices and was not recommended for ordination until a year after her graduation from seminary. “Per Ardua” is written with the same honesty and gentle courage as her book which is set in the Dioceses of Southern Virginia and Albany. Her journey took her through various ministries during which she encountered everything from outright hostility and lost members to respect and devotion for her loving care of all those God put in her path, regardless of their stance on the issue. The events are reported honestly and without rancor, hostility, or excuses.

“It is painful; it is often light-hearted, even humorous; it is moving as it deals with real people, real events, and real emotions; and, most of all, it is mine – my story, my journey, my life.” Susan B. Bowman

“Per Ardua” begins with a brief description of the author’s upbringing in the Episcopal Church and her early years of ministry with youth groups in Southern Virginia where she soon felt called to go to seminary. Her approach to the Bishop was shocking as this strong opponent to the ordination of women allowed her – as the first Southern Virginia woman ever – to enroll in seminary at The University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee. Three short months later, he made further history by enrolling her in the ordination process, again the first woman ever. The subsequent story of her 4 and ½-year stint as a Postulant/Candidate for Holy Orders is breathtakingly painful and outrageous – regardless of what side of the issue one was on – and her courage and perseverance were finally rewarded when she was ordained a Deacon by Bishop Vache’ on February 23, 1985, and later, on January 25, 1986, a priest in the Church of God.

“If I had known what was in store for me, I think I would have thought more than twice about embarking on this journey.”

After 15 years of parish ministry, during which Rev. Bowman was disrespected, maligned, and even called names, the joy she had found in her ministry to many faithful Episcopalians began to be overshadowed by the mistreatment leaving her at the point of despair which nearly led to her resigning from the priesthood, the Church, and even Christianity. It was again God’s intervention that led her to ministry in a tiny United Methodist congregation where she served as “Pastor-on-Loan” for 12 years and was able to find healing and retire with joy and serenity.

To read “Per Ardua” in the Episcopal New Yorker, visit the online version at{%22issue_id%22:631033,%22publication_id%22:%2214595%22,%22page%22:16}.

About Lady Father

“Lady Father” was written by the Rev. Susan Bowman and published on May 10, 2011, by Aberdeen Bay. This website was born shortly thereafter as a home for “Lady Father” and has been a source of information about the book, theological and other more “fun” articles, as well as sermons for every season of the liturgical year. The author’s mission has been and continues to be to bring this piece of the history of women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church to the Church and, indeed, the world lest it be forgotten what an arduous journey women had to travel to serve God in his Church.

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Nativity-Baby-Jesus-Regardless of what our society wants us to believe – Christmas is still here! It is not, as many people believe – over at midnight Christmas Day or even several days later. The Christmas season is 12 days long – from Christmas Day until Epiphany (January 6th) – and, at least in the Episcopal Church, this is when we sing Christmas Carols as we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child and await the coming of the Magi to welcome and worship him, even in the face of the hatred and violence of King Herod.

In many churches and Episcopal homes, this trio is even placed at the far edge of a Christmas creche and moved ever closer as the days go by until at the end of 12 days they arrive at the manger. There are, however, still Christmas pageants that include the coming of the Wise Men only moments after the arrival of the shepherds and the angels and many churches sing “We Three Kings” and “The First Nowell” long before January 6th. This is really unfortunate. Even though there are no hard and fast rules about this, it would be nice if we were all on the same Christmas Season page.

2OrnamentsOnTree12 Days of Christmas?

I like this tradition, although I have to admit, I’ve only kept it partially. As a child, we always put up our Christmas trees and hung the stockings several weeks before Christmas and I can never remember leaving everything up for long after Christmas Day. It may have been because we had live trees for years and it wasn’t a real good idea to leave dry and shedding trees in the house – a disaster waiting to happen. But…

I don’t think we ever thought about it being the 12 days of Christmas or we could have left up the other decorations. But we didn’t do that and it wasn’t until I went to seminary and learned about the Epiphany and how long it was – even years – before the Magi arrived in Bethlehem. That was when I learned about the Season of Christmas and I have been at least a partial adherent ever since, although as a single mother, I could never bring myself to try and explain it all to my young son who loved putting up the tree and decorating the house. So we still put up our tree and hung our stockings a few weeks before Christmas. Of course, he was easy to convince that we should leave it all up until January 6th. I doubt he understood it, but he was certainly happy to join in this new tradition.

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

tistheseason2018-webimage1So the big question is this: is the Christmas Season tradition important to our understanding of Christmas? Or does it matter at all when we decorate and un-decorate every year? I have to say this: “The answer is not set in stone and I don’t think there are many who are concerned.” Of course, it would be nice to observe Advent for 4 weeks, waiting until late Christmas Eve or even Christmas morning to decorate the tree. It would be nice to begin our celebration and then, leaving everything in place until the coming of the Magi, complete ourmagi celebrations on January 6th.

It’s always nice if we can all move together through the holidays at the same pace. The reality is even if we observe the 12 days of Christmas in our churches (and many Episcopal churches do), most people leave church on Advent Sundays in a pre-season Christmas setting. Then they arrive home to a Christmas tree. Confusing huh? Well, I have to say, it’s not. Because somehow we have become inured to the dates and times of Christmas and Epiphany.

Everybody Has Their Own Traditions

We have also become accustomed to celebrating Christmas as we always have. And there are as many traditions for that as there are families and individuals doing the celebrating. Some keep Advent with the lighting of an Advent Wreath or opening the days of an Advent Calendar. Even some of those same people have already decorated their homes long before Christmas Eve. Some don’t even give any attention to Advent and just do Christmas as they always have. So, the reality is – I think – that what’s important about our Christmas celebrations is what’s in our hearts and what our family traditions mean to us.

I think it’s good to realize that the Wise Men didn’t show up on the night of Jesus’ birth, but probably 2 years or more later. I think it’s good to understand the meaning of their journey to worship a new King of the whole world, not just for the Jewish nation awaiting a Messiah. I think it’s fun to continue our Christmas celebrations for 12 more days after Christmas Day – after all, isn’t more celebrating a good thing? I also think it’s a good thing to remember that everybody’s Christmas traditions are different. The best we do that’s really important is that we celebrate the birth of God’s Son as His gift to us that not only brought us our salvation but also God’s own presence in our lives, even to the end of the age.


Merry Christmas!!

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It really is – in just 3 days – and it seems like just yesterday, I was wearing capri pants and sandals! I was having a conversation with a friend about just how quickly it was coming and I said, “Well, it can’t be any too soon for me because unless Christmas gets here, Spring will never come!” I really meant that at the time (it was 8 degrees!) but in the warmth of my apartment, I am thinking with some dismay that I was missing the point. That point, it seems to me, is that Christmas is something much more than a landmark on the way to Spring.

Of course, we all know that and I have known that for most of my life. Christmas has always been the high point of every year for me. Of course, when I was little, it was mainly because of all the presents 2OrnamentsOnTreewaiting under the 2 Christmas trees in our house. Even as I grew into a teenager, I can remember that same anticipation of what was to come. But at the same time, I was becoming aware that something much more important was happening. You see, I have been going to Midnight Service my entire life.

Even as a little one, I must have slept in the pew, even though I don’t remember it, because my parents told me I did. I think my first conscious memory of a midnight service was when I was about 6 or 7 SantaImportantyears old. I can remember thinking that whoever had decorated the church had a weird idea of what Christmas was all about. There were no presents and only one Christmas tree. Nobody was making me go to bed so that Santa Claus could come to our home. There were no toys and, in fact, no Santa Clauses at all. 

