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

 

Lurking

So I’ve given up Facebook for Lent, but have actually given up posting on Facebook rather than checking it out. This is technically known as lurking. I’ve failed on a few occasions to resist the urge to press “share”, but overall I’ve found it a good discipline to self-edit my online presence a bit more than normal. I’ve never tried this before, normally I give up chocolate or biscuits and fail completely!

I’ve also just been on a silent retreat with college, where I was unable to “share” with the group my insights and thoughts and had to restrict myself to my own company. I got through it with lots of walks, reading, painting and sleep, but again it was helpful to notice how compulsive I am as an Extrovert in just sharing whatever is currently in my head on any given day!

Lurking it seems to me has some benefits. Rather than responding and sharing immediately I can think it over and reflect on what is happening. Is this me and my friends freaking out, or are we actually in the middle of something bigger that is going on. Does everyone want or need to know my political views? Maybe I should save that for Twitter?

It’s human to want to share and be part of the conversation, and in my work in the church I’ve set up a weekly drop-in so anyone who needs some company can come and have a coffee. We’ve also arranged for someone to come in and do some crafts with us after Easter, so I’m really looking forward to doing some of the stuff normally reserved for the kids!

I’ve also noticed recently how lucky I am to have the company of my family. Not always in conversation with them, (often this is really exhausting!) but like now as I write this, they are all off somewhere doing their own thing, so we are together but not really having to chat.  I think when you live alone this is the hardest part is not being quiet with anyone else. On my retreat I found the presence of my colleagues on the course really reassuring, even though we couldn’t speak to each other.

This morning at church I gave a card to lady I’m supporting who literally has noone. Her husband died at the end of last year and she has no parents, children, brothers, sisters or anyone living near her at all. It’s quite rare to meet someone in that situation, but it does happen. I have never felt so happy to give someone a mother’s day card! I can’t be with her as much as she’d like as she really would like someone as a companion 24/7 as she’s not used to being alone, but I am trying to find other people to support her, so that’s not always the case.

As a vicar, there will be a large amount of being around, rather than saying or doing much, and purposefully lurking in places where people may want a chat. In my faith journey, there’s always been times when  I’ve had to take a step back to hear from God, and part of my challenge now is to create quiet times in and amongst the madness of work, study and family life. I’m following another blogger who has just recently posted on this here.. http://lifebynaomi.com/faith/how-to-find-time-for-a-quiet-time

Right when he knew he was about to be betrayed, we hear in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus took himself to a garden and prayed through the night, so late that the disciples all fell asleep. That fervent desire to be in conversation with God, is often easier when we have an urgent request, but God really desires us to speak to him alone all the time, not just when we are after something. Jesus regularly speaks from God because he is in constant dialogue with the father.

So it’s worth doing a bit of lurking around with God, he won’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with you, and any prayer you speak will not be wasted, regardless of how daft you feel doing it. The presence of God, like that of my family and friends is often something I sense but can’t quite describe why it’s important or helpful. When I get chance to really acknowledge it, and praise him for his love, it becomes more of a conversation to treasure and remember.

This Easter I’m going to be away again at college and will miss putting up all the decorations in Holy Week and being part of my church family at that time, but I am looking forward to being free to worship God with other Christians that week, when normally I’d be with the family or at work. The more time I spend lurking with other people the more opportunity there is to give and receive God’s love, which ultimately what it’s all about.

1 John 4 v 7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”