March is the month when women across my archdiocese will take a more visible role during the Divine Liturgy. Mostly “Women’s Month” means they will read the Epistle and collect the offering. I am glad for this month because I do think women need not only work with the kids or in the kitchen, but giving them one month out of the year feels like an empty gesture that, I’m afraid, reinforces the paternalism it pretends to testify against.
Women’s Month is proof that there is misogyny in our church, just like Black History Month proves systemic racism. African Americans need one month out of the year only because people like me pretty much get free reign over the other eleven. The same is true for women. Every month is Men’s Month.
Though there were many beautiful and theologically correct things that brought me to Orthodoxy, one challenge for me was that women are not allowed to be priests. I had come from a denomination that ordains women and allows women to hold many leadership positions in the church. The idea of an all-male priesthood and the fact that women were never allowed behind the altar chafed against my conscience. I also hated the thought of my daughter never being able to be an acolyte. The fact that the early church had deaconesses only added to my chagrin. Deaconesses administered the sacraments to women and girls since back then men couldn’t touch women.
My best friend from college, who is an ordained (female) minister in the Nazarene church, asked me over and over: “How can you be part of a church that doesn’t ordain women?”
I tried to explain to her that I’d found a church that engaged in right worship, was built on historical Church tradition, and offered a community of saints. Spirituality was a practice, not an emotional experience. If I do feel moved emotionally in an Orthodox liturgy, I am certain that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the effect of singing Just As I Am or Lord I Lift Your Name On High twenty times. “Maybe all that is more important than women being ordained,” I said.