Then, I grew up a little bit and joined the Jr. Choir which had a part in every Midnight service. We sang something, probably O Little Town of Bethlehem or Away in a Manger I’m sure, and then the Sr. Choir took over. That was when they deposited me in my grandmother’s pew where I’m sure I promptly fell asleep. After all, it was almost midnight by that time. Then came the mother of all wonders – when I was 12 years old, I got to join the Sr. Choir and somehow Christmas became something more than just the longest service in the year. The anthems we sang and all the Christmas Carols came alive for me as I struggled to master the alto part of everything with the gentle tutorage of our paid alto soloist. She was a Jewish woman who always told her Rabbi not to plan anything for Sunday mornings or Christmas Eve because she had to go to HER church. I’ll never forget her and her patience and love for both me and the worship of our beloved Episcopal Church and her excitement at the wonder of our worship experience.

I Didn’t Know What Christmas is ALL About

Nativity-Baby-Jesus-As I think about those years now, I am all grown up and have spent more than 46 years as a priest of this church I love so much. I now realize that somehow the Rector and people of St. Paul’s in Petersburg, VA knew what Christmas was all about. However, they imparted that to me on a level that was so deep that I didn’t even realize it was there for so long. Now, I realize that thinking about Christmas with so many competing images and practices makes it difficult to maintain that wonderful, magical feeling about celebrating the birth of Jesus. I tried but the commercialization of Christmas got worse and my devotion to the Church grew dimmer.

This happened in the light of college and a brief marriage to an unchurched man. That was when I lost sight of all that and Christmas became just a holiday that I spent with my family. When I did go, that moment in church became something so brief, giving way to getting home to prepare for the thing that had become much more crucial to me – Christmas morning. We never ever attended church on Christmas morning after spending the late hours of Christmas Eve and the wee hours of Christmas morning in church. So Christmas morning was all about gifts, my Dad’s Christmas home movies, and cinnamon coffee cake. These all seemed to take on much more importance for me and my young family.

A New Look at Christmas

That all changed when I left home for seminary. Everything about church took on new meaning for me as we spent many hours as a faith community learning about our faith and worship practices. We also actually lived them out in our own chapel. I distinctly remember our early Christmas worship services and then going home for Christmas that first year and thinking, “I can’t wait for the midnight service.” And, in that familiar setting, it was all that I remembered and more. Christmas had once more become something special – centered around the most wonderful gift from God – the birth of his Son. Once more I was transported to that familiar cocoon of love and wonder that I always felt in those midnight celebrations.

baby-jesusIn three short years, the roles switched on me and suddenly I was the one on the other side of the altar. I became the doer and, as I recall it now, I wasn’t quite ready for the power of that transformation. I was now the bringer of glad tidings – I was now the one reminding my own flock of the real meaning of Christmas. I remember so well how hard I worked to make sure that everything I did and said in every Christmas service pointed to the birth of Jesus. After all, He is the wondrous gift of God – our hope and our salvation. He is the Reason for the Season. It was indeed hard work but it was also a labor of love. As I now realize, I had fallen in love with that tiny little baby boy and with all that his coming meant to me and to the world.

Great Christmas Traditions

I was fortunate that, in my first three parishes as an ordained priest, there was a solid tradition of Christmas Eve midnight services so I continued to enjoy that beloved tradition. In subsequent years, I missed that part of my Christmas celebrations. Even the occasional Christmas Day celebration, when Christmas actually fell on a Sunday, didn’t quite fill my heart the way those midnights full of wonder had over the years. And now I’m retired and pondering all these memories. I found myself wishing that I could once more return to the church of my childhood and the beauty and glory of a Christmas Eve. The Altar Guild had filled it with poinsettias, pine boughs, Christmas carols, and alleluias (after 4 weeks of Advent). Then there were those first moments of Christmas Day when we welcomed Jesus into our hearts, our minds, and our very souls.

stylistic2729The really good news that I can report is that all of that still lives deep in my heart. Even though I can’t actually experience it all again, I can still feel the excitement of the opening strains of “O Come, all ye faithful.” I can still feel the words of the Christmas story ringing in my ears along with “Hark! the herald angels sing.” There is still the quiet peace of the powerful candlelight singing of “Silent Night.” And, above all, I can still feel the exuberant joy I felt as we marched back down the aisle singing “Joy to the World” for all we were worth. I guess that’s the wonderful thing about memories – you can resurrect them when you need them. They can also still feed you just like before – just like God’s only son who himself was resurrected and now feeds us all just like before. 

I wish you all a blessed and joyous Christmas celebration wherever you are. I pray that you can feel that love and peace that Jesus brought into the world so long ago and still brings us even today.



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Charity_Adams_inspecting_troopsSomebody said to me on Sunday after church that she was so disappointed that there was no mention of Veterans’ Day. There was no national hymn to mark the day when we all give thanks for our Veterans and thank them for their invaluable service. I have to agree with her. Although Veterans’ Day is not a religious holiday, it is certainly important to remember these brave men and women with a prayer at the end of the service or during Prayers of the People. When I had a parish, I always did that and I even preached a number of Veterans’ Day sermons. These people are such an integral part of our nation and the freedom we enjoy that they deserve a place in our hearts and certainly in our prayers.

My father didn’t serve in the military because he had flat feet. The Army had determined that they were not suitable for marching and plodding through fields and forests looking for the enemy. So he joined the Army Corps of Engineers and went to South America to build roads. My husband was in the Navy and did one tour in Viet Nam by ship but he wasn’t injured and I don’t even think he went to the VA hospital once. His veteran status just didn’t seem too important to either of us.

VeteranFamilyI had one cousin who served in Viet Nam and he too returned home unscathed, at least physically. The bottom line is that I have no military background. With no World War veteran in my family and only 2 other family members with any military service, I never had any exposure to the pride and grief of those who watched their loved ones go off to war. Thankfully, I never experienced the fear and the uncertainty of waiting for their loved one’s return, or the doorbell ringing to announce the dreaded news. I never watched a loved one suffer from PTSD after horrendous experiences on the battlefield. This meant that I never stood with anyone as they proudly saluted the flag and I never rejoiced with anyone who received a medal for their service.

Veterans Were Still Important

What that has meant for me has been a long life of almost indifference to the Veterans in our midst and ignorance of their needs. I was unaware of their plight as they struggle with the aftermath of war and the unbelievably long red tape that keeps many of their needs unaddressed by the Veterans’ Administration. I didn’t know any of this until an Army Veteran from San Antonio, Texas who had a magazine called Our Heritage Magazine hired me as a writer and editor.

unnamed-2This magazine spotlighted the African-American experience in this country, including Veterans like the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. This was when I began to get in touch with my sense of pride and gratitude for these incredible people. I wrote editorials and articles and collated stories for regular tributes for the unsung black heroes in our country’s history. Stories streamed out of me telling of the everyday black heroes who put others before themselves and made a difference in someone’s life. The long-forgotten and ignored black heroes who are finally beginning to receive recognition and even finally receive the medals they rightly earned during their military service became my new heroes.

I still do some writing for Our Heritage Magazine, which is now online at where you can read great stories and articles. They are all about about living the African-American experience and about their contribution to our country’s history. The Publisher, Alvin C. Fagan, a Veteran himself has dedicated himself to raising the awareness of the people of this land to the African-American culture that is all around us. You will be amazed at the compelling nature of the stories and articles about the many unsung heroes in the ranks of our military!

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Lady-Father-Shout-My-BookThis appeared on to let people know about an important book in the history of the Episcopal Church’s journey. “Lady Father” tells of this journey through the epic conflagration surrounding the appearance of women in the all-male priesthood after thousands of years. It was indeed cataclysmic and I was an unwitting part of it. I was just following my call from God and I tried to pay no attention to the chaos across the church. I had enough to deal with the struggles in my own little corner of our church. However, I soon found that God had much more planned than I had ever thought possible.

