Thursday, 22 September 2016

Telling a different story

A Reflection on a Conference of Women in Ministry:
I'm always struck when women who minister in the church get together, how quickly stories of being discounted, discriminated against and other such appalling stories emerge. Alongside our personal stories, there are also legions of stories told on behalf of others. Stories that tell of the love of God being withheld and the call of God being denied. There is, undoubtedly, a place for such stories, such vulnerability, such sharing.
But I am concerned that by continually sharing these painful narratives, psrticularly long after we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves down and, dare I say it, triumphed in spite of such experiences, that we perpetuate the culture of strife and division.
I want to see women in ministry claiming their rightful place in the Kingdom of God, even if that erodes and destroys the institution that the church has become. Displaying their femininity, owning their power as bringers of life, harbingers of light, beloved children of God, called, commissioned, sent.
As long as we accentuate the stories of our oppression and injustice, we overlook the subversive stories of the positive effects of our ministry ordained and enabled by God. I suppose I'm subscribing to the notion of "by their fruits shall Ye know them." 
Two of my Biblical heroes are Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who defied the orders of the Pharaoh and spared the lives of Hebrew males whom he had ordered to be killed at birth - one of whom was Moses. And my modus operandi in the church has been to find a way to work around whatever obstacles are put in the way of ministry.
The stories of difficulty and trial should not be denied or suppressed but we can be - and are - engaged in writing a new story. A story of love and strength and of making a difference where it matters because God enables us so to do. That is the story I want to be shared, that is the perception that I want to overtake all the negativity that is there in abundance. That is the record that I want to overtake the history of women in ministry. Called, commissioned, sent - servants of God making a difference in the Kingdom of God.

Friday, 9 September 2016

What happens in the church stays in the church?

For the past few years, I've met up with women clergy colleagues early in the year on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. They are part of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive network of women clergy who initially connected virtually through blogging. We invite a facilitator on the cruise and hire the cruise ship's conference facilities and embark on 20 hours CPD while cruising the high seas. Just some of the things we've done together are: studied the Enneagram, written new liturgical material, critiqued books and considered how to be a Missional church in a changing culture.
Of course, in addition to the time we spend studying together, there is also plenty of fun time - we call it Galship - where, just like all the other passengers on board, we enjoy the facilities that the cruise ship has to offer.
The onboard Cruise Director, when announcing the day's choice of activities, always reminds folk: "What happens on the ship stays on the ship." - an encouragement to loosen inhibitions in the knowledge that no one who wasn't involved will find out.
For quite some time now, it appears that many of us have treated Sunday worship in a similar manner, preferring to keep the activities we undertake in worship week by week within the confines of the church building. Not that we ever loosen our inhibitions in worship anyway. But we participate in worship, perhaps enjoy some fellowship, and then head home to get on with the rest of the week, neatly tucking away our church involvement until the next Sunday. And, whether we have been moved to tears, joy or whatever else, we put everything away safely and tidily until our next opportunity to get together to worship again.
And so those who are not involved don't see any need to be, far less pick up on any lasting effect or difference that worship makes to our lives or the life of the world.
We might as well be on a cruise ship in the Caribbean if we do not allow what we do within the walls of the church to make a difference to how we live and serve every other day of the week.
Discipleship 101 - take it outside!

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