27: St. Brigid of Kildare

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week for fifty weeks. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#27 St. Brigid of Kildare

Here is what we know of Brigid of Kildare: she was a nun and abbess and founder of several monasteries—at least one of which was co-ed. She shared her life, and her bed, with another nun named Darlughdach. They two were “anam cara” or soul friends, a concept from Celtic spirituality. Less certain details include: that she was the last high priestess of the goddess Brigid; that she was baptized by St. Patrick; that she was ordained as a bishop because the priest confirming her vows was so overcome by the Holy Spirit and gave her the male vows instead of the female; that she, as abbess, outranked the abbot in her monastery. These legends reinforce Brigid’s place as a powerful leader in the early church in Ireland. She is often pictured holding a reed cross made from the palm branches blessed on Palm Sunday. The cross, known as St. Brigid’s Cross, is a symbol of peace.