I ended up being a major influence in the spiritual struggle of many people. These people had always thought that, when it comes to the church’s central theological beliefs, things never should and never would change. In fact, two of those people were my Bishops. The Rt. Rev. C. Charles Vache’, 7th Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, who ordained me after his own spiritual struggle. For years, he was well-known for his opposition to women in leadership roles in the church. The other was the Rt. Rev. David S. Ball, 7th Bishop of the Diocese of Albany. He approved my call to be the first woman Rector in the Diocese even though he too was opposed to women’s ordination. Not only do I hold them in highest regard for their love and care for me, but they are my heroes!

A Cataclysmic Change

When I think back on those early days – the 70’s mostly – I remember my own astonishment at the turn things were taking in these essential parts of our religion. In those days I couldn’t imagine a woman celebrating the Eucharist or even dressing like a priest. After ordination, I distinctly remember being ready to walk down the aisle behind the choir, and looking down at my robe and stole, and thinking how strange I looked. So I could well imagine how those in the pews were feeling. They were also struggling with the whole idea of a woman looking like and acting like the main icon of the church’s sacramental life who had always been a man – not just for a while but for thousands of years! So, all through my own journey of upheaval, pain, and joy, I tried to remember how I felt “back in the day.” I tried to understand those who just couldn’t move with it as quickly as others. It helped me to live with everything I experienced and to leave it to God to resolve.

As I look back on it all I am so grateful to God for his presence in my own struggles. I am also grateful as well for his continual work with the opponents to women’s ordination through the last 70+ years. It is this struggle that has brought us to another place in our history. Women are now almost totally accepted members of the ordained clergy and Episcopate, even in the highest office – Presiding Bishop. But there is still work to do. I daily read horror stories told by some of my sister clergy who are currently struggling against discrimination, rejection, mistreatment, and dishonor. So, I continue to labor to get my message into the church – the message that God put me on this earth to speak as loudly as I can.


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So tomorrow’s the big day! I’m not sure for what exactly as I don’t hold out much hope that change is in the offing in the political world of today. But it’s still a big day. It’s a day off for a lot of people but more importantly, it’s the day when we get to exercise our right to vote. As a free country, it’s one of the most important things we can do. We have the right to vote for our favorite candidates or even vote somebody out of office if we think it’s necessary. However we vote, it is an honor and privilege won for us by many brave people. They put their lives on the line for something they believed in so strongly that they fought and they marched and won for us our most precious legacy. All that being said, I still have no idea who I will vote for tomorrow. I’ll just have to let the Holy Spirit guide my hand in the booth.

Lady FatherTomorrow is also a big day for me, the author of Lady Father. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Delmar, NY is a polling station and the church puts on a Craft and Bake Sale. The Rector invited me to display and hopefully sell my books during one of the busiest days our Parish Hall sees all year. So, I’m sitting here thinking through this upcoming lo-o-o-o-ong day about what I might need to have with me ALL DAY! Things like lunch, water, you know, the basics. Oh, and I can’t forget snacks – healthy of course! I mean, I’ll be there from 6 am to 3 pm!!

I have all the marketing tools I need, a large poster and large business cards with all the appropriate information. I have a thank you note to put in purchased books telling about God is in the Journey, my prequel to Lady Father. Of course, I have my computer in case anyone wants to buy one on the spot – and of course, I have BOOKS for autographing. Well, I thought if I wrote about this, I’d think of something I need to take but it looks like I’m all set. (I even remembered my medications which I have a hard time remembering when I stay home.) If you are a registered voter in Delmar, NY, come on by St. Stephen’s. You may vote in another polling station but you can’t beat the goodies (YUM) and the great gifts (handmade) from our talented cooks and crafters! And you might find a good book to read!


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I am what’s known as a “cradle Episcopalian.” That just means that I was born into an Episcopal family, then baptized in an Episcopal Church, and raised as an Episcopalian. Some folks like that get away from the church for a time or forever but they’re still considered “cradle Episcopalians.” I looked around when I was a teenager (just because my boyfriend was a Methodist and they had a killer youth group)  and I took off for a while in college because the people who said they would pick us up for church didn’t show up after a few months but I have always remained true to my church.

Shield_of_the_US_Episcopal_Church.svgI know there are many others out there who are just as faithful and many for longer than I have been. Today, I came face-to-face with an Episcopalian who was born into an Episcopal family and baptized in an Episcopal church but had been looking around since early adulthood. When she finally decided that the Episcopal Church was the right place for her, she became what I am going to call a “Fierce Episcopalian.

When I sat down to visit with her, her first question to me was “Have you brought me communion?” Her eyes were rimmed red so that she looked like she had been crying. Her voice was tremulous so she also sounded like she was going to cry. I have never wished for a communion set so badly in my whole ministry! She had been waiting for several weeks for someone who had brought her communion to return and she was really hurting. She felt abandoned and just downright miserable. I assured her that I would follow up on my efforts to be sure someone brought her communion once a week. It turned out somebody had dropped the ball while I was being a “Traveler.” So her face softened and I knew I had comforted her with my assurance.

A Great Episcopal Priest for a “Fierce” Episcopalian

The good news is that, within hours, I was able to secure the assurance of the local Episcopal priest so that she would receive communion on Sunday. He also said that he would visit her and invite her to join his parish community. I know that will make her happy although she is still struggling with a deep personal issue with God. At 95, she is wondering what her purpose is in this little bit of life she has left. We had a long conversation, with me listening carefully to her very deep and profound insights into the church of today. She had good insights into how it differs from the old traditional Episcopal Church she knew so well. We also had a lively discussion about where God is in our lives. We talked about what kind of plan God might have today, and even eagerly agreed on the veracity of this statement: God surely has a sense of humor.

“Fierce” Doesn’t Just Mean Intense

I guess my point is this: We can be Episcopalians (or members of any denomination) for a long time or a short time. We can even be brand new at it, but what matters most is how “fierce” we are about whatever we choose to be in God’s world. The definition of fierce is showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity. But what I like even better is this: Fierce comes from the Latin ferus, translated ‘wild animal.’ It means strong, proud, dangerous, and ready to roar. That is what I saw in this dear lady’s face when she asked me if I had brought communion. She wanted her Lord’s body and blood and, when she didn’t get it, she was ready to roar. Now that’s what I call a “Fierce Episcopalian.” Oh that we could all commune with our Lord on that level.

Powerful and “Fierce” Update

The dear and “fierce” Episcopalian I had become so fond of and inspired by has died. I am very sad at her passing and I dearly miss our visits. But my one joy is this: I was indeed able to arrange visits by a wonderful Episcopal priest, whom I have known for more than 45 years. I knew that he would do exactly what this woman needed. And he did. The Sunday following our discussions, Fr. Bill did visit her and brought her communion just as she so deeply desired. One week later, she passed away. I knew that her final wish had been realized and I have to say that my part in that was one of the most powerful actions of my ministry. I knew and know that without a doubt, God used me in that dear woman’s life. I’m so grateful that God also made me a “Fierce Episcopalian!”

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It looks like I must be since I just returned from a trip all the way across the country. I traveled from New York to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco to Portland OR to Spokane WA to Chicago and back home. Sounds like a nice quiet and peaceful journey doesn’t it? Well, I guess in some world it would be but the world I was in was an Amtrak sleeping car which is anything but quiet and peaceful. First, of course, there is the roar of the train itself as it barrels (or creeps) along. Then there is the almost constant train whistle warning approaching vehicles at every railroad crossing. Then the Engineer, Dining Car, and Cafe’ Car all begin their announcements at 7:00 am and shortly thereafter you can hear the not-so-quiet conversations of the passengers and train attendants as they begin their day. So quiet it is not. Peaceful? Well, on some level, there is some peace involved in “leaving the driving to them” and just enjoying the scenery.

