I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’,
to a nation that did not call on my name. – Isaiah 65:1
Stand in line with a pastor after a sermon and see what happens. There will be a host of responses.
Stand in line with a woman pastor often enough and you will often hear this critique: You need to speak louder. Now, it is important to get sound right and to take people’s different abilities to hear very seriously. Meeting people’s hearing needs in worship is important.
But here’s the thing: when many professional women speak publicly, they are not speaking softly. They are not dropping their voices at the end of sentences; this is a skill they have cultivated throughout their professional life. But the truth is that as hearing is lost, it is often the higher registers that go first.
After the critique, many women will also hear some version of: But I could always hear Pastor. “Pastor,” of course, was a man. Maybe a senior colleague, maybe a predecessor. In this way, the hearing feedback becomes a critique of womanhood that comes just after this woman has preached her heart out. And this can hurt.
God (who, clearly, we are not) cries out:
Here I am! Here I am! to a people who will not hear God. God, who I so often, despite myself, expect to speak with a male voice.
What if God’s voice were in a higher register than we were prepared to hear? What if we were so busy tuning in for a lower pitch that we could not hear the sacred feminine calling just for us? Could it be that if we’d been looking for a woman’s voice, too, we might have heard God long ago?
God, help me to listen to you above all else. Amen
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.