While hundreds packed souvenir coffee mugs, books, aprons and “Come and Grow” watering cans into their luggage as they left June’s General Convention, the Rev. Barbara Schlachter took with her something much more precious.
It was a prayer quilt she received during an enthusiastic celebration of the 30th anniversary of women’s ordination by delegates to the Triennial of Episcopal Church Women.
“In the Prayers & Squares ministry, the quilt becomes something more than a cozy blanket – it becomes a visible act of prayer, made not just with artistry, but with purpose, not just with fabric but with prayer,” said Nancy Fitzgerald, executive editor for Morehouse Publishing, who presented the quilt that honored the anniversary of Schlachter’s ordination in 1977.
Two days later, at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Columbus, Ohio, members of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus completed tying their prayer knots in the quilt and presented it again to Schlachter, one of a handful of women who founded the ECW in 1971. Since that time, she has been a stalwart defender of and advocate for women’s ministry.
While she works in a part-time ministry in the Diocese of Iowa – as associate at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids and with her husband, Mel, at Iowa City’s Trinity Church -- Schlachter, now 73, continues a national presence in support of female priests and female bishops.
“We’re here to stay,” she said in a recent interview with Episcopal Life. But she acknowledged that women were not advancing in what she described as “upper leadership levels.” (Of the 311 bishops eligible to sit in the House of Bishops at General Convention, 13 were women.)
Women claim leadership
Ordained women will gather Oct. 2-6 at Kanuga Conferences in Hendersonville, N.C., to imagine a greater role they might have as leaders and to train for how that might happen. For the past year, Schlachter has convened the planning committee for the conference, “Imagine: Claiming & Empowering Ordained Women’s Leadership.”
“We want women to envision the kind of church they want to lead,” she said. “What are the models that we want to help bring about?”
Schlachter looks back on the last 30 years with appreciation. “I can’t think of anything better that I could have done with my life,” she said.