GinnyAmtrakBut the best thing about this trip, besides the glory of God’s creation – all the mountains (which I love) and rivers and trees and more mountains, was the incredible bunch of people I met. At every meal, my sister (at right) and I never knew who our dining companions would be as we had to sit wherever the wait staff told us. At first, I thought that was a little pushy but I soon discovered that it was most exciting to wonder who we would face across the table at every meal. I have to tell you, we did meet some of the most interesting, friendly, funny, and delightful people!

The “Sisters-Nowhere-Near-Grim”

On the last leg of the trip, I was traveling alone from Chicago to Albany (my sister had taken another train back to her home in Virginia from Chicago). I went to breakfast where I sat with two sisters traveling to Boston. One was from Madison WI and the other was from somewhere in Illinois. They were so much fun to talk to and listen to that we found ourselves on our 4th cup of coffee watching the lunch diners entering the car at 11:30! We decided to meet for lunch at 12:30 and after another uproarious meal together we closed down the dining car.

We were only just leaving as the train was making its last stop before Albany in Schenectady. We planned it so that we could walk back to our roomettes without the unavoidable lurching (that’s what I call the uncontrollable swaying of the train that causes anyone trying to walk to “lurch”). We said goodbye only to meet again on the platform where they were getting some fresh air and I was in a wheelchair on the way to the station to meet my ride. Yes, my body (actually, my knees) had finally given out and I couldn’t drag that suitcase another inch so here’s to the railroad employee who found me a ride!!

Me! A Traveler!

So, at least for 8 days, I was a traveler. I’m not sure how many more trips I will take in the future but I’m sure of one thing – none of them will be on a train. I did love the spectacular scenery, the people, the time with my sister, the food, and the time away from the everyday grind. I even have to say that I loved the freedom from worrying about where we were (except for the 7-hour delay which made us miss our connection in Portland where we spent the night in a hotel). I also loved not worrying about how we were getting there, when to stop for gas, etc., etc.

Amtrak-in-AlbanyThere is something freeing about letting go and just enjoying the ride! But, at the end of the day (actually, every day) I assessed the amount of discomfort I had endured. It came from the “lurching” and just fighting to stay vertical or to stay in the very narrow bed as I never knew which way we would “lurch” next. What I found is that train travel may be more for the younger generation or at least for those more agile than I am. So I bid farewell to Amtrak and limped off to the car taking me home, which looked pretty good to me but I quickly discovered that it wasn’t over yet. As I walked into my apartment, I could have sworn that I was still on that train. I could literally feel myself “lurching” just enough to make me hang on to my furniture just as I had hugged the walls of the train cars. It didn’t last long but just long enough to remind me of my traveling days. And you know what, it made me eternally grateful to God for the opportunity to see more of his vast creation than I ever have and for bringing me home in one piece – a slightly bruised and sore traveler,

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Well, I have finally arrived! Check out this Guest Blog on WriteOnOnline on writing a memoir. I sound like an expert for sure!


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“Lady Father” is available on, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, indiebound, and other distributors. It took hard work and a “little bit” of angst, and it is amazing to see my labor of love in such prominent positions. 

There’s not too much else to say except thank you to all who have bought Lady Father, been interested in it, spread the news about it, or just wished me well. I love you all. God Bless.


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The past few months have been hectic and at times, almost overwhelming. As most of you know, I’ve been campaigning loud and long to get my publisher to re-release Lady Father. The fact that he finally agreed and it is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, (for those local to me, that’s Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza), is nothing short of a miracle. I have to admit there were times when I thought just maybe God didn’t really want me to do this. Then, one thing would work, then another. Suddenly, I was looking at a long list of successful listings and promises to purchase, one speaking engagement, and a few almost certain possibilities (how’s that for vague?).

Through all the computer glitches, disappointments, and uncertainties, I kept my focus on one thing – bring Lady Father’s message back! That was my mission back in 2011 – to spread the message that ordination and church ministry is in God’s control. I also knew that God was using me (as well as others) in the lives of those around me who faithfully stood by their conviction that the all-male priesthood was sacrosanct. Now, 20 years later, that mission is stronger than ever even though it seems that women have a strong presence in the ordained leadership of the Church. This is what kept nagging at me during the dark moments – there is no need for the message of Lady Father.

That message is that God called me and many other women just like me to become priests in his church. Also, God walked with us through all the struggles as well as the joyful times. That is what I believed God wanted me to say to the Church and the world. But at least once or twice a day, it WilliamAndMarywas all brought into question as I struggled to get that message out through my website and social media. And then, I received an email from an old college classmate from our days at William and Mary together back in the 60’s. It seems that she had bought my book and was ⅓ of the way through it when she realized “how much I wish we had known each other better in college. You see, college-wise you have been telling my story, too.” She went on to describe her experiences which so eerily coincided with mine that I immediately felt a bond that we never could have formed in college. For now, we had “walked a mile” in each other’s shoes. I felt so blessed at that moment but it got better.

A few days later, I heard from her again – now she was ¾ of the way through the book and she said such stunning words that I want to share them with you. “Women of our generation – like you – began the hard work of clearing the path for them. It’s been 30, 40, 50 years now and few of them really know how hard it was and how much you paid to open things up for them. While most folks are aware of the “women’s movement of the 70’s, the bra-burners, the rabble-rousers,” it’s not just them. It’s also the women who went to work every day and stood strong against the daily slings and arrows that did the real work of changing what the world has to offer us and how the world sees us, That made the real difference.  It’s a story that needs telling before we all die off. And, your book tells it from the perspective of a minister.”

I was blown away – I had never been told that in so many words although many friends and colleagues showed it in their staunch support of me. All of a sudden, my mission became clear once again and my struggles and efforts became worthwhile. I felt like I had been reborn in some profound way. I am so grateful to her for those words.

BibleBut it’s not over yet. Today, our Rector, the Rev. Scott Garno, preached about the words of Paul to Timothy – “there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.” As he always does so well, he brought us to the question, “What does that mean for us?” Suddenly, I heard him say that, as Christians, everything we do must be for the glory of God. He made it so clear that God has created the world with his own plan and that we are the hands through which it gets played out. And we don’t and can’t do it on our own steam but through the power of God and the love he showed us. This love came most powerfully through the gift of his only Son for our redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Everything we do, we do through him and for him – not through our own power or for ourselves. 

And it all became clear – all the work I have done and will do to get God’s message out into his world, I have done through his power and with his guidance, and for his glory. Even the glitches and problems had their purpose as they eventually got worked out. This was realized with thanks to the perseverance he has given me to find my way through the maze of computers, websites, and social media. I don’t know exactly how, but God managed to forge me into a still semi-literate book marketer who manages to get enough things right to make a difference. I think I have always known that but the difference now is that I am absolutely convinced that, no matter how successful I am at all the minutia, my job is just to spread the message of “Lady Father.” How far and how wide it goes is going to be according to his will, not mine. I can only keep typing and posting and praying. God will do the rest.


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Today is a blessed day. First, it is the Lord’s Day – Sunday – and I was blessed by the worship and fellowship at St. Stephen’s in Delmar. Second, it is cool outside, which I believe is God’s way of rewarding us northerners in August for living through last winter and letting us know that we will survive the next one.

But, here’s the 3rd reason – I have heard from my publisher and “Lady Father” is being re-released!! This is unbelievably good news as I have worked so hard for the last 2 months to convince him that “Lady Father” has potential for sales. Amazon will re-activate it and, get ready for this, so will 39,000 other booksellers. I can’t even wrap my mind around that. I babbled something when he told me that but was finally able to get out this kernel of hopefulness: “Surely, everybody will be able to find a copy!”

