Category Archives: women

A prayer on Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday is one of those mixed days. Especially in church, it can be a day many want to avoid (See Rachel on Krish Kandiah’s blog).
I know since losing my mum I tend to feel it. It’s difficult too for all who would love to be mothers and for many reasons can’t be. And then there is the reality – acknowledged more so on Father’s Day that for some they haven’t had a positive experience of mothering.
So leading the service in church today was going to be complex at least. Finding the tension between acknowledging the realities of life and celebrating the many amazing mothers (both natural and spiritual) can be tricky.

I used this prayer, cannibalised from a few places – the Book of Common Prayer, Grove’s booklet on Mothering Sunday  and a blog from messy middle.

On Mothering Sunday
For all mothers who have loved and laughed and laboured as they cared for their children we praise you and thank you God
For the care of mothers – we thank you God
For their patience when tested – we thank you God
For their love when tired – we thank you God
For their hope when despairing – we thank you God
For their service without limit – we thank you God
For those about to be mothers – we rejoice and ask for your protection on them
For those unable to have children, – comfort them God
For those who long to have children we stand and pray with them, bring your comfort
For those who have lost children – may they know your presence and comfort
For those who bear wounds and scars from mothers in this broken world we acknowledge their pain and ask for your healing, peace and renewal
For those who mourn the loss of their mothers – comfort them God
For those who find this day difficult – bring your peace and comfort

Creator and sustainer God we thank you and pray for all those who practice mothering in our midst, in every shape and form that it takes, give them grace, energy, fill them with your Spirit, nurture them as they nurture us.
Fill us with your love that this community, your family in this place will be one where we each have many mothers and fathers and act as mothers and fathers to many.
Now to the One who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine, to You be glory in Your son Jesus and in the church, for ever and ever, amen.

International Women’s Day 2013

What I said last year still holds true. We shouldn’t need a day to celebrate women or to remind ourselves that discrimination based on gender is not how things should be.

jan carson_0A few months ago I asked where are the modern day prophets? Well, I’ve found a few and they are women.

The first is Jan Carson, speaking at AskWhatNow’s stimulus event on Faith and Arts in Belfast – a well spent 10 minutes watching this. (Click here or on the picture)

The second is Rev. Heather Morris. A lawyer friend told me about this talk that she delivered at the Annual New Law Term service in Dublin. Speaking to a congregation that included visiting judges from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales, as well as political leaders, members of the Irish judiciary, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the Diplomatic Corps she was a prophetic voice:

Faithful Christian living in whatever our sphere of work and influence demands that we address the hard questions, there are so many we could choose–

what do we do when our national character has become defined by aggressively defensive self interest? Faithful Christian living demands struggling, asking questions of a culture dominated by consumerism and asking the deeper questions of what has led to this? Demands that we listen to voices often disregarded and unheard. I remember very well listening to a young woman one evening as she courageously spoke in church about her life. She was a single Mum, living on benefits. And to good church people who from time to time asked “how can those Mums afford to give their kids those trainers, when I can’t”; she said “my kids do have designer trainers; we do have a Play Station and lots of games”, and then she talked about why. Because she said I want a stable life for my kids, I want them to have a Mum and Dad and a garden, but I can’t give them that, and I feel bad about that; but I can get then trainers– even if that means I have to move frequently to avoid debt collectors, and I will do whatever I have to in order to give them that. Commitment to the disturbing uncomfortable Son of God means prayerfully asking “What have we done which has built a society where self esteem is effected by the shoes we wear and the bags we carry?”

Allegiance to Jesus demands listening, demands holding back from the easy answer or the glib response that points a finger. Listening to Jesus may mean humbly being willing to name falleness, humbly naming where we have gone wrong. It demands a wholehearted commitment to Jesus who is the Lord in every sphere – for Jesus is not part of a collapsible morality that we can put into our pocket and pull out when we want it and ignore when we don’t. Remember Jesus is the Son of God, who simply speaks Peace and it comes to pass.

Sheryl WuDunn’s TED talk on our century’s greatest injustice is well worth watching.

International Women’s Day – Let Freedom Ring!

I have a dream that one day our little children will not be judged by their bodily appendages but by the content of their character.

Let freedom ring!

Not just because today is International Women’s Day but every day. Let strong men stand up and allow there to be strong women. Only when women are liberated to be the people God has called them to be – given full expression of their gifts and abilities, with male and female working not in subjugation but partnership can we see the image of God in humans fully realised and made flesh.

In too many places women are still not being given their God-given dignity and respect. Even in the church…

We shouldn’t need a day to celebrate women, to fight for the rights of girls to be educated, or to remind ourselves that discrimination against women is not how things should be. Every day should be a day when we celebrate the dignity, gifts and abilities of each other across the globe and where each of us has the strength and courage to empower others to flourish, to be confident, to be strong, and to be all that they can be.

