By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

- Page 3

  • This 'n' That

    A few random thoughts that don't fit under any neat kind of a heading!

    At yesterday's Women in Ministry Day, three of our women RMs were sharing some of their thoughts on their roles.  It was interesting, but what struck me was how much we all seem to feel the need to justify not being some perceived stereotype of cuddly, motherly, nurturing types.  Whilst most women ministers are married and many of those are mothers, it doesn't automatically follow that our gifts and skills in the church are reflective of that.  It seemed to be fairly normative experience that churches expect their women ministers to be nice (which I, for one, don't 'do'), maybe a bit of a doormat, certainly willing to double as her own wife and attend the ladies meetings and so on.  For all that, most of us have had other professions/roles before being ministers, and many of us have good leadership, administrative and organisational skills, but it can be difficult to find these valued by churches.  Lack of confidence seemed to abound - one very gifted RM spoke, half jokingly, of her fear of being 'found out.'  We talked about why women (in general, not just in ministry) don't apply for 'senior' positions and concluded it was probably because we look at job descriptions and won't consider ourselves good enough unless we can tick all (or at least most) of the boxes, whilst at least some male colleagues will apply if they can tick one or two.  I'm not sure how true that is generally for men - because I haven't asked any, and I don't know how much it is generational or churchified, but it is interesting.  When I think back to the Baptist (and other traditions) deaconesses, I am pretty sure they weren't cuddly, nice people, because they were thrust into some pretty scary situations where they'd have needed to live on their wits.  This being the case, where did we get our nice cuddly 'lady minister' idea from?  Possibly the equally stereotypical minister's wife...?

    Another thought that has been floating around my mind is on the topic of 'branding' in churchified things.  Yesterday we had a session on Godly Play - which is great stuff, but it is also big business, lots of books and places producing the props you need to tell the stories their way: parables have to go in golden boxes and so on.  The Fresh Expressions movement - which is great - has spawned a whole set of branded products.  Messy Church which was one church doing stuff that anyone could do has suddenly become a formula complete with books and logos.  Stuff in pubs has found a brand name and so on.  I'm not quite sure what to think about any/all of this.  My guess is that Alpha has worked wonderfully as a branded evangelism package (even if I prefer Emmaus) and gives people some sense of confidence in attempting to use it.  At the same time, the kind of 'instant outreach model' just add prayer/faith troubles me a bit because it potentially stifles human creativity and, dare I suggest it, even God's spirit.  I have shelves of resource books, some so old they are funny, though the basic ideas remain useful, and I am not anti-branding (afer all I am a Baptistminister), I just wonder if we sometimes rush too quickly to the 'ready meal' when we would be so much more satisfied if we got fresh ingredients and created our own menu?  Maybe it is a symptom of our Post Modern (etc etc) world that despite all our talk of freedom and individuality every church experience, like every high street and shopping centre, feels much the same as any other?

    Now if I was clever, I would work out how to relate the two strands of thought above.  I guess the reality is that I'm a fairly creative person - in a broad sense of the word - who also needs order, so whilst I value the prepackaged schemes as starting points, I don't want to be constrained by them.  Perhaps that is why I like working with children who don't yet know all the pat answers - their responses require me to think on my feet and to be willing to explore avenues I hadn't considered.  Structure with flexibility perhaps?  And if that's a girlie thing, well I reckon it is so much better than 'nice'!

  • Accredited Women in Birmingham

    Technically, the Accredited Women in Ministry day of BUGB, which took place at the BMS International Missions Centre in Birmingham.  It is tricky to explain to people in professions where equal opportunities legislation is in place why such a thing might be justified, let alone necessary.  Why might thirty female ministers choose to spend a day together, and what on earth do they do?

    Being where I am, where there happen to be lots of other women ministers, and every time a church becomes vacant God sends another one along, it can be easy to forget how isolated some women ministers are.  And, having worked as a woman in a so-called male environment before I was a minister, it really wasn't the same, not least because I was protected by law from discrimination.  The reality is that there are churches and ministers who will not speak to me - or my colleagues - because we are chromosomally challenged.  So, alas, it is necessary to have such a gathering.

    It was a good day.  There was some good input both on 'Godly Play' for use with children, adults and mixed age groups, and on women's experiences as Regional Ministers - and it was interesting to note that there are proportionally more women Regional Ministers than local church ministers.