I’m not exactly sure how long it will take for the booksellers to get “Lady Father” on their “shelves” but they assured me that it will be available by September 20th at the very latest! It probably will be earlier than that but you will be able to purchase a paperback for sure by then. I hope you have decided that you would enjoy reading my story. If this is the first you have heard of it, you are in the best place to learn more about me and my memoir. There is a sign-up form at the bottom of each page where you can reserve a copy.

So, I’m off to get letters and press releases ready to send and other chores, all the while thanking and praising God for this blessed day!!


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Guess what I just discovered! “Lady Father,” my memoir is Lady Fatheravailable on for $14.95 and as a Kindle eBook for $9.95!! So if you want a copy now, just go to . Enjoy!


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Have you ever discovered a two-faced truth? That is something that is true but that makes you both happy and sad at the same time. 

God Is GoodHere’s my two-faced truth for today. Lady Father is a compelling book about one woman’s (that would be me) struggle to become an Episcopal priest. It’s also about my struggle to serve God in that capacity in a world where women had just 10 years before been allowed to be ordained. That’s the truth. So here are the two sides to the picture: Here’s the one that makes me happy. It is compelling, well-written, inspiring, humorous, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and – in its day (the 1980’s and 1990’s) timely.

Even in 2011 , it was still a story that grabbed the attention of those who were struggling with workplace discrimination in any situation, not just the church. Here’s the sad part: It is now 50 years since my journey started, and most places in the church today have a goodly number of ordained women, Deacons, Priests, Pastors, and even Bishops. The struggle to get there now seems to be in the past making Lady Father not so timely.

But here’s the weird thing – having a book about such a struggle not being relevant anymore should really make me happy. But, unfortunately, this story is still pertinent today, especially to women in clergy leadership in most denominations. I am a member of several women clergy groups on Facebook and I am appalled at the stories I read of church lay leaders treating their women clergy like second-class citizens.

I read the same things from my sister clergy that I dealt with on my own journey. Most probably, there aren’t as many instances of such abuse as there were 50 years ago, but the fact that it is still happening today makes Lady Father a must-read for women contemplating following God’s call to ordained ministry. It should be mandatory reading for women currently serving in church ministry, as well as anyone following a vocation in a traditionally male or female career. That’s right, men suffer such indignities in a traditionally female career – just ask any nurse or hairdresser.

WomenChurchLeadershipTitleRegardless of how many laws have been passed or how much our collective “awareness” has been raised, the discriminatory practices in our society have not gone away. In fact, in many situations, people of any gender, race, or creed may find themselves victims of discrimination. Human nature, unfortunately, makes us all prone to judge others according to things like skin color, gender, age, religion, opinions, to name a few, that can make life difficult for those who are different, no matter where we are or who we are. So, Lady Father IS still a timely story of a journey through a discriminatory institution with its many barriers and rejections. It’s also timely as it tells of the perseverance and courage it took to survive and the joy and satisfaction from following God’s call no matter where it led.

After all this reflection, I am more determined than ever to follow my mission to bring Lady Father to readers everywhere. We all need this book, which speaks loudly to all people about

what it means to follow your call in life, no matter who tries to stop you. If you want to be uplifted, inspired, amazed, and entertained, read Lady Father. It Took a Huge Leap of Faith.


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What Do I Call You?

I was at church yesterday and I met a really nice woman who, when she found out I am a priest, asked me if I wanted to be called Mother. I cringed inwardly while I laughingly said, “Oh no, please. Just Susan is fine.” She looked a little puzzled so I explained to her why I don’t like the “Mother” title for women.

When it first began to be the “right thing to call a woman priest” I cringed because I had been a camp counselor and Diocesan youth leader where all the kids called me Mama Sue. I had worked very hard to put that life in the past as I was embarking on a whole new one and the two titles were just too close. But as time went by and the title caught on, I really thought about why I didn’t like it, and what I discovered is this: The rationale is that if we call men “Father,” then we should call women “Mother.” Sounds reasonable right? Well, I thought maybe so but it still just rankled with me so I went deeper.

So, What Do We Call Women Priests?

What I finally realized is that this kind of thinking keeps the issue of women’s ordination out there as a gender issue. If men can, then women should be able to also. While I think that’s true about most things – like churches should pay women as much as men, that we should respect women the same as we respect men, we should invite and welcome women to all clergy gatherings – I realized that this name issue is right up there with the term “woman priest.” I am always clear if I can do it gently and it’s appropriate, that I am not a “woman priest” – I am a priest. We do not call men a “man priest” so why should we now, some 40 years after the the ordination of the first women, continue to refer to us as “women priests.” Calling a woman “Mother” perpetuates that kind of thinking for me. So I always suggested that people call me Susan.

As a side note, I grew up in the Episcopal Church of the 50’s and 60’s when everyone called the priest the “minister.” This is the way the argument went: “A priest is Roman Catholic, thank you very much, and we’ll never call our ministers priests.” My parents and all the MsRevrendBowman (640x424)adults were very comfortable calling our minister Sid and all of us younger ones called him Mister Swann. I did encourage the young kids in my parishes to call me Rev Susan. Yes, I know that is not a grammatically correct title but it did serve to alleviate the problem with parents who didn’t want their kids calling an adult by their first name. In this picture, I have been to a church in Newport News, VA with a group of girls who told everybody there that I was “Ms. Reverend Bowman.”

Of course, there is always a flip side of every issue and I didn’t realize this until after my first major parish ministry ended badly and I had the opportunity to reflect about it. What I realized is that calling me just “Susan” does have its appealing side – it eliminates the awkwardness of the term “Mother Susan.” It makes me seem more human to the people in the pew who sometimes hoist us up on this pedestal where we cannot possibly stay, and it made me more comfortable as it did some parishioners.

What’s in a Name?

Upon reflection, though, I wonder how many people were really that comfortable calling a priest by their first name. I called our pension office often in those days, and many times I talked to a nice young man who confessed to me that he couldn’t possibly call me by my first name. He said it was because I am a priest so he just had to call me Father. This happened to me some and I always said, “Call me what you need to.”

The other thing I realized is that I don’t think calling me by my first name accorded me the same amount of respect and gave me the same authority as a title. For the people in the pew, that may be more unconscious but I wonder if it doesn’t work on them at that deeper level where respect comes from. Anyway, I am now retired and not so worried about the respect side of the issue. I do realize that there are probably still people out there who are not comfortable with a first-name basis. So I am now mostly going to graciously offer to people who ask the opportunity to call me whatever makes them comfortable. If that turns out to be Mother Susan, well in the immortal words of my brother-in-law Joe – it is what it is.


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I’m bushed!! I started the day arranging flowers for Hospice to deliver to patients. Then I spent an hour walking WalMart getting so many different kinds of things, I ended up making 2 trips around the store. I went home for a few hours then off to a Hospice visit with a man whose ex-wife and her sister have been there with him for over a month! They are my new heroes – I’ve sat in many a hospital room for hours – but days…and weeks?…WOW!!

SwiftysThen I went for my weekly visit to the restaurant with the best pizza in town – ate my 2 pieces, played Mahjong on my phone, and took off for home. Went through a rain storm on the way so found myself praying all the way home – “Please stop this before I reach my apartment…please…please!” Sure enough, by the time I had reached home, the rain had stopped! YAY! As if all that wasn’t enough I somehow got the energy to clean out my refrigerator and freezer, half filling a garbage bag with old, old, old foodstuffs.

