Last night I had the enormous privilege of being invited to a dinner held in honour of a charming, and rather hilarious, South African Bishop. The circumstances that lead me to being there (freakish writing speed and ability to design newsletters at short notice mostly!) certainly didn’t feel grand enough to warrant the invitation. There were so many stalwarts from the local churches who have been involved in brilliant projects with South African churches for many years. One fantastic lady even celebrated her 80thbirthday while on a trip to visit the projects!
The projects range from community gardens to support orphaned and vulnerable children to an HIV peer education centre where teenagers are trained to spread the message to their communities. As always, hearing about these projects is humbling and an unbeatable motivator. The Bishop