MARCH IS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
In the press release announcing the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” the National Women’s History Alliance encouraged “recognition of women, past and present, who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling, including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, and more…including authors, songwriters, scholars, playwrights, performers and grandmothers throughout time.”
Notice anyone missing in that description? What about preachers?! In our faith communities this March, let’s celebrate the women who tell our stories, including women preachers.
In Maine’s history, one of the woman preacher-storytellers whose story could be celebrated in your church or meeting this month is Rev. Margaret K. Henrichsen. She was a young widow who, in the 1940’s, came to Maine to serve a seven-point Methodist circuit. With no formal seminary training, she came here to serve seven small, rural churches (and to live in a parsonage that had no indoor plumbing and only a wood stove for heat!). She completed her seminary degree by correspondence (the precursor to online learning) while serving the seven churches of the Sullivan circuit (about 160 miles northeast of Portland) from 1944-1955.
She told her own story in the 1953 memoir, Seven Steeples: A Story of a woman who ministered seven churches on the Maine coast, reprinted by Thorndike Press in 1978. Read her description of Schoodic Head one late afternoon.
The sun was beginning to drop low behind Cadillac, throwing the mountain into deep purple shadow and making a golden glory above and behind it that was reflected in the water. Close to the rocks where I stood, tasting the salt spray, the long green swells rose and fell. What mighty power lay under those lifting waves. Clear, translucent, green they rose and curled to crash into white foam—but out to sea all was a quiet gray. A cormorant flew low along the edge of the rocks—herring gulls lifted and wheeled and settled again just below me, where the stunted balsams and lichen-covered rocks met the rosy granite. Then suddenly I saw a great bird coming—big as a goose—white. Then I saw the wing tips, as black as if they had been dipped in India ink, and ruled straight across at the elbow, too. Gannets! We don’t often see them so close in shore, but a pair flew by that night. The sun was gone now and dusk was closing in over the water. A great blue heron, trailing his long legs, flew across going from the frog-filled marshes behind me to the tall trees up on the headland where his nest was. And down below, serene and confident on that tumbling water, a little duck was riding—a bufflehead, so tiny, so unafraid. Surely the spirit of God still moves upon the face of the deep.
From Seven Steeples by Margaret K. Henrichsen, pp.237-8