So now I’m in my recliner with my feet up and, having read my emails, am reflecting on my visit with a dying man. I talked some with the 2 sisters and realized that they were pretty savvy about the dying process having talked with the Hospice folks and witnessed their loved one in the throes of death. They are peaceful and seem ready to say their final goodbyes to this man with whom they grew up and have known for more than 50 years. They described how he had rallied yesterday and then gotten worse again this morning and one of them asked me, “Is it true that we all do this at our own rate, in our own way,” She was spot on!

I don’t know what it’s like to lay in bed waiting for death to come but I have sat with many dying people. I have held the hands of the dying while death claims them and listened to many who have faced that moment and are right at the brink so I know she’s right. No matter what brings us to the edge, no matter who we are, where we’ve been in life, or what we’re feeling at the time, dying is the one absolutely unique thing that we all do – in our own way – in our own time.

My Family’s Experience With Death

Of course, occasionally, something can get in the way of that unique road to heaven. My Dad had a massive stroke and the doctor said it was only a matter of time so we were all gathered around his bed. Scott (my paramedic son) was on one side, holding one arm, and I was on the other side, both of us constantly monitoring his pulse. My family was carrying on with its usual method of dealing with grief – humor. We were telling stories and laughing like there was not a dying person in the room but every so often, we’d lapse into silence, laced with quiet sobs and sniffling.

Then, it happened. Scott said, “Mom, he’s gone,” and I knew that my Dad had had enough – he never could take but so much of our hilarity. We brought Mother over and told her to say goodbye and she immediately dropped to her knees and beat on his arm, yelling at him, “You said I could go first!” It was surreal but not as surreal as the next moment when Scott said, “Mom, he’s back.” I felt his arm and sure enough, he had a pulse. I’m convinced that he was ready to go quietly and had done it when Mom’s outburst brought him back to reality, just as she had so many times when he tried to retreat into himself and be quiet. He was going out his own way until his dear wife interrupted.

We Each “Do” Death Our Own Way with God at our Side

As I write that, I am aware that many people will disagree with me but, I am convinced that dying is a highly intimate enterprise and we indeed each do it our own way as long as we are left to it. I know some people believe that God “takes” us when he thinks it’s time but I have come to believe that God does not “take” us. God stays with us as we prepare to die and face that final moment, waiting patiently until we are done. Now I know that there are many situations when people actually pray that God will “take” their loved one because of the pain they are suffering. I know that many believe that when this person finally does die God does “take” him or her out of that misery.

Well, maybe but I still like to believe that God is with us, never leaving us, and never forcing himself on us throughout our whole life. So, why, at the most powerful moment of that life would God intervene in it and force his will on us? Having said that, I have to leave you with my best wisdom about all this – something I have shared with all the people I have ministered to over the years. This Is God’s Stuff. God does not mean for us to know the answers to these big questions. If we did, then we’d be God and we all know what happened when a human dared to enter that sacred space.

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What a day!!! It started with a no-show for an appointment I had set and re-set 3 times – then she didn’t show! Gr-r-r-r. Then I spent 1/2 hour trying to get my SS benefit letter because I lost mine before I realized I was on the Medicare website going through password hell. Finally got to SS and my bank and for some reason, the printer was printing in landscape mode so had to do it all over again. Arg-g-g-gh! Now I’m getting ready for my first Pinochle game here in the house – anxious to see how many people show up! I love playing Pinochle and I’m a good teacher so it should be fun. So that’s my day so far.


In the midst of all that, I’m so sad and distressed over the poor souls whose lives got snuffed out over the weekend. I just can’t believe this violence continues! I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and no one would have ever done such despicable things to innocent people in such public places for no apparent reason. I know there were wars and civil unrest and violence but this seemingly random destruction of human lives has me totally bumfuddled. I’m afraid I’m becoming convinced that it is a societal ill that we (government, medical community, parents, teachers, and other child caregivers) have sat by and allowed to manifest itself and continue to grow and destroy vital parts of our society.

Somehow, this vicious evil permeated our society while we thought it was something less sinister. It was “just teenagers trying to grow up,” “addicts who just couldn’t stop but who we thought weren’t dangerous,” and “children trying to stop the pain of an agonizing, abusive childhood.” Somehow we thought it was just seemingly “normal” people who we thought were not dangerous while all the while they were growing into monsters. I believe something has caused these poor souls to click on self-destruct-and-take-others-with-you mode. Maybe it is the result of a combination of distressing events over the years that has caused psychotic breaks in their fragile minds so again maybe we’ll never know what it was. That’s mind-bending to me – that we can never know the root of this evil. Without that knowledge, it is so hard to fight it.

“Fight” with Prayer

But fight it we must – with prayer – every day, every time we hear of such evil. When children are being abused and TheHandsleft to their own mental agony – we must pray. Every time another tortured soul snaps and takes out innocent lives, we must pray. We must enter into prayer that surrounds our society and all of us who are to respond with outrage and sorrow. We must persevere so that the prayer circle over us becomes never-ending and loud enough to be heard around the world and in heaven.

Of course, we know that God hears even our silent prayers but when we let it be heard it helps us to feel closer to God. It makes us feel like we can be part of the solution instead of silent on-lookers. We can also fight by being observant – as parents, teachers, neighbors, and others who witness aberrant behavior – and gently intervening, hopefully, to alert the right people to take action. It is such a ticklish situation to try and help someone who can’t see the problem and resents any interference in their lives. But what else can we do – stand by and watch as more and more unbalanced people wreak havoc on our society?

I guess I don’t have the answer but I do believe that God is with us and abhorring every minute of the grief and horror that we are living through in this life. As a Pastor, I can only assure those around me of God’s love, his sacrificial act of salvation for our sins, and the hope that God will soon break through into this world. So we have to “pray on” so that no one will ever doubt that they are loved and saved. Amen.

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(If you’re coming from my Facebook page, scroll down to the 5th paragraph, “Of course,…)

It’s Saturday night and almost time for bed – church in the morning! I’ve spent the better part of the last 2 days fighting with WordPress and my website. Every time I think I have it right, something else messes up, and off I go in search of the ever-elusive WordPress help. But as tonight winds down, I think it’s all working just fine so let me wax eloquent on one of my favorite topics – friends.

helping-young-children-learn-to-make-friends-heroI have been working on Facebook for a while now and not long ago, I happened to find a way to open my Friends list and I was astonished to find so MANY people from my past and present. I found people from the church, from church summer camp, and many other places. I thought about it a lot and I think what happens is that we tend to focus on the friends we have now – currently. So those we treasured in the past tend to slip through our fingers, rather our minds.

I used to say I didn’t like Facebook much because of all the inanity I saw on it. As I’ve used it more and more to keep up with my child and my grandchildren, not to mention my extended family so far away, I’ve discovered a grudging and growing fondness for Facebook. The day I found all those “Friends” and realized that they are indeed real friends and not just acquaintances you accumulate from replying to the posts of total strangers, was the day I decided that Facebook is OK in my book. Oh, it still has its problems and annoyances but mainly it fills my need to keep up with people, who are the highlight of my life.

PeoplePersonThat’s right – I’m a people person. I’ve always known this because I’ve spent my life in many relationships and friendships and I know that when I cut myself off from the people in life, I dry up and become withdrawn and unhappy. This became so clear when I returned to the ranks of the “people in the pew” and got to sit around at coffee hour with absolutely no responsibilities and could just talk to anyone I wanted to. I didn’t have to worry about who needed me or who was watching to see who I was talking to or any of those undesirable things that clergy have to keep in the forefront of their minds. I could just talk and talk and talk. 

Of course, I have always been good at that and that has never been more clear than it has been these last 4 weeks. I find myself talking to everybody around me about just about anything, always starting off by finding who it is I’m talking to – you know, what do you do? How many kids do you have? Where did you go to school? and etc. and etc. And what I have discovered anew is that I really love hearing other people’s stories. Now, don’t get me wrong I love telling my own story, but I always try to remember that if I love it when someone listens to my story, then other people also love it when I listen to their stories.

