Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Praise of the "Philadelphia 11"

Tonight I am giving thanks for the "Philadelphia 11" -- the first women ordained as priests on July 29, 1974 at the Church of the Advocate -- and for the bishops who ordained them. Just 38 years ago, no Episcopalian had ever seen a woman serving as priest. But by the brave actions of 11 women and four bishops, all that changed.

Let us remember them by name. For the faithful ministry of Merrill Bittner, Alison Cheek, Alla Bozarth (Campell), Emily C. Hewitt, Carter Heyward, Suzanne R. Hiatt (deceased 2002), Marie Moorefield, Jeanette Piccard (deceased 1981), Betty Bone Schiess, Katrina Welles Swanson (deceased 2006), and Nancy Hatch Wittig, and for Bishops Daniel Corrigan, Robert L. DeWitt, Edward R Welles, and Antonio Ramos, let us give thanks to the Lord.

This is the iconic photograph from that service -- with Bishop Welles of West Missouri as chief consecrator.

A young woman named Barbara Harris served as crucifer at that ordination. She later became the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church.

This is my personal favorite photograph, for this Godly priest -- Nancy Wittig -- and her friend Pamela Darling engaged me in spirited conversation through the 1990s that moved me out of the "Spiritual But Not Religious" camp into happy membership in the Episcopal Church. I will be forever grateful for the ministry of the Rev. Nancy Hatch Wittig.

If you want to remember how things looked in the summer of 1974, read this article. Or read Alla Bozarth's account here of the ordinations ... through the consecration of Barbara Harris ... up through the installation of Katherine Jefferts-Schori. Twenty-five years after that glorious ordination day, the "Philadelphia 11" gathered. I love this photo! My friend Nancy Wittig is third from the right.

I am deeply grateful to these woman and the bishops who ordained them. Tomorrow is the 38th anniversary of their ordination.

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Blogger Fran said...

Thanks for this post reminding us of an important historic moment, and the many things that ripple forth from such.

What a gift that you were called into being church through a very direct ripple - thanks be to God.

7/29/2012 7:36 AM  
Blogger JCF said...

Amen and TBTG!

7/29/2012 5:01 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Fran & JCF, it's definitely a "Thanks be to God!" event.

Yes, Fran, I am grateful for my connection. You can't imagine how many hours -- over many years -- I conversed and argued with the Rev. Nancy Wittig about her involvement with the Church and the "hoary old white God." Maybe she saw in my angry challenges a yearning for God and for Church. ... I am grateful I finally found a home in this church and was nurtured by Nancy's ministry.

7/29/2012 7:25 PM  
Blogger Salin Low said...

Nancy Wittig was also an inspiration for me when I was a newly ordained priest in Philadelphia in the early 90's.

7/30/2012 9:49 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Salin Low, would you say more about that? I've alerted Nancy to this thread, and I'd love to hear more.

7/30/2012 8:53 PM  

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