Saturday, 8 March 2014

Inspiring women

Mary by Anne Bellamy
Today is International Women's Day.  Reading posts on the internet about women who have inspired others set me thinking about those who have inspired me, challenged me and changed the way I think.  Here's a few - names removed to protect the heroines.

We'll start with the girls who sat near me in the chemistry labs at school, who did the same lessons, shared their thoughts and helped me grow to understand that our brains are equal.  This was the 1970s and sexism was in the water I drank.  I am grateful to them and my coed education for the beginnings of equality.  I still had to struggle against the latent background noise, some of which was more formational that I would now like to admit.

At college I encountered young women sharing in ministry, met a deaconess (women couldn't be deacons let alone priests or bishops then).  As I watched a fellow student leading morning prayer in the chapel the thought dawned on me if this young woman can take services in the college chapel, just like me, why can't women be fully ordained.  I woke up.

As a young Samaritan volunteer I met my first openly gay woman.  She was my mentor when I first started and we talked in between taking calls.  I began to understand that people do not choose their sexuality - I had known that for longer, but it became enfleshed for me in a real person's story.  She was in a committed relationship and she challenged the assumptions I had grown up with through who she was and her integrity.

Then there are those who have shown me that I can be loved, whose friendship has been and continues to be a source of joy.

Over the last 15 years I have encountered more women working in the church.  It has been a growing number.  Some have been colleagues, one an archdeacon.  The nonsense of discrimination has grown louder for me.

Along the way I have probably contributed to the damage of some for which I can only apologise.  I don't know how many I have passed by on the other side and not been able to help or just not seen.  I think I have done my bit to help the church move forward and encourage some in their ministry.  And I hope I have helped my own sons grow to treat women with respect as they should treat everyone, to just not know the place I started from.  When they and their friends look on in wide eyed amazement when they hear what things were like I realise how far we have come and smile.  There is still much to do and a long way to go for many throughout the world, but we have travelled an incredible journey in a short space of time.

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