“All things are according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of His own purpose, based on what He had decided from the very beginning.” Ephesians 1:11
Last Sunday was an ordinary day at the Carmel Marthoma Church of Boston. except that it wasn’t.
It was an extra-ordinary day.
Although it happened to fittingly coincide with the final day of a long-planned and well-organized youth conference, that’s not what set it apart.
For the first time in the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church’s 180-year history, just as the service got under way, a twenty three-year-old young lady named Anitha Oommen, gingerly climbed up the short steps of the Carmel church’s madhbaha, to serve as a ‘deacon’, and swiftly rode into history books.
A job reserved only for the male members of the church has now suddenly become available to the other half, or as some would say, the ‘better half’, of the members.
Eve may have come after Adam, but now occupies equal space and place. The curtain did tear into two.
What may have been a ‘small step’ for the petite anitha, was a ‘giant leap’ for our church populace, the institution itself.
Close to some teen years younger than our youngest daughter, this youth leader with a ready smile my two shy granddaughters took an instant liking to, at a church summer bible school, Anitha has now become a trailblazer.
A woman ‘kapiyar’ in a MarThoma palli!
Although never one to fit the definition of a ‘feminist’ by any stretch, and as one who is always happy to be in the care of my husband, the picture of ‘Anitha’s Step’, that was posted on Facebook by some well-wisher, surprised me with a lump in my throat.
I’m translating that ‘lumpy’ sentiment into prose.
This stratospherical achievement must have been the work of many, many peoples’ thoughts and imaginations, deliberate contemplations and deep-felt prayers, and perhaps some legwork, that spanned months or years, but even the Almighty would give the first credit to our Geevarghese mar Thoedosius thirumeni, the episcopa of the diocese of North America and Europe for the Marthoma church.
It took the divine confluence of a prophetic priest who made the leap, an eager, willing woman who took the step, and the members of a progressive parish that stepped up, to arrive at this momentous mile-marker. at the right time and the right place. all willing to answer ‘The Call’.
To call thirumeni a visionary is akin to saying, Neil Armstrong must have been a good engineering student at Purdue University. An understatement and stating the obvious. Our church, and particularly our diocese have been fortunate for the last 7 years to have thirumeni as our high priest. His superior intellect and his far-reaching vision were gifts to us.
And I’m so glad he ‘ran out of excuses’ (to quote thirumeni himself) for the persistent question of our youth, ‘why can’t girls do all the things in church, as the boys?’
Coming from arguably the most patriarchal culture in the world, it would’ve been easier instead for thirumeni, to hang onto the argument that it is our ‘tradition’ and therefore valid. and thirumeni admitted that was the only rationale he could offer in the end, and it wasn’t enough. Not for a body of Christ.
In addition to all else, during his sabbatical as our bishop, thirumeni opened my eyes to certain profound biblical truths:
this ‘pretend bible know-it-all’ learned for the first time:
– one, Jesus’ words on the cross ‘woman, behold your son; son, here’s your mother’ were the ‘seeding’ of the first ‘church’, an entity where people who are not blood-related taking care of each other as family.
– Two, Jesus’ words ‘I Am The Way’ is not meant to be just a doctrinal mandate or dogma by which to exclude others, but rather, what Jesus commanded us to do is to: ‘follow me, do and behave as I do, follow my exact way’.
thank you, thirumeni.
and anitha, you go girl! How did you end up with one of my favourite last names?!