Sister Mary, of St. Mary Catholic Church, sometimes officiated at the mass. She told me that the Vatican did not permit this, but she wanted to do it and it was okay with the parish priest, Father Mike. She was deliberately low-key about it and took some precautions. She didn’t officiate when a visiting church functionary was in attendance. She didn’t challenge the church hierarchy directly and officiated at the discretion of the parish priest. Still, Sister Mary was redefining what duties women should perform in her church, transforming the religious definition of woman, and raising the possibility that power relations within the church could change.

I was increasingly attentive to the places or instances in which contradictions in organized religion were expressed in overt conflict, where there was some kind of struggle with the doctrine, as with feminists in the church. Once I understood them this way, I could see many instances in which religious values and activities contradicted one another and the many ways that religious people dealt with those contradictions.

It was around this time that I learned Dianne Quast was in a personal crisis about her relationship to official Lutheran Church doctrine. She had been Chaplain at the Lutheran Compass Center for several years. She was a lesbian. Most of the top staff at the center knew it, but Dianne’s bishop didn’t. Her frustration over the tension between her personal life and her position in the church had been steadily building. I remember her wondering whether it was more effective in the long run to play the game and fight within the institution or to break with it and chip away from the outside. We first talked about this when I asked her to recommend some local women I might talk to who, like Dianne, had official positions in the church. During this same conversation I showed her some of the most recent photographs I had made and we talked about them, which is how we began to talk about her problems with the church hierarchy.