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Honouring Violet, and Edith and each other...

A century since the first ordained woman Baptist minister was recognised by the Bpatist Union Britain, around fifty Baptist women in ministry (ordained, in training, lay and even one or two 'not sure it's OK') gathered in Birmingham for an event to share, celebrate and encourage one another.

It was a truly wonderful couple of days in which we worshipped together, listened to each other, learned from one another, reflected together, crafted bookmarks as gifts for each other and shared cake.

Violet Hedger and Edith Gates are the two women to whom we trace our twentieth centruy roots (early Baptists had lots of women in ministry, then they gotorgansied and shut them up!), the two giantesses upon whose shoulders we all stand.  So, the violet/purple theme reflects Violet's name, and it is good, very good, that she is honoured as the first woman who was able to complete study at a Baptist college - paying her own exam fees at a time when men had theirs paid for them.

I wanted to been part of the conference, yet I was a little wary - I was not alone.  Fears of tokenism, presuppositions about theology and spirituality... all of these were named at various points.

Perhaps it sounds daft to say that I was glad I hardly knew anyone there - but it was a good, healthy, sign that there are now so many more women in ordained, and other recognised, ministries.  It was good to see women in the 20s and 30s, as well as 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.  It was good to have hair in all colours from white and gry, through black, auburn, brown and blond to fuschia and turquoise!  It was good to meet charismatics and contemplatives, introverts and extroverts, those from radical, affirming and welcoming churches and those from more conversative churches, evanglicals and liberals... and all saying 'we delight in this diversity'.

I liked that it wasn't just a talking shop, but that we promised each other that we would do something more... so I'm stating here, so I can't wriggle out of it, that I have promised to go with the women in NWBA as they take this forward with their RMs, and that I will take it forward here in Scotland where I am still the anomaly. 

It was good - and the work goes on...

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