Renegotiating Esther: Lucy’s story

Growing up in the church meant hearing fairly regularly about Esther. The general narrative taught was along the lines of: beautiful young woman, hand picked and placed by God into the palace so that she could bravely advocate for her people. She was away from home and scared and isolated and it was a bit weird she was made to make the most of her looks* but she did it all as God had placed her in this euphemistic beauty pageant ‘for such a time as this.’

Continue reading “Renegotiating Esther: Lucy’s story”

The bitch slaps back

Yes, Jesus calls a woman a dog. It’s not his finest moment. But the bitch slaps back: and he listens, and learns, and grows. (Listen.)

‘Bitch.’ It’s a vicious taunt. Every time I hear it, I’m left enraged, gutted, and gasping, which is exactly what the taunter wants. It’s meant to silence: and mostly, it works. It tells me that the speaker doesn’t see me as fully human. There seems no point in continuing the relationship: so I shut my mouth, and move away. Continue reading “The bitch slaps back”

Women in the resurrection

I’m on leave this week, so here’s a piece from the archives on the place of women in resurrection life. The reflection was first given to Sanctuary in November 2019, but I believe it speaks strongly to the current cultural moment.

Every now and then, I get a letter addressed to Mrs Paul Holdway; and I reel. Once I’ve stopped reeling, I wonder who on earth this woman is. She sounds like a shadow, a cipher. She’s probably maternal, almost certainly matronly. I’m sure she’s a great supporter of her husband and good at housework. She probably darns other people’s socks, and I’m sure she makes things for cake stalls and fetes. I have no idea what she herself is like, or what she herself is really interested in, but I do know this: There’s something extraordinarily silencing about having my name obliterated in a letter which is ostensibly addressed to me.

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Slow reading: The witness of women

Mark’s account of the resurrection is very odd, ending in silence, fear and a great big question mark: for the last word of the gospel account is ‘because …’ Most English translations are so uncomfortable with this ending that they drag the ‘because’ backwards, using it to explain the women’s behaviour. Thus we often read, ‘They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.’ This is not Mark’s wording. A more accurate translation ends with ‘They said nothing to anyone. They were afraid, because …’ – inviting you, the reader, to enter into the story, and wrestle with the question and the sense of unknowing. With current events in mind, I invite you to dwell on the story, the women, the fear, and the dangling question, as you slowly and prayerfully read and wonder how it continues to speak into our world today. Continue reading “Slow reading: The witness of women”

Rehabilitating Eve

We all know the story. Adam and Eve, naked as jaybirds, are wandering the garden. Then that devious, cunning, and above all evil snake points out the fruit to Eve and whispers suggestively, ‘Take, eat, for then will you be wise.’ Eve plucks the luscious fruit, and bites into it suggestively. Juice runs down her chin and between her naked breasts. Adam swoons. Eve flutters her eyelashes at him; ‘Take, eat, for then will you be wise,’ she murmurs. And Adam reaches out his hand to the ripe and fragrant fruit, raises it to his lips, and eats. In this way does sin enter the world—and it’s all the woman’s fault.

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4: How gentle the snow #Lent2021

“I will not hide my face from them any longer, for I will have poured out my Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 39:29)

 The way I see it, a mystic takes a peek at God and then does her best to show the rest of us what she saw. She’ll use image-language, not discourse. Giving an image is the giving of gold, the biggest thing she’s got. Mysticism suggests direct union, divine revelation, taking a stab at the Unknown with images, cryptic or plain, sensible or sensory. A mystic casts out for an image in whatever is at her disposal and within reach, like a practiced cook who can concoct a stew from the remaining carrots and a bruised potato, or like a musician improvising with buckets and wooden spoons. She does not circumvent; she hammers a line drive. A mystic is a kid finding a kingdom in ash heap…

Continue reading “4: How gentle the snow #Lent2021”

Jesus-centred ministry: Spontaneous, informal, domestic

Just as the first recognized minister in Mark’s gospel is an unnamed woman in a private home, most ministry today continues to be spontaneous, informal, domestic. (Listen.)

I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Pita bread and hummus? Rice wrapped in vine leaves? Dried figs, almonds, and a soft mound of goats’ cheese? Because when Jesus visits Simon’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law is sick. But although it’s the Sabbath, and although she’s a woman, and although she’s sick, Jesus touches her. She is resurrected; she gets out of bed; and, most Bible translations say, she begins to serve them: and in the Middle East, that always means food.

Continue reading “Jesus-centred ministry: Spontaneous, informal, domestic”

This resurrection life

The church is called to embody a culture where women are no longer silenced, invisible or subjugated, and all people are called into community. (Listen.)

Every now and then, I get a letter addressed to Mrs Paul Holdway; and I reel. Once I’ve stopped reeling, I wonder who on earth this woman is. She sounds like a shadow, a cipher. She’s probably maternal, almost certainly matronly. I’m sure she’s a great supporter of her husband and good at housework. She probably darns other people’s socks, and I’m sure she makes things for cake stalls and fetes. I have no idea what she herself is like, or what she herself is really interested in, but I do know this: There’s something extraordinarily silencing about having my name obliterated in a letter which is ostensibly addressed to me. Continue reading “This resurrection life”

Through women’s eyes

There’s a depressing phenomenon in the children’s book industry: girls happily read books marketed to both girls and boys, while boys usually only read books marketed to boys. What this means is that boys tend to have their worldview reinforced, whereas girls tend to see the world through the eyes of both girls and boys. It reminds me of the scene in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when Trillian zaps Zaphod Beeblebrox with the point-of-view gun. Zaphod, a complete narcissist, suddenly sees the world and himself through her eyes. He reels in shock, then grabs the gun to zap her back. She looks at him and shrugs. “It won’t affect me,” she says sadly, “I’m already a woman.” Continue reading “Through women’s eyes”

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