Archive for August, 2009

posted by Amy on Aug 29

Several months ago, while waiting for a church service to start, I noticed a friend in the pew behind me knitting something, and I asked her what it was. She said it was a dishcloth. It looked like the loose-knit cotton dishcloths we used to use when I was a kid. I asked for the pattern, and she gave it to me the next week.

When I went to the craft store for cotton yarn I saw a book with patterns for ten different ridiculously fancy dishcloths. Medium-weight cotton yarn comes in a mind-numbing array of colors and patterns. I started watching for sales on yarn, and started collecting different cotton yarns just to have them around. And I started knitting dishcloths.

If I don’t mess up and have to tear out rows and redo them, it only takes about 3 or 4 hours to knit a dishcloth. That’s three round trips on the train to Center City, or two DVD movies. By the time I’m tired of the pattern or the color, the thing is done: almost-instant gratification.

While searching the internet for more patterns, I ran across a blog where the writer asked why anyone would want to knit a dishcloth. I didn’t join in the conversation, because I sensed that her world and mine might be too far apart. I use them for. . . . . . . washing dishes. There’s no dish washing machine in my little galley kitchen. There’s no place to put a dishwasher in my little galley kitchen. (In fact, I don’t even have room for a coffee maker. I use one of those cones that hold a Melitta filter, and make it directly into a thermal carafe, which, come to think of it, was exactly how my old coffee maker worked, only it was electric and took up counter space. ) These dishcloths work great for washing dishes, and for wiping down the counters and stove top. It’s nice to have something pretty and colorful to assist with the kitchen cleanup. And they make good gifts, because they are pretty, practical, unique, affordable (it costs about a buck for enough yarn for a dish cloth), and sturdy.

I recently had occasion to commemorate the “unwedding” of a young couple I know. Colorado is one of a handful of states that have common law marriage. Preachers were few and far between in the old days, plus Colorado has always been kind of free thinking, pragmatic, and independent. Marriage is a contract, and (in Colorado, anyway) requires only the assent of the partners (plus all the other conditions for a valid contract–they have to be of age, not married to anyone else, of sound mind, etc.) It’s a real marriage and, since there was no divorce at common law, it can only be dissolved by going to court, just like any other marriage. This young couple decided to put the recently-laid-off partner onto the health insurance of the still-employed partner by saying they were married. I advised against it, and explained all about the one-way nature of the decision. They did it anyway. I like them and wish them well, so I sent them a collection of seven ridiculously fancy hand-knit dishcloths as an “unwedding” present. I think they will eventually get around to having a more formal, and universally proclaimed, kind of wedding, but in the meantime I thought it was a nice gesture. And they will think of me, and of my friendship, when they’re doing dishes or wiping down counters.

Knitting dishcloths is addictive. I had a great-aunt who was a knitter. I barely knew her, but she would send us the cutest knitted things–sweaters with scenes from fairy tales, or mittens that looked liked skunks or chipmunks. I thought it was awesome, but I now realize she was seriously bitten by the knitting bug. Compared to that, I’m a rank amateur, but I do like doing this. There’s one yarn that looks like Neapolitan ice cream, another that looks like tutti frutti, and one that has all the colors of rainbow sherbet. There’s a style of yarn that is “self striping:” it’s somehow magically programmed to change colors in nice, even stripes. And you can get that very same green and white or red and white bicolor yarn that the old-fashioned dishcloths were made of. There’s a pattern that looks like the cover of my junior high band book (trompe l’oeil tumbling blocks).  Once I got the hang of it, I really got to liking “bee stitch,” which produces a nice, open pattern that dries fast. And then there’s “trinity stitch,” with little lacy knots, and a bunch of others. I have tried all but two of the patterns.

Knitting dishcloths is a good way to keep my brain active. It’s probably not quite as engaging or effective for that as studying Greek, but counting stitches and keeping track of rows is better than sitting there doing nothing. It’s also a good way to learn new knitting techniques cheaply. I don’t have to commit the time and yarn investment that I would devote to, say, an afghan or bedspread, to learn lacy stitches like “feather and fan.” This, in my opinion, is a good thing. I have a stack of ridiculously fancy dishcloths in my dresser, and more are being added every week. They make great hostess gifts. So, invite me for a visit, and you might get some dishcloths.

posted by Amy on Aug 26

I arrived at Palmer Theological Seminary on August 26, 2008, in the evening. When I got here I met with Byron McMillen, the director of Auxiliary Services. He gave me the keys to my apartment, and to the entry door. He rounded up some strong young men to move all my stuff into my third floor apartment. He told me how to get to the nearest Target store, and asked me to stop by his office the next morning to sign a lease.  I went to Target and bought a twin sized air mattress, some sheets, and other supplies. Orientation began the next day. Rev. Dr. Burgie-Bryant opened the first session by saying, “God has called all of you together to this place for a purpose.” We sang “Here I am Lord.” I teared up. Yes, here I am.

This is also the anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting universal women’s suffrage. That was in 1926, the year my mother was born. Fifty years later, Congress declared it Women’s Equality Day.

In the church, women still aren’t equal. Some denominations maintain a “separate but equally important” stance toward their female members and leaders. They say women may not “preach,” but they can “teach.” Their women lay leaders stand at floor level, instead of in the pulpit, to deliver their messages. My seminary is across the street from a Roman Catholic Seminary. Nationally, forty percent of the students in Catholic seminaries are women, yet Rome is adamant that only men can be priests. Even so, because of a priest shortage, a large number of Roman Catholic parishes are run by women, and their parishioners think of these women as their pastors.

The Methodist Church began ordaining women in 1956, but even in my denomination complete equality for women has been slow in coming. Nevertheless, I am thankful today for the Suffragettes and for the sacrifices that they made. I am thankful for men and women of faith and vision who have persisted in challenging stereotypes and overcoming artificial barriers to full participation in the church, and society, by all of God’s children. If it weren’t for them, I probably would not have had a mother who had a career, and would not have grown up taking it for granted that I would become a lawyer. I assume that I would still have been called to ministry, but answering that call would have been much more difficult.

Palmer Theological Seminary lives out its commitment to diversity. A majority of the students are Black, either African-American or African. While a large number of the students are fresh out of college, and in their early twenties, a significant percentage are old enough to be the parents of those students. The oldest Palmer graduate was 86, old enough to be grandmother or even great-grandmother to the youngest students. Half the students are Baptist, and the rest come from dozens of other denominations. Some are non-denominational.

This has been quite a year. Living here, getting to know people from other faith traditions and from other cultures, and exploring my calling, have changed me and challenged me in ways that I have yet to understand completely. I’m glad to be here, and I can hardly wait to find out what will happen next.

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