A guest post by Dr. Abigail Elizabeth Reynolds
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a priest, and to wear a cassock. When I was about ten years old, my mother made for me priest vestments, and I would say the Mass in my room with my dolls all present.
I would walk around the house wearing my hand made cassock over a white turtle neck blouse, giving the appearance of the priest as he made his way through the sanctuary at Church.
Then, one day, my mother and I accompanied my brother to the Church. It was a Saturday morning, and this was his first day to begin training as an altar boy. The leader, a young man, started talking to the new class of four boys, telling them what was expected from them as altar servers.
I questioned my mother as to why I could not be an altar server as well. She just instructed me to remain quiet.
The boys were then led to the sacristy to find a cassock and surplice that would fit them for their time on the altar. My mother was asked to help with this, and I went along into that sacred place. While the boys were all trying on different cassocks for the right fit, I tried one on, too.
The leader smiled, and told me that there were no cassocks that would fit a girl, even a pretty one like me. I reluctantly hung the one I tried on back on the rack. The boys all snickered and said that this was a boys only club, no girls allowed.
The Sisters told me that it was wonderful to feel a call to a Holy life, but that as a woman, my role was one of submission to the Holy Church, and that since Christ was a man, only men could wear the cassock, and offer the sacrifice.
They encouraged me instead to think about donning the veil of Christ and becoming His bride, committing myself to life as a Nun in the service of God and His Church. I did not want a veil, I wanted a cassock. But none fit.
After college, and working in the world, I still wanted the cassock. My priest said no and demanded I stop pursuing this nonsense and line of questioning. I still questioned and asked why was it a boys only club.
I left the Church of my youth and started attending another Church, a holiness Protestant Church. The minster recognized what he said was a call of God to proclaim the Gospel.
I began to study and learn. I went to Seminary, and I pastored a small congregation for a year. There I wore the cassock, but it still did not seem to fit. Then I was told that we didn’t wear cassocks in this Church and I would have to go. I was still too Catholic to serve with them, they said, as they bowed and shook their heads in tragic condemnation.
But that was all right. I knew I would find a place where the cassock would be a good fit for service to God and His Church.
I was invited to become a part of another Protestant Church. This was a Wesleyan denomination with a large world wide community. There was room here for cassock wearing by a woman, so I was told.
After nearly ten years of service, I was again called in by the leadership of the Church. I was told I was still too Catholic, and too ecumenical, to continue in service with this community. I was told that the cassock never really seemed to fit, and I would have to take it off and leave it at the door.
And now, nearly fifteen years later, I am still searching for the place where the cassock will fit. I have not worn the cassock for many years now. It seems that I just do not have the right build for the cassock. It seems that I do not fit nicely into any box designed by the world to contain the presence and essence of God.
So the cassock remains in the closet, old, worn, and moth eaten now. And I continue to engage the world around me, serving God and HIS Church in the world. And the world does not seem to care that I don’t wear a cassock. All they care about, is that I wear Jesus.