DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT by Margo Guernsey The Philadelphia Eleven: To Be Whole (working title)
I was born in 1974. I am not Episcopalian. I was raised in a UCC church with a male minister, but knew of plenty of women ministers and never questioned women’s leadership in the church. I’m of the generation that always knew of Episcopal women priests, and did not know the struggle that came before. I always assumed it was the norm.
About seven years ago, I learned about the ordinations that took place in Philadelphia in 1974, and was blown away by the bravery of the women involved. At what point did they decide to challenge this institution, which is thousands of years old? How did they consider the risks? The more I have uncovered, the more I respect others who were an important part of the process including the members of the Church of the Advocate, the priests who were taken to ecclesiastical trial, and the list goes on. What moved each of these players to risk their careers, their parish, and their futures, in order to support a group of women who were called to the priesthood?
The title of the film is important to me. “To be whole” is a calling for most of us on a daily basis. How do we pursue our vocations regardless of whether society is ready? How do we keep our integrity when it feels like the easy answers ask us to compromise? How do we stand up for justice in every moment when life pulls us in so many different directions? I can imagine post-film discussions where we all reflect on how the story of the original women priests asks us to consider big questions that confront us in our own lives.
I am many things in my daily life including a filmmaker, a former labor organizer, a history nerd, avid gardener and proud mother. I am passionate about collaborating with others to document the lives of the people who have come before us, whose stories have not been a part of the historical narrative. I am excited about finding new ways to distribute documentary films to empower people, and shift narratives. I strive to produce a documentary that will be engaging, and will be a vehicle for teaching, learning, preserving and exploring the past. I find I am at my best as a director when I am listening and allowing the protagonists of the story to lead.
This story raises questions for all of us about whether, to quote The Rev. Alla Bozarth, we are living our lives “with integrity”.
We are at a crossroads again, in 2019, just as we were in 1974. Let us take the time to remember and learn about the people who came before us, as we work for a world where all of us can be whole.