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  • A Woman Doctor (Who)... Assorted Thoughts

    Yesterday, unsurprisingly in my view, the new Dr Who was revealed... a woman.  This seemed to send social media into a frenzy, some of which was downright nasty, stirring up some old sexist comments.  I was a tad bemused - it's only a character in a television drama, people, it's not real life (OK perhaps it is for some),  get over it!  Various thoughts found their way into my head, so I thought I'd share them.  It's essentially a mind dump and not very considered.

    Dr Who is science fiction.  The Dr, despite appearances isn't human, but a Gallifreyan, having two hearts, and an ability to regenerate into bodies that are apparently older or younger physically, at least when viewed by human eyes.  No-one seems to get excited about the two hearts or the regeneration, or even the age-fluidity, but to appear as the opposite human gender is, for some, a step too far.  I know nothing of Galifreyan physiology or biology, so maybe the binary X-Y or X-X chromosomal thing doesn't apply...

    If - and it's a big if - Galifreyans are binary male/female in a similar way to humans, then presumably the same mechanism that leads to X-Y women (genetically male but outwardly female) may also apply - which immediately over-rules any objections.  And frankly, if Galifreyan's can switch their genetic make-up during regeneration, so what?  I'm not a great SciFi fan, but it does seem to me that the creators of alternative races/species are at liberty to devise their own biology.

    Some of the fuss seems to be that this is a woman in a man's role.  And here it does manage to ruffle my feather a bit.  Having spent my entire working life in 'men's roles' it really annoys me that such language is still used.  We no longer have WPCs, WRNS or WRAF, yet there are still 'lady doctors', 'women engineers' (obviously not quite so gentile!) and 'lady ministers.'  No, I'm not a 'lady minister' and I wasn't a 'woman engineer'.  Being a time-traveller and general saviour of the universe, it seems, is for some people still very much a 'man's role'... Let female superheroes stick to the skimpy leotards and Barbie doll figures ... Sorry, but no.  Let girls and young women be inspired by a character that affirms their inherent worth.

    All that is before we get to any theological or spiritual considerations... From page one of the Bible, where women and men together bear the image and likeness of God, via the apostle Paul who boldy declares that in Christ gender distinctions disappear, and via a whole series of stories where both women and men are essential, this tension is played out.  We say that God is beyond gender, and then use predominantly male language, even when some of it, especially in reference to the Holy Spirit, is blatantly feminine. There are theologians (and I agree with them) who distinguish between the 'Jesus of History' and the 'Christ of Faith'.  The former is inevitably particular, living in a precise place and time, and equally self evidently male.  The Christ of faith transcends all such boundaries, time, space and, yes, gender.  God's Christ could have appeared as a woman; I guess if there is a literal second coming, Christ could return as a woman (OK start building your heretic fire!) if God felt that was the better option.  Christian artists portray Christ as every ethnicity, and sometimes as female as well as male... all of which is a flawed human endeavour to express a profound mystery.

    So here's the irony... we believe in a God who is beyond gender, yet some people get very exercised by the possibility of a fictional, humanoid race, in which this finds some form of expression in the 13th incarnation of the Dr.

     

  • Curious - and rather wonderful - Symmetry

    It struck me recently that I had been out of industry a very long time, in fact almost as long as I was in it.  Then as I pondered further, I realised a rather curious, and wonderful, symmetry...

    For the first eighteen years of my life I was a child.  I can remember three of the (several) homes we lived in, all three primary, one 'middle' and one 'upper' school I attended along the way.  And today, whilst doing some mulling recalled that I was the first girl in my school to take 'A' level in Physics and Tech Drawing, along with the fact our school was probably ahead of its time because no-one considered it odd that I took tech drawing to 'O' level (quite a few girls did) or that my brother took home economics.  I recall wishing it had been possible to take more than four 'A' levels, as I'd have loved to do English and RE as well as my sciences and maths.

