How is it for you? A day with laywomen at Queen’s Foundation Birmingham
A report from Inclusive Church Trustee: Sally Barnes
More than forty women from across England met at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham on Saturday 21 March to share our experiences of and hopes for the Church. At the start of the day a panel of women described, from their very different view-points, how they saw church and the living out of their faith. They talked of experiences of standing up to both gender and race discrimination, one of positive affirmation by female clergy, one of teaching wide-eyed Year 7 boys the patriarchal context of the Old Testament.
The entire day was bursting with creativity, ideas, sorrow, anger and hope.
Dr Nicola Slee, theologian, lecturer, poet and author, offered some theological reflections in response, from her research into the faith lives of women and girls. ** Dr Slee spoke of how women often have common experiences of alienation from church, awakening to the divine, and a deep sense of relation with others and the created world as part of their journeys of faith. It was so affirming to hear stories that we could connect with and concepts that began to make sense of what is often a maelstrom of feelings of anger, fear, joy and sadness in being women in the church.
During the morning small groups listened to each other’s stories and put together a Wailing Wall of laments and furies at the failings of the church as we experience it.
The afternoon began with a Psalm of Edwina Gately that included the lines ‘There is an awakening – an expectancy – threading the soul to the beat of heat and pulse and charged with breath Divine’. A wealth of creative materials of pictures and collages were put together by groups showing how the church could be. So many ideas, symbols and sources of life emerged. A “Living List” of resources that people have found helpful and want to be available in future was drawn up. If only WATCH could wish all that into being!
The concluding worship was uplifing, moving, reflective and inspiring. Hopes and desires for change and progress shared, prayers and readings of inspiration and insight given to take away with us. The worship included the, ‘Dangerous women’s creed’* including: ‘May we pray deeply and teach wisely. May we be strong and gentle leaders. May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear.’ That’s the sort of church we yearn for, and yearn to contribute even more to. Those participating had a sense God is listening and, returning to their places of life and worship, it was hoped they could be leaven in the church as well as the world. It is an aim of WATCH that similar days will be held up and down the country.
We thank those who told of their experiences at the beginning of the day of being lay women in their churches and in the wider context of work and the world. They set the scene for the day and gave so much to ponder on. More will be on the WATCH website (www.womenandthechurch.org) and our facebook page including the “Living List” of Resources. Do look out for that. There will be other days. We came home warmed by friendship and inspired by the thoughts of others. Thank you to those who came. It was so good to be with you.
Dangerous Women’s Creed
Dear God, please make us
May we be women who acknowledge our power
to change, and grow,
and be radically alive for God.
May we be healers of wounds
and righters of wrongs.
May we weep with those who weep
and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
May we cherish children, embrace the elderly, and empower the poor.
May we pray deeply and teach wisely.
May we be strong and gentle leaders.
May we sing songs of joy
and talk down fear.
May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us,
and righteous anger energize us.
May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world.
May we dismantle abusive systems and silence lies with truth.
May we shine like stars in a darkened generation.
May we overflow with goodness in the name of God and by the power of Jesus.
And in that name and by that power, may we change the world.
Dear God, please make us dangerous women. Amen
by Lynne Hybel