I remember being a child, legs swinging off the pew, when my mother gave a sermon on Dorcas. She began by holding up a copy of the newspaper’s weekend magazine. The cover showed her cousin, Col: a gold-chain wearing, chest-hair exposing boastful businessman, and close friend and associate of the now infamous Alan Bond. The accompanying article gushed over Col’s wealth, power and influence.
Then she told us about her great-aunts. For sixty years, Daisy, Ivy, Violet and Lily met with dear friends to pray for the poor, and to make garments and raise funds for them. They called their group ‘Dorcas.’ Dorcas never made it onto any list of Western Australia’s most important people; in fact, it barely registered on the radar of the churches these women attended. By the time I knew them, they were what many churches and ministers pejoratively refer to as ‘the little old ladies’ or ‘the old dears’. But for over half a century, a constant stream of jumpers and socks and hankies and blankets flowed from this group of women, not to mention soaps and baked goods and jams and cash: which over time made countless vulnerable kids and women in prison and homeless men and others on society’s margins feel, at least for a moment, clean and warm and cherished.
Our society, and even our churches, too often overlook women like these: but a woman just like this was important enough to the new community in Acts to be raised from the dead. These stories raise questions for me about who we notice, who we honour, and where we look for the Risen Christ at work.
This Sunday, we will listen to the story of Dorcas together. I won’t re-preach my mother’s sermon; I have one of my own! But, more than ever, I encourage anyone who likes to knit, crochet or otherwise keep their hands busy during the service to do so this week, to remind us of the importance of practical love, and to embody the story for us all. If I can tell the story while several of you are hooking, knitting or purling, it will enrich our experience; and, of course, there will be wool in the hall so that anyone who is less skilled can get busy finger-knitting.
PS: I’ve just returned from two weeks’ leave; while I was away, the congregation reflected on the lectionary texts together; these are not online. Regular reflections will return this Sunday.
PPS: A reminder that our next Yarn event is coming up. The theme is ‘resurrection!’ If you have a story to tell, please let me know – the sooner the better! If you have an idea, but aren’t sure how to turn it into a story, please also let me know: I’d love to help you craft it into a story. Or check out the hints and guidelines here.
PPS: Did you know that Baptist churches are crowd-funded? We have no source of income beyond what the congregation and its friends give: and Sanctuary’s bank balance is steadily falling. If you value these emails and the work of this church and pastor, please consider contributing financially, either regularly or once-off. You can make a direct deposit into ‘South Yarra Community Baptist – Warrnambool Account’, BSB 704 922, Account 100015723; or put money into the offering bowl on a Sunday.