The Philadelphia Eleven: A Documentary by Margo Guernsey

Storytelling is as old as humanity. We tell ourselves stories – about who we are as individuals, about our families, and about our people – to understand who we are. A lot of narratives are told by a dominant segment of society at the expense of others. I am drawn to stories that flip the script. What stories about real people help us envision a world where all human beings can fulfill our God-given potential?

I practice listening deeply to stories. What is this person really saying about him or herself? What is the essence of what we learn from these events? It is never as simple as it seems. It can take time to find the soul of a story.

I am in the midst of that process right now with a new film. It is the story of the women ordained Episcopal priests in 1974 against church rules. These women dared to organize their own ordination service. They followed their call despite earthly institutions that denied it to them. In doing so, they hit a chord in a deeply divided world about who speaks the word of God. The media caught on, and each woman had to decide how to live out her priesthood in the public limelight. By trusting their call to the priesthood, they created their own narratives. Each woman had to decide how to live out her priesthood in the face of an institution that did not accept her.

This story resonates. It is much more than the story of eleven women; it is the story of a path to liberation. What does it mean to be whole? How do we pursue our vocations, regardless of obstacles? 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?

My team and I have been running a fundraising campaign to help bring this project to completion. In the past few weeks a community has come together to help tell this story by sharing and pledging fiercely. You too can join us on Kickstarter and help us support the project. The fundraising campaign is open until June 20th.

Click here to support The Philadelphia Eleven: A documentary film about the women who defied the leadership of the Episcopal church in 1974, and became the first women priests.



Margo Guernsey is a documentary filmmaker based in Boston, MA. Her feature directorial debut, Councilwoman is touring the country and will air on America Reframed, part of PBS’s WORLD Channel, in fall 2019. Margo began her film career in 2010 as a producer at WPBT2 (Miami), and produced and directed industrial videos in the Boston area for seven years. Over the past 20 years, she has worked as a union organizer, non-profit development director, Spanish/English translator and media instructor, always building multi-racial collaborations across class lines to inform the work of building a more just society. She has an MFA in Film (University of Miami), MA in History (Umass/Amherst), and a BA in History (Brown University).

Categories: Christianity, Feminism and Religion, Women and Ministry, Women in the Church

Tags: , ,

3 replies

  1. This is an important story and I thank you for telling it.

    I hope you will set it in the context of the great ferment concerning feminism and religion that was happening at the time, a great deal of it outside the context.of patriarchal religious communities. It is interesting to note that this story was covered in MS magazine while the emergence of the Goddess movement was ignored.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Women are making so many decisions to be out in professions previously limited to men. Now we also need to be paid equally in any profession. Thanks for your film and for telling the stories of courageous women!

    Liked by 1 person

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