Day 5: Hildegard in Ohio
I felt a familiar presence as I walked into the lowly lit sanctuary for the first time. The priest, Shanon Sterringer, was tidying up some things at the altar, still adorned with Easter lilies and planters. The hardwood floors felt warm somehow. My eyes and heart were immediately drawn to the visions and iconography that whispered from the walls. The stained-glass windows were unlike any I had seen before--opaque except for the brilliantly colored glass, almost like sea-glass, in the symbolic shapes nodding to the seven sacraments within Catholic heritage. Hello! she said, as she walked over to greet me warmly with a hug. I introduced her to Brian, and we entered into whatever would unfold for us next.
I asked her about various things that drew my attention. She offered glimpses of things I might not have noticed. There were small, colorful renditions of Hildegard's visions on each side wall, beautifully accompanied by artful metal crosses (crafted by Shanon's husband) noting the stations of the cross. Each stairwell up into the balcony showed a painted tree, with one side of the sanctuary greening--viriditas in action--because of the sunlight reflecting off of an upstairs painting of Disibodenberg in Germany. Each item imbued with sacred purpose, each had a holy ordinary story to be told. The familiar presence I had felt was that of a woman who loves the church and labors through so very much to bring her to her best Self, Mother Ecclesia.
Hildegard -- and Rev. Shanon Sterringer -- is also therefore a Green Shepherdess in Fairport Harbor, Ohio today. Both tell an ancient and contemporary story of women in church structures that do not accord sacred power to their Voices, the Living Light they clearly know deep within and that the Church needs so desperately. Brian and I stopped off at the shoppe in town, The Green Shepherdess, which Shanon opens on the weekends (and when pilgrims come, thankfully). We got to meet another woman priest and artist of the community, Mary Coffey. We departed with a new icon of Hildegard, painted by a friend of Shanon, Rosa, whose artistry provides the cover for Shanon's new book, Forbidden Grace.
Shanon made space for us to return to the sanctuary by ourselves, before dinner. Brian and I sat in prayer for a time, soaking in the sacred invitations, Hildegard's familiar presence, all of us in the Presence of the One who calls... It was a blessed day of pilgrimage.