The Church of Marie

Guys! I … AM … A … MESS…

Sometimes that happens to me. And it’s not pretty.

It started with that grant… and then Seth went away on a business trip and Curls didn’t want to walk for me… and then the binge eating… and more binge eating… and a busy weekend (during which I pretended to be calm, cool, and collected in front of my sister-in-law, but I was very not– think she noticed?)… and lack of exercise… and an inability to stop complaining at work… and… and… and…

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. Thank goodness!

But before that could happen… THIS:

my knees

Dang it! I haven’t fallen in years. YEARS! The last time I fell (and fell and fell and fell again) was when I was in grad school and I just couldn’t seem to stay on my feet. Not to get way too cray cray on you, but a psychic told me I was basically doing it to myself on account of all the lack of control I was feeling over my life.

And right now? I feel out of control. Out of control!!

So tonight… I went for a run. A nice long run. Could have been better, definitely, but it was good. Good weather, good pace, good recovery and minimal damage from my fall. Then I had delicious tacos and even more delicious dessert and sat down with Joan to reflect and work some more on this post I have been working on for SO long… and it was perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect for the thing I really want to talk to you about.

Day 27:

“For this is our God and we are the people of God’s pasture and the sheep of God’s hand.” –Psalm 95:7

And Joan’s thoughts:

“It is sometimes very difficult to know where God is for us: in the demands of authority for obedience to the sins they call virtue – for the nonordination of women, for instance – in the name of “unity.” Or is God in the questions of the heart that deserve to be pursued – that demand to be answered – in the light of the rest of the gospel. And so the question haunts me: Would Jesus stay in the church today? In any of them? And, it if not, who would follow him out of it? Would I? Yes, there’s the question. I have lived a lifetime of ecclesiastical sins: no ‘mixed marriages,’ they taught, and then changed their minds; no burial for fetuses; no moral absolutes about wife beating; no protection of Jews; no resistance to segregation. And I went along with all of them.” — Joan Chittister

Oh my gosh. That’s exactly where I want to go. Exactly what I want to talk about! Joan is basically introducing us to The Church of Marie.

So, without further ado…


Jesus was a pretty good dude.

While there’s lots and lots and lots of arguing about exactly what kind of a “dude” he was or was not in other ways, I think we can all agree that the stuff he did, the stuff he said, the way he acted and loved… those things were good.

Good, good things.

As such, those things are pretty good things to emulate.

I’d think they were good things to emulate no matter who did them.

Jesus is just kind of famous for it. For loving everyone no matter what and living a life completely devoted to kindness and inclusion and faith and hope and love and charity and humility and… well, I said it before, good stuff.

A lot of religious people get that. A lot of non-religious people get that too. They do that. Live that way… or at the very least, make every effort to live that way.

Unfortunately, some people don’t. Those are the people that make the news. Even more unfortunately, those are the people that often take the reigns of institutionalized religious organizations near and far, here and there, in my backyard and in yours.

Not a Jesus problem. A regular dude problem.

Jesus loves us regular dudes, all of us, male or female, rich or poor, right or wrong, tall or short, big or little, polka-dotted or striped. Even the sneeches, stars on their belly or no. Jesus was a lover. Not a fighter.

The people who follow his example most closely tend to be revered only after tragedy. MLK. Abraham Lincoln. Gandhi. Need I continue? And some people even hate them still. Sad, sad, sad… what’s to hate about a life devoted to love?

And despite their revered status at present, life is/was often hard, hard, hard for people who emulate Jesus like that.

Love is awesome, but there’s a LOT of resistance to it.

I don’t know why. I don’t think anyone really does.

But I know one place where that resistance does not exist and love is the only message. The thread that ties it all together and the theme of every life’s purpose.

That place is only theoretical. It doesn’t exist. But someday I’ll talk it into existence.

That place is the Church of Marie.

I think Marie wrestles with the same exact question Joan describes above– would Jesus stay in the church today? And if not, should she follow him out?

At present, and with utmost devotion and obedience and acceptance and purity of heart and mind and soul, my friend Marie is Catholic. She loves her church and her faith and her parish and the people she serves. She is devoted to an absolute fault.

But her church isn’t always good to her. Because she’s a woman. A strong woman. An influential and well-liked woman. A woman who at times appears to be more well-liked than the hierarchy, the patriarchy, the men who demand to be revered. A woman whose single-minded focus on God and Jesus and love and compassion and all those other good things is somehow threatening to those more concerned with power and position and the like.