Discovery of Friends on Facebook

So these past weeks have been almost overwhelming as I have discovered people’s names, spouse’s names, children’s names, vocations, schools, etc., etc. I have found every week that I have to ask someone what their name is again and sometimes I realize that I’ve already asked them what they do when they start telling me and it’s familiar. That is a little embarrassing sometimes but one of the wonderful things about getting old is that just about everybody expects you to have a terrible memory!

“Memory Lane”

But, back to the really old friends – not in age but in longevity. Going through my “Friends” list on Facebook has led me down so many memory lanes, that I can hardly keep the remembrances straight. I have been getting in touch with all of these folks lately and finding myself saying so many times, “Do you remember the time when…?” And they always come back with similar questions for me.

That has been fun but the most satisfying thing about all this is the warm glow I get when I remember each person, the fun we had, the relationship we shared, and the love we have for each other. I realize that I have been truly blessed over my lifetime and these blessings continue as I have resurrected so many old friends while enjoying all the new ones. Isn’t life just grand sometimes?

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I am so happy!! I just returned from church and I have to say it’s the friendliest church I have ever been in. I’ve been going there for 4 weeks now and every week at least 3 people I don’t know greet me warmly. Every week I have had stimulating and very interesting conversations with the nicest people, some I knew back in the day when I used to go to clergy meetings there.

walkingwithawalkerFor several months after I broke my ankle (in September,) I was in a rehab hospital and when I returned home, I was still using a walker and had a big, clumsy boot so I mostly stayed home unless somebody would take me out – to the grocery store, etc. I guess I got a little bit into the “nothing to do on Sunday mornings” after 34 years of having something important to do on Sunday mornings. I would tell myself on Saturday nights, “I really should go to church,” or “I really need to go to church,” but didn’t set the alarm and just didn’t get up and go. I’m not really sure why but I guess I needed a serious break.

Anyway, one Saturday night, I was going to bed and I said to myself, “I think I’ll go to church tomorrow.” Notice the major difference in the words I used – now it was “I’ll go” with no “should’s” or “need to’s). Always prepared, I searched for the church’s website to find out what time the service was, set my alarm, and went to sleep. The next morning I showed up at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and found a seat near the back where I could see everything that was going on. As I started to sit down, I saw 2 friends from my apartment house closer to the front.

So I went around the back to come up on their pew from the other end so they didn’t have to get up. I rounded the back pews and started down the aisle in front of the baptismal font. Little did I know that there was a nice platform around the font which I promptly hit with my foot and fell down!! Luckily there were 2 people there who asked how I was and when I said fine, helped me up and I continued to the pew like nothing had happened. They may have been the only people who saw me because nobody ever mentioned it.

Oh No!!

Baby baptismWhen I got to my pew and looked at the bulletin, I was a little put out to discover that it was a baptism and first communion Sunday! I immediately thought, “Oh no, I don’t know these people and it will be so long,” but I quickly settled in and began to get into the worship. The Rector preached a fantastic sermon, which he does every week, about welcome – welcoming the one being baptized and all the children making their first communion. But I’m convinced he was really preaching to me because I felt his welcome in the depths of my soul, which so desperately needed to be welcome somewhere.

It was when he started the Renewal of Baptismal Vows that I knew that God brought me to that Church that Sunday. Suddenly I felt God completely washing me with a sense of renewal, not only of my soul which had been somewhat empty of late, but also of my whole self. That renewal filled me up and I knew I was home. I had been away from the Episcopal Church and its worship for 12 years and that day, I knew I was home and I felt it down to the tips of my toes.

Since then, I have made many new friends, talked to the Rector about how I could fit into parish life as a priest, had lunch with 2 old friends, and agreed to do a speaking engagement for their Daughters of the King group in October. So, as you can probably tell if you missed the first sentence – I am so happy! Not only did God bring me home to him and his church, but he also made me welcome. For that, I am so grateful and, oh yeah, happy!

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good-old-daysHave you ever wondered what happened to the “Good Ole Days”? I think about them often, especially when I hear about another mass shooting, a terrorist attack, or a drug raid gone sour killing so many young people. I think about them when I hear the sad statistics telling us how many kids have OD’ed on opioids this week, or other sad statistics on how many faithful have left the churches. This leaves them almost empty (but the ones that aren’t empty are so focused on survival that they hardly ever think of how to attract new members and if they do seem to be doing it wrong)?

I often call it “shooting ourselves in the foot.” Pardon the pun, but that’s what society does when there is no longer any teaching kids how to respect authority and each other. That’s what happens when it is no longer OK to discipline your kids, to show them what a real family is like, and to ask for help when a child gets out of line or out of sorts. We shoot ourselves and, unfortunately, many innocent children, teachers, shoppers, and more, in the proverbial foot. Unfortunately, where we “shoot” them results in much worse injuries and even death.

There are so many young people and others whose only mistake was to be in such bad pain that they felt they had no other way to deal with it. These become addicted to what used to be a very effective pain killer, especially for post-orthopedic surgical pain, and we shoot ourselves in the foot. A friend of mine has excruciating pain in her back and her doctor prescribes Hydrocodone. She went to the pharmacy the other day to get her monthly refill and the pharmacist told her that the pharmacy had received a letter saying that they could no longer dispense this medication.  Shot in the foot again!

When a middle schooler acts out and the parents come to pick him or her up for fighting in school maybe, they often blame the teacher, the other kids, or anybody but themselves. It is really because their child cannot control the anger that is taking control and making them lose control. When a teenager is morose, dejected, rude, and spends so much time alone, friends and even parents tend to chalk it up to “being a teenager.” Even when this prompts parents to do something, the help they really need is either too late or they don’t use it because psychiatric help is “for crazy people,” not for my son or daughter. Even when they do use it, there seems to be no follow-up up so the help really can’t help. Shot in the foot again!

Joan-of-Arc-ExecutionWe come now to the church and how we have been shooting it in the foot for years. Go back to the medieval times when the church burned great theologians at the stake for preaching the Gospel. Go back to colonial times when governments persecuted so many people in their own countries that they sought refuge in America where, lo and behold, there were people like the Puritans who sought and killed so many faithful people who didn’t follow their rules as well as those they deemed to be witches.

Now fast forward to the 20th century when women began to hear the call to ministry other than reading the lessons in church, serving on the Altar Guild or the Vestry. Up to then the church happily supported and loved its all-male priesthood, and in some places its all-male Vestry and Layreaders. It had been this way for eons and in many places, there were priests, Bishops, and laypeople who were determined it would stay that way. Dioceses elected Bishops on their belief that women should not ever be allowed to serve in any leadership position. Bishops appointed Commissions on Ministry with those who agreed with said Bishops, thus effectively closing the doors on any female who tried to get the proverbial foot in the door. Shot again!

Philadelphia 11 consecrationIn 1976, some said the doors were finally swung open when Bishops ordained 11 women in Philadelphia but no one really knew how strong the opposition was. Chaos reigned as some bishops said it was okay to ordain women while their Commissions on Ministry flatly refused. Some Bishops ignored the Commissions they had appointed and promised to ordain women anyway. But none could make it through the ordination process with such adamant opposition. In some Dioceses, the Bishops and the Commissions on Ministry agreed that it was time to admit women to the process, seminary, and parish ministry. No matter what the situation was between Bishops and their Commissions on Ministry, the laypeople were left to figure out for themselves what was right. There were some who were ecstatic that the priesthood was at last open to women and there were some who thought it was probably OK but they were mostly in Dioceses where the Bishop ordained women.