    It was good to be at IMC, even if the directions I got from a certain website named after a very large number were not adequately helpful and I drove along the A38 about four times before I found the place (and yes, I can read maps thanks all the same!!).  Next time I'll revert to the motoring organisation ones which always seem to work - even if they are sometimes rather longer in miles.  Still, at least I did locate such diverse colleges as Woodbrook Study centre and the Queen's Foundation along the way..!

    It was nice to meet a few more people who are kind enough to read this stuff, and a special 'hello' to Jim (not part of the women's day!) who was very gracious when I teased him over geography (though I doubt he'd spent so much time on a scenic tour of Edgbaston, Selly Oak and even Northfield in an attempt to locate the place).  I enjoyed catching up with a few friends I hadn't seen for a while and felt that it was a day well spent - even if I then arrived at my school governors' meeting exhausted.

    Many thanks to Viv, Jo and others who worked hard to make it such a great day.

  • ASBO on the mark again!

    Saw this, and thought of one my congregation's views on my knees...


    Check out the original in all its glory (and writing big enough to read!) here


  • 7.5 out of 10 Christians..

    Doesn't have the same ring as '8 out of 10 cats' but there you go!

    According to the Times 75% of Christians asked think that God is male.  This being so, it is small wonder the church is also seen - and often experienced - as male dominated.  These thoughts are prompted by, but not a response to, the article.

    For anyone who has ever thought about it or studied theology at all it is a tired argument - God is not male, God is not female, God is not an 'it'.  Both maleness and femaleness echo something of the divine nature but neither can fully express it.  Having just had Trinity Sunday and an opportunity to ponder afresh that God's nature is indeed a 'holy and profound mystery' it is a little sad to be back to arguments of the "God's a 'he', the Bible says so" variety.  It is a shame that attempts to address gender inclusivity in liturgical language are perceived as political correctness - especially when such comments come from women who work under UK employment law that allows them equal rights, unlike female ministers who can be, and are, rejected by congregations merely on the grounds of their chromosomes.

    I suspect that the reality is that at least 7.5 out of 10 Christians never even think about their images of God.  I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when one of my people saw the Rublev icon as female and was not phased by the idea of feminine in God.  I was also amused when one of my newer folk felt safe to tell me the joke that "when God made men she was only joking."  For all that, it is sad that that the kick-backto "God's a 'he'" can be "no, he's a she."

    And then there is one of the more wonderful mysteries of good liturgical and homiletic language: it can be gender inclusive and, in its divine references, gender neutral, without being wishy washy waffle.  There are many excellent practitioners out there, but two Baptists who seem to have reached a stage where their speech is naturally inclusive and Godly are Keith Jones and Myra Blythe.  An opportunity to listen to either of these people would surely transform some of the sceptics who deride inclusive language as dodgey.  It does take practice, and I certainly don't have it cracked, but it is perfectly possible to speak of our wonderful God in ways that do not depend on gendered pronouns.

    Roll on the day when 7.5 out of 10 Christians think such debates are old hat.

  • Lord of the Dancers

    There has been a thread running through today - and it's variations on the dance metaphor in relation to God, church and mission!

    The Rublev icon (not a dance in case you think I've lost it!) prompted some good responses from my folk: the openness of the grouping, the equally sized characters, their looking at each other and also the lure to the central chalice; one person was even convinced all the characters were female. 

    Reactions to the Matisse were varied, with a few people very pointedly looking at the floor and pursing their lips.  When I invited comments on it, I was struck both by who commented and by what they said.  The comments were GREAT!  One person instantly noticed that there is a gap in the ring of dancers, a place for more to join in.  Another noted that whilst the dancers were together, in one dance, they were not all doing identical movements.  A third said that it looked to be joyful. 

    -Although I had to demonstrate the 'reel of three' with a couple of pressed dancers, most people grasped the grand chain idea.  I've no idea what they made of relational model of Trinity, but I was adequately pleased with it.

    Tonight I was preaching for the Penties (using my woman caught in adultery narrative sermon, which they loved) and at the start if the service one of them was sharing a vision he'd had about the church... expressed as a choice of two dances.  He said he'd realised that a church could be like a conga line, long thin and one person leading with everyone else following along doing exactly the same thing.  Or it could be more like a hokey cokey, broad, round and inclusive with people moving in and out (and shaking it all about).

    I was struck by this metaphor so shared my 'missional grand chain' with them - I think they quite liked it too.

    So there you go - Or I go anyway.  Dance as a metaphor arising in two congregations on the same day... cue spooky music!