I am grateful for the influence of many strong talented and gifted women in my life. It also grieves me that many of those women were denied the opportunity to demonstrate some of those gifts and talents by men who were too weak and afraid to allow them to flourish. If women are to flourish then as men, we need to stand up and play our part. This is one small step in that direction…

I leave you with the words of 2 women:

Sheryl Sandberg on TED – Why we have too few women leaders

Claire  – Burning heart opens can of worms

Get involved practically in different ways with Tearfund, Oxfam or the Sophia Network.

Finally some Justice as kerb-crawlers have to pay more than just cash

It shocked me a couple of years ago to discover that women (or men) could be prosecuted for prostitution but yet those who paid for their services had no censure.
It seems crazy in this scenario that one of the two parties is doing something illegal and the other isn’t, that there is such a disparity. Either they are both ok, or both deserve censure.
But then I guess for too long its been the men that make the laws, and men who use and abuse prostitutes, men who keep women in the vicious circle that prostitution becomes. So obviously they didn’t want to make kerb crawling illegal.

Its not too dissimilar from that story in John 8 (the dubious part of John). Reading it and using it for some stuff with students it really struck me how one of the things Jesus seems to be doing is challenging the injustice of the situation. This woman was dragged in to be stoned having been caught in the act (of adultery). Now if she was caught in the act it would seem to be normal that the guy was also caught in the act but what happened him? Why wasn’t he dragged out to be stoned? Because it was the woman’s fault? The innate sexism in the society of the time maybe isn’t too different from today in many ways. As Jesus challenges whichever of the religious leaders who was without fault to throw the first stone, I wonder if in that he was challenging the injustice of women being punished for the same thing that the guy managed to get off Scot free with.

It seems to have taken 2000 years for the same sense of injustice to hit the UK with Home Secretary Jacqui smith announcing a range of new laws to deal with those paying for sex, and especially with trafficed sex workers. Still not a crime to be a pimp and pimp out women though. It seems we still have a way to go…

For another perspective from someone who spends time with many of the women ‘working’ on the streets of Belfast check out a Velvet Bridge.

So any women on the go?

I had to restrain a strong desire to punch an elderly relative for this comment at my gran’s funeral several years ago. Whether I had or not was irrelevant. In my moment of grief all she was interested in was my relationship status, not the fact I may have been upset. This is one of the things that really bugs me about the Christian community in the North at least. It’s obsessed with relationships – which are a good thing but not everything, and in fact they have a very poor theology of relationships. There seems a massive pressure for people to get married. And so many christians get married so young, and some of those marriages run into problems. Northern Irish Christians all need to read some Hybels wisdom in Making Life Work (which is a fantastic book) or Fit to be Tied. It could only have good results.

Its one of the things that frustrates me about church. Sometimes I feel it would be easier to fit in if I was in a couple. Maybe I’m just more sensitive to it, having grown up with parents who split up when I was young, and mum sharing some really hurtful comments made by other Christian couples like – “if you were still together we could go out like we used to”. Can couples not spend time with single people? Are they so insecure about the stability of their relationship that they can’t be reminded of some of the harsh realities of life?

I was really pleased to hear a friend’s minister say from the front – “we will not be a church that only invites you for dinner if you’re a couple”, recognising that disturbing reality that exists in some churches. In churches that clearly are missing something major about all that stuff Jesus kept talking about when he called his followers to love one another, to show hospitality. I don’t remember there being any qualifiers, in fact that was the whole point of the good samaritan parable. Yet for single people churches can be lonely places.

It’s another reason why I have serious issues with John Eldridge. I read Wild at Heart a couple of years ago. While lots of people seem to think he says some good things, I had to restrain myself from throwing the book across the room on several occasions. His theology is woefully inadequate, especially when it comes to singleness. As in he doesn’t have a theology of singleness. I wondered why he didn’t really use Jesus as a role model for men – it would seem an obvious choice, but then Jesus was single and that kind of blows his theory out of the water. Passages like Matthew 19.12 and 1 Corinthians 7 are conveniently ignored by Eldridge where Jesus and Paul commend singleness.

Now I’m not just taking a pop at Eldridge but something that is endemic in the Christian community and has and is damaging lots of people. Churches sometimes assume marriage is the norm and everyone else needs married to sort them out.

In Genesis when God says its not good for man to be alone, I wonder if we read too much into that in taking it to be purely about marriage. If God lives in the community of the trinity surely what He was doing there was creating community for humanity – which is something larger than marriage, which is one expression of that. Maybe what our churches need more of is loving inclusive community with the recognition that marriage is not the be all and end all and recognition that singleness is exalted in the bible. Maybe then we might really see God’s kingdom touching earth and many of us who are broken and hurting actually finding a home…

Check out Tim Chester’s blog where he has been posting some great stuff on marriage and singleness – especially this morning’s post which precipitated this soapbox rant and has some fantastic stuff in it.

Soapbox – aware of the ironic timing of this post….