First they came for the #christianwomen

It’s been a tough time for Canadian Christian Blogger Sarah Bessey after she started a post on Twitter called #thingsonlychristianwomenhear. For more information go to her website at http://sarahbessey.com Some of the responses have been pretty shocking. A second more positive hashtag has started #thingschristianwomenshouldhear- which I think has had slightly less impact!

I feel very blessed at the moment to be working with a largely female leadership team in a church which at one point would not have welcomed women at all in these roles. Times change and our attitudes sometimes take a bit longer to move along than we’d like. While it’s easy to point the finger at men, we ladies can be just as resistant to change.

Sometimes it’s hard for women who’ve been denied opportunities themselves to see your role positively and sometimes women who’ve spent a lifetime serving others, cannot see a way forward to putting themselves in the spotlight and can’t understand others stepping forward. Others just like hearing a male voice, or can’t imagine it being any different.

Since I’ve been working in the church recently though it’s been those women who’ve had leadership experience and success in other walks of life that have been the ones to step out and meet me on my journey. One of my informal life-coaches at the moment, herself in her 70’s and battling cancer, Mrs Marj has been a senior lecturer and run her own business and is now in charge of the church hall. She’s constantly telling me off for not believing in myself!

I think that we all have a responsibility to be good sisters to one another and be kind if someone in authority is reacting angrily, or allowing their buttons to be pressed, because really that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Changing attitudes and prejudices takes generations to achieve. We can have confidence that God himself is a feminist, as he created men and women in his image:

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1 v27

That’s why I think when Donald Trump’s travel ban came into force, people united across religions, and ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender waving banners that quoted Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor in the second world war. They united in fear that decades of progress in building a tolerant equal society would be rolled back if Trump is allowed to play the race card against his own citizens.

Niemoller himself anti-Communist, was grudgingly in support of the Nazis when they first took office, however he quickly became a vocal opponent and survived incarceration in a concentration camp to carry on as a prominent member of the church in the 1950’s. His words were part of a speech challenging the church into political resistance, but are now used as a poem more generally. Let’s hope the parallel with the church and Donald Trump is not the same..

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

So let’s take this learning from the atrocities of the 1940’s and apply it today- how can we support and enable women to lead in our churches? Well one way might be to start praying- we know as Christians this can move mountains. Certainly blaming women themselves for being angry is not particularly constructive, more of a “calm down dear” sort of reaction!

So here’s my prayer for working women everywhere

God Our father help us as a church to support women who have responsibilities outside the home

When we care for others, we ask you make it known that you care for us deeply

Whey we can’t juggle everything to the high standards we’d like to achieve, we ask you would gently confirm that you know us better than we know ourselves

When we need to rely on others for help and support, we ask for your protection on relationships that hold everything together.

We thank you for all the people who champion our families.

Help us realise we are not alone, and can accept help gracefully. 

Show us how important the work is you’ve asked us to do, especially when it seems to get in the way of family life

When we get it wrong, help us to remain in your love, to acknowledge our sin, and to seek your forgiveness.

When others oppose or persecute us, help us to rest in your love and gain your peace and not to bear grudges or keep secrets.

When things go well, help us to celebrate and live life abundantly

We ask this in your name, for us and all our sisters 

AMEN

 

Living in a bubble

Nov 9th date is significant in our house as it’s our son’s birthday, but now it’s got another reason as it’s the day we found out Donald Trump will be president of the US. With Brexit earlier in the year, and David Bowie and a host of others dying, for many of us left wing liberal thinkers this year’s been really tough.

It’s hard to understand why the US would reject the legacy Obama has established, why wouldn’t you want free healthcare for those who can’t afford it otherwise?

Why would you want to exclude Britain from a range of amazing benefits shared by the EU?

Why criticise someone you’ve never met to make your own situation seem better?

Why boast about sexually assaulting women or punish women who’ve had an abortion?

Why play into people’s fears about immigration when you can’t actually change the fact that we live in a world economy?

I guess I live in a bubble, because it doesn’t resonate with my reality. The bubble I live in has some good points, we have a roof over our heads, we don’t need to worry about food, we have free education in a decent school for our kids, and the prospects for the future look good. I care about the community I live in because that’s what I was brought up to believe, I don’t want my kids to be greedy, rude or put themselves above other people, and I hang around with other people who are similarly inclined. Many of us had the privilege of further education, and have white collar jobs. This doesn’t make us perfect.Most of the time we take for granted the blessings we have, and expect more to come. We see them as our achievements not gifts from god.

I know I am loved completely and fully by the most important person in the world and I have to accept that on that basis my life is important as well. He will listen if I pray, and ask him for help to understand what is going on around me.

So if you are feeling blue today because of the changes happening, my only comfort is that bad things do happen to good people, and how we respond to that will really make a difference. People who are oppressed will often rebel and rise up against the establishment and we need to be responsible citizens who listen to our neighbours

This is from Job who had a great life, and then lost everything and his friends are trying to cheer him up, and fail and in the end God comes and has a word with Job to explain his position in the universe…it’s a great book of the Bible to read for those of us in our bubble, and shows the God described in the Old Testament in all his glory!

Job 40 vv8-14

 

Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
    and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
    and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
    look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
    crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
    shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
    that your own right hand can save you.