There Were Some Who Stayed

Then there were the ones who adamantly opposed the whole idea and most of them left the church they had loved for many years. This is when the Anglican Church of America emerged as a refuge for good Episcopalians who just couldn’t picture women in cassock and alb. They couldn’t accept that women were blessing bread and wine, distributing the body and blood of Jesus, and blessing the people, not to mention baptizing them. There were some of the “unbelievers” in women’s ordination who refused to be “run out of their church” and who stayed on, bravely showing up in church and, when there was a woman officiating, bravely stuck it out or sometimes stormed out at the moment she began the consecration prayer.

Many of those people were transformed by experiencing the same wonder and grace at the Eucharist where a woman celebrated. They were amazed to hear the same Word of God preached from the same pulpit and did not experience any falling ceiling timbers. Many, including Bishops and other clergy who similarly transformed their beliefs, became staunch supporters of women who had felt a call to the priesthood and had let nothing stand in their way of answering God’s call to ministry.

Everybody Lost

So, the question is, who got “shot in the foot” in the church? Who paid the price for the chaos of the last 40 years in the church? Know who? Everybody! I don’t think there was anyone in the church of those days who came out of it unscathed. Those who left for other places were hurt the worst as far as I am concerned because they lost out on a grand and glorious church that had nurtured them, their families, and millions of others for more than 600 years. Those who finally came around were hurt by the time they spent in a church they felt was abandoning them and all the church had stood for the same 600 years. Those who were all in favor of women being ordained got hurt by those who didn’t and by Bishops and Commissions on Ministry who made women wait for so long before their transformations opened the doors.

I guess the bottom line is this. Humanity has been shooting itself in the foot since the Garden of Eden and it doesn’t look like there is any end to the shooting. We have continued to find more and more creative ways to sin in the eyes of the Lord, as well as in the eyes of much of the human race.

Are We Doomed?

baby-jesusWhen you think of it that way, don’t we seem to be doomed to keep on shooting at ourselves and not missing? Doesn’t it seem like there’s no way out of this sick target practice on ourselves? But wait! There is a way out and His name is Jesus. He’s the one God sent to earth to live as one of us and to die for us so that God could forgive all human sinning. That’s the best news I could impart to you after this long sorrowful human story. God loves and saves us from ourselves even though the foot-shooting seems to know no end. God loves us all even though we just can’t seem to holster our firearms and let our God-created world be a God-blessed world where there is no foot shooting or any other shooting for that matter. Oh, what a dream that is to all of us who are fed up with shooting our collective feet full of holes.

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I think this may be one of the best nuggets of advice ever! And I just experienced a week that proves it. About 2 weeks ago, I decided, upon “expert” advice to change the theme of my website. So I diligently searched and searched through all the thousands (literally!) of available themes to be used with WordPress until I finally decided on one. It was really my second choice because the one I chose first wouldn’t load which goes to prove the 2nd best nugget called “Murphy’s Law – “Whatever can happen, will.” So here I was with my second choice and not a lot of knowledge about changing a theme on a WordPress website, but I took a deep breath, uploaded it, and clicked “Change Theme.” 

Well, when I checked the site you can imagine my shock and surprise to see the new theme cradling my beloved site. Well, that feeling was short-lived, as it turned out. The more I looked it over, the more things I found wrong. The most important of those was that some of the page titles when I clicked on them, had completely different content than was supposed to be there. Well, you can imagine how unhappy I was. I got proceedingly unhappier as everything I tried was to no avail. I searched Google for hours looking for a solution to no avail.

But There’s More!

delete files in cPanelNow, you think that was bad!? In the middle of all that, I received an email from my hosting company telling me that a number of my files were “heavy” and that I needed to delete some. Evidently, my website files were dangerously close to being too many for the limit. Well, who knew there was a limit? Anyway, I obediently began deleting the files they had on the list but several of them seemed to me to be pretty important, especially one that was at the top of the menu tree which meant it was the root file. Several others looked important so I questioned them.

To make a long story blessedly short, by the time they sent a second list with some of the same files on it, I was completely confused and managed to delete the one file that contained ALL of the files for my site. I finished the task and sent a detailed email back expressing my concerns over some of the files I had deleted and some I refused to delete.

So…wait for it…I checked my site and lo and behold, it was offline – not anywhere. Almost immediately, I began to receive thousands (8,000 to be exact) “Delivery Failure Messages” in my inbox. Somehow these emails were being generated as if they were coming from me! Another long story cut short, after many, many hours on chat with my hosting company, my internet provider, and Apple Care, we finally resolved the issue. I was deleting bogus emails for hours!

PDP-plum-tree-flowersThe long (it has been hasn’t it?) and short (there was nothing short about it!) of it is this: I went back to my original theme, which works just fine, thank you very much, and have spent the last few days fine-tuning it until I think it works well now. So, there you have my sob story! Is there a lesson in this for me? You betcha! Not every expert always knows what they are doing. By the way, do you know the definition of an expert? It is this: “x-spurt” = a drop of water under pressure. The moral of the story is “Don’t believe everything an expert tells you!” So if I sound like an expert in taking advice, you bet I am!

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Jermain UMC
The Sweetest Church!

I started all of this after publishing my book, “Lady Father,” in 2011. But I wasn’t very good at the marketing part of book writing so both the website and this page didn’t go very far. I posted a lot of sermons from my days as an Episcopalian serving in a tiny Methodist church in the wilds of upstate New York. I have been meticulously going through them with an editing eye finding all kinds of typos I missed. So I am cleaning them all up and in reading them I am amazed at how good a preacher I had become in seminary. (Yes, that’s a little bragging rights – I know I’m a good preacher and I know why. I had the best homiletics professor there was – Thank You, Edna Evans.)

I have also enjoyed reliving the days when I preached to the most attentive and faithful church people who loved me as I loved them. I love going back and reading these because I use a lot of personal anecdotes and stories, many of which I have forgotten over the years. What a Blast From the Past! I hope you’ll slip over to the website and click on Sermons. There are other drop-downs with no entries – that’s because I lost the energy to keep it up. I have some new sermons to post and plan to write some more articles and reflections in the near future. Hope you’ll keep in touch and check some of them out. You can also scroll down to the bottom of each page and leave comments. Oh, I do love to write and it’s good to be back in the saddle again.

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Budding Authors

This group is for people who like to write, who make a living writing, write just for fun, have published a book or books, want desperately to publish a book, or have published one and need to figure out how to sell it.

That last one would be me. I wrote my memoir in 2011 and it languished in the publisher’s waiting for people to buy it. Unfortunately, I am not the sharpest marketing knife in the drawer so I am starting this group looking for like authors who would like to help each other out with tips, etc., and with sharing lists or posting others’ books on their own page or website. For instance, I have a website where I would start a column for Budding Authors and list your book and where to buy it.

If you are interested, please reply. As far as group guidelines are concerned, all the normal non-abusive, verbally haranguing, rude comments, etc. etc. are banned and will result in removal from the group. We are all responsible adults and everyone is expected to act as such. If not, your posts will be removed. Sign up in the sidebar.

Hope to hear from all you Budding Authors soon.

Rev. Susan Bowman
Glenmont, NY
July 6, 2019

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Susan Bowman, is an ordained Episcopal Priest, a Grandmother, and a Professional Writer.  She was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1986 and has a story to tell that will speak to all women who are functioning in a traditionally male role.  Her book is about her experiences of discrimination within the church’s ordination process and in the parishes she served.  Sign up for her Newsletter and important emails.  Fill out the form below to enter contact information securely.

To receive emails, announcements, and “Ring Around the Collar,” my monthly newsletter, please fill out this form.


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