OCBC upholds practices of gender equity in all aspects of church life and has a lengthy history of engaging in the larger work of gender justice in the church and in the wider world.
In the early 1970s, a group of women who named themselves Sojourners began to meet in the church’s tower room. At a time when the feminist movement was challenging ideas of male leadership and gender based assumptions, this group focused on a radical re-imaging of God and the church. Together, they read feminist theologians and shared life stories. Out of this study and sharing, both individual lives and the life of OCBC were transformed. As theology expanded to imagine a God in whose image all persons were created, new possibilities were unleashed. The language of worship itself was transformed to make it more inclusive of a female and/or gender-neutral deity.
Through liturgical dance and theater, 1974’s “Witch, Virgin, Whore: Breaking the Spell” worship service challenged the congregation to see the oppressive limitations of stereotypical roles for women, and to envision transformation. This re-imagining was not just for women; it would also free men to benefit from realizing the limits of their former roles. “Witch, Virgin, Whore” was performed in other churches and seminaries, and became influential in advancing the movement toward gender equality in the Boston area.
In 1975, at the urging of the Sojourners, OCBC called its first woman pastor, The Rev. Linda Brebner. Several other women from the Sojourners group were inspired to enter professional ministry and became part of the feminist movement in the larger church and beyond.
As gender equality in the church and the language of worship were implemented, OCBC also grew in our understanding of the importance of welcoming and affirming sexual minorities. The women’s and lesbian liberation movements overlapped in many ways, and a number of women in the church were coming out as lesbians. By their very presence they questioned traditional practices and interpretations of God and of scripture. The feminist movement at OCBC thus opened the door to the process of becoming a congregation welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people, and to a deeper commitment to justice and inclusion across a broad range of human difference that we continue to explore today.