A diverse group of Norwalk parishioners watched with pride on Saturday as their parish continued its progressive spirit, ordaining the first female minister in the church's 260-year history.
The Rev. Cynthia Stravers became a full-ordained minister at St. Paul's on the Green during a special ceremony Saturday, in which she was ordained by the first elected female bishop in the Diocese of Connecticut, the Rev. Laura J. Ahrens. The rector of St. Paul's since the early 1990s, Rev. Nicholas Lang, called the ordainment a continuation of the church's welcoming attitude. "I think the message is we are an inclusive community where everyone has a place to bring their gifts, and that includes the priesthood," Lang said.
Under Lang's leadership, the church has reformed its spirit as one of radical welcome. While Stravers is not the first female clergy member at St. Paul's, she is the first woman to be ordained within the church walls, welcomed as a leader of the parish community. "The old culture of this church was against ordaining women," Lang said. "But to really do what a church is supposed to do, we have to open our doors to everyone, and make the community aware that this church welcomes you no matter who you are."
Following her graduation from the General Theological Seminary in New York City, Stravers, 53, joined St. Paul's in June as an assistant to the rector.
Now an ordained minister, she is allowed to preside over all church services. "One of the first things I noticed about this church was how much the people here really love each other," Stravers said. "The people here are honest with themselves and each other. We're all in this together, and we accept each other as we are." That's a welcoming change for Stravers, who was raised in a conservative Christian family that didn't particularly support a women's right to occupational fulfillment. "I've been in churching communities my whole life, and St. Paul's really stands out that way," she said.
She was welcomed by a member of St. Paul's long before her ordainment on Saturday. The bright red boots she wore during the ceremony were a Christmas gift from an anonymous parishioner. She recently shared a story with church members about her days in the seminary when she witnessed how a fellow student was scorned for wearing red cowboy boots during church services. Since that day, the girls in the seminary each made a pact to wear red shoes when they were ordained. An attentive parishioner at St. Paul's who clearly enjoyed the story surprised Stravers on Christmas Eve by leaving a new pair of bright red shoes on her desk. "That's the kind of fun, delightful relationships people have here," Stravers said. "I really don't think I could be happier anywhere else."
Stravers received her master's degree in divinity from the General Theological Seminary in New York City and holds another master's degree in social psychology. She is a mother of three daughters, Nelleke, Xan and Hannah, and has two grandchildren.
This is my church, I am proud to say. And look! Someone gave her some red cowboy boots! Wonder who?
And, by the way, I stole borrowed this article from here.