    For the next eighteen years, I was an engineer, or training to be one.  Three years at university in London, with a sandwich year in Derby, gaining first class honours and the odd prize along the way.  Four years total in Derby, and eleven in Knutsford for a different company. I was the only girl on my course in my year, and being a swat, came top.  I think, overall, I was pretty good at what I did, and made a useful contribution to keeping hazardous industries safe enough.

    The eighteen years up to the present, are ministry and training for it.  Four years in Manchester, in an ecumenical training cohort that was roughly equal numbers of men and women.  Another first class honours degree (cos I really am a girly swat) and (later) an MPhil.  Training placements in Catholic and Anglican churches as well as Baptist.  A semi-rural pastorate and now an urban one.  I'm never sure how to measure competence in ministry, but I think I do OK on the whole, and am privileged to serve some amazing people.

    I kind of like the 18 - 18 - 18 pattern but, in case anyone is wondering, I have no plans to make any changes any time soon!  Another 18 years, 'if I am spared' as our West Indian friends would say, would take me well into retirement (I think I currently have 13 or 14 years to state pension age) and, to be honest, is way too far ahead to contemplate.  For now, I am just enjoying the symmetry and reflecting on what an amazing and fulfilling life I have lived this far.

  • Going Deeper - with Eric Liddell

    My Own Story

    Eric Liddell excelled in sports of all kinds – playing cricket and rugby as well as being a superb athlete.  He also enjoyed hill walking, notably climbing Ben Nevis just a day or two before a big athletics event!  He could have been a highly successful sportsman, but chose instead to pursue a call to overseas mission.

    • What was/am I good that I have set aside either to pursue my career or calling, or because it seemed frivolous? Music?  Art? Sport? Something else?  How do I make space in my life to exercise these gifts God has given me, if simply for my own pleasure?
    • Eric decided not to compete in sport on a Sunday because of his firm beliefs. How do my beliefs affect my views on the use of Sunday or other ‘rest days’?
    • If Sabbath is made for people, and is about rest, how to I experience that in my own life?

    Truth and Belief

    The story of Eric Liddell is well known and loved, with some facts distorted and others embellished where it makes for a good story.  Chariots of Fire is far from historically accurate, yet carries a profound message that influences and inspires others.

    • Pontius Pilate famously asked, ‘What is truth?’ How would you answer that question?

    As a Congregationalist, Eric Liddell would not have been in the practice of reciting the ancient creeds of the established churches, yet he did create his own ‘creed’ (see bottom of post)

    • Do creeds or statements of belief have a place?
    • If I were to create my own ‘creed’, what would it say? How would it shape my life?

    Situations Alter Cases – the Pastoral Imperative

    Eric Liddell was a very devout Sabbatarian, yet whilst in the internment camp, he agreed to allow the young people to play sport on Sunday afternoons.  He was also very diligent in telling the truth and obeying rules, yet he was one of the leaders in smuggling extra food into the camp.

    • Sometimes tensions arise between what we believe to be right and what a situation seems to demand of us. Can I think of an example where I have chosen the ‘pastoral imperative’ rather than my own natural inclination to guide my actions? 
    • Am I more naturally a rule follower, a rule bender, or a rule breaker? Do I think it’s better to ask permission (and risk refusal) or apologise retrospectively (if what I have done causes offence)?

    A legend?

    Eric Liddell seems to have been a thoroughly nice man as well as an amazing athlete, teacher and missionary, yet he appears never to have become vain or conceited as a result

    • Who do I consider to be ‘legends’ and why? In what ways do these people’s lives and personalities inspire and encourage me in my own life?

     

    Eric Liddell’s Creed

    I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Creator, infinitely holy and loving, who has a plan for the world, a plan for my life, and some daily work for me to do.

    I believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, as Example, Lord, and Saviour.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit who is able to guide my life so that I may know God's will; and I am prepared to allow him to guide and control my life.

    I believe in God's law that I should love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength, and my neighbour as myself.

    I believe it is God's will that the whole world should be without any barriers of race, colour, class, or anything else that breaks the spirit of fellowship.

    I believe in the Sermon on the Mount and its way of life and I intend, God helping me, to embody it in my life.