It’s horrifying to watch someone so beautiful and good and faith-filled be constantly, as my dad would say, crapped on by her church. To watch it day after day whittle away at her self-confidence. But then again… what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And faith is forged in fire. Maybe that’s what it takes to be willing to follow Jesus out of the church. Or to follow Jesus in a way that brings the church back to him.

You know, like the Church of Marie.

Marie actually hates the phrase “Church of Marie” because she thinks it makes her sound deified. But it’s exactly what I want in a church. Not deification of Marie (although she’s for real good and stylish, too… sooo… we could do worse), but rather a true embodiment of what (as of this morning) became my favorite phrase:

“God is greater than religion. Faith is greater than dogma.” — Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Marie’s faith is like that– greater than religion or dogma. Forged in fire. And I think because of that, because it came about organically, a la Lila in the Gilead series (we just read that for my Under the Covers virtual book club and as I write this I realize why I liked Lila as much as I did– she’s like Marie!) it’s really beautiful.

Beautiful to most, I should say. There are those who don’t come by their faith quite so naturally, so organically, those who feel, shall we say, “Holier Than Thou” who are immediately recognizable by their initial befriending followed by disdain for Marie. And I see it happen over and over and over again. A lot of people like to talk the talk. Not as many people like to walk the walk. Marie is all about the walk (literally and metaphorically).

Preaching? No. Discussion? Absolutely.

But most importantly of all: DOING.

Marie does. She does her faith even more than she believes her faith… that’s how strongly it is part of her.

And that is why I want so badly to join the Church of Marie. And you would too. If it existed.

My poor friend Marie, unfortunately, is probably about 46 years away from actually started this church I dream of. I imagine it will be a death-bed kind of thing. She’ll wake up from a gentle sleep one day in very old age and say, with sadness, that she wishes she’d done it sooner because her talents were not as appreciated as they should have been, could have been, in the church to which she dedicated her life.

The Church of Marie is a church of respect and dignity for all. A church where no one person is above any other and where Christ is central. Not Christ as in robot-style-WWJD, but rather real living breathing examples of what Jesus would do. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, loving our neighbor, no matter who are neighbor may be, and appreciating the gifts and skills of others.


The best part about the Church of Marie is that it accepts you no matter what. No matter how much you complain about your job or how much food you shovel in your face. No matter how clumsy or graceful you are on your run or whether you run at all. I’m super lucky because the Church of Marie holds court in the office across the hall from mine 5 days a week and by text any other time I want. But I really wish other people could be as lucky as me… to join a church like the Church of Marie where it’s just love and goodness and kindness and stuff.

I think Marie would follow Jesus out of a church. And I would follow her.

God is in the good whether the good is in the church or not.

Church of Marie -- AHHHHH!
Church of Marie — AHHHHH!


7 thoughts on “The Church of Marie

  1. My dear friend Rachel, you give me far more credit than I deserve. I simply do what I think Jesus is calling me to do, and I am definitely not perfect at doing it. In fact, some days I fail miserably, and I tell God, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” But He just smiles, pats me on the head, and says, “Little one, I just want you to trust me.” You are right that I love my faith and I love my Church, but if Jesus returned and called me to follow him out of the Church, would I go? Absolutely! I would follow Jesus (but I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t want it to be to the “church of Marie.”) Love you, Rachel! 🙂

  2. Awesome post! I want to join the Church of Marie. I’m glad that you are running, even if you fall, because you pick yourself up and keep going. I’m glad that you are my daughter! I love you!

  3. Oh, one more thing…I left the institutional church when I realized that their official rules say that women are inferior and are inferior because God wants it that way. No way my wife and daughters are inferior! My staying would imply acceptance and I would be an enabler.

    1. Thanks, Adam 🙂

      I honestly find it fascinating that from this whole post, that’s the little nugget you pulled out. The idea of women’s ordination is certainly one that has caused Joan Chittister a large amount of trouble in her own life– “investigations” and threats of ex-communication and the like. She certainly wouldn’t be the first… and undoubtedly, won’t be the last.

      I truly don’t want to debate you, but I do find it legitimately fascinating to see the ongoing vehemence about the issue, even in our own generation. The info you provided was definitely an interesting read… the language of those Church Fathers? My oh my. Those tricksy women, always up to something.

  4. Good answer Rachel. Women were very much in leadership positions in the early church but as the church became more “Romanized” to fit in with the prevailing culture, women were marginalized. Mary Magdalene went from Jesus’ closest disciple (if not married to him) to a prostitute within a few hundred years of Jesus’ death. Besides, denying full equality of women (includes ordination) it just plain wrong and immoral. I can’t believe this is even an issue today.

    I wouldn’t follow Jesus if he preached the inferiority of women.

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