May 4, 2010

Blessing the Women

The lectionary readings for the fifth Sunday in Easter include Revelation 21, where we find “See, I am making all things new” (v. 5). One of the ways I believe God is making things new is by calling women to serve in roles that have traditionally been barred to them. As pastors, professors, judicatory leaders, and chaplains, they are refreshing the church and its outreach in remarkable ways. As my friend Alan Culpepper, Dean of McAfee School of Theology, puts it, “…when women speak, lead, preach, and teach we hear aspects of the gospel we never before appreciated.”

Each spring about a week before graduation at Central, we have a “Graduating Sisters’ Blessing Ceremony.” (I am not sure it shows up in the liturgical calendar, but should!) It is not that our school does not celebrate the calling and giftedness of men and their completion of theological education; it’s just that women have so often not been blessed that we believe an extra measure of affirmation should accompany their graduation. The litany of blessing, which includes women faculty and staff, alumnae, and current female students, is as follows:


Leader: We gather to send you forth in joy with blessing. We have been blessed by your graceful presence in our midst.

Graduates: You have nourished our faith, accompanied us as companions on the journey, and offered yourselves as good sisters and friends. Now it is time for us to take flight into God’s future with hope.

Fledglings: We have learned from your perseverance, struggled with you in discernment, and witnessed the development of your gifts. You have made a difference in our lives.

Alumnae: We have walked where you have walked. We know the uncertainty you face and offer our encouragement for the journey you are about to begin. We stand in solidarity with you as the women leaders you are becoming.

Leader: Leaving this womb of learning propels you toward unknown horizons. You have been sheltered under the wings of caring and reliable mentors; you have been encouraged to soar beyond well-traveled terrain toward a new spiritual geography.

Graduates: We came to Central because of the midwifery of the Spirit; She has patiently drawn new life from us; She has overshadowed all our days.

Leader: We offer this symbol of the yoke of Christ which you gladly bear. The colors of the ribbons remind you of the seasons in which you will craft your care of the people of God. Your ministry will be marked by the paschal rhythms of the Christian year as you share in the living and dying and rising of the body of Christ.


At the conclusion of the litany, we place ribbons (something like honor cords seen at commencements) around the necks of the women and offer a blessing. It is a deeply moving and strengthening ritual. Graduates are encouraged to go forth in confidence, in the firm assurance of the grace and power and mercy of our Triune God, Creator, Christ, and Comforter. We believe that God indeed will “make all things new” through these gifted ministers. Truly. Amen.

Molly T. Marshall

For more information about our perichoretic community at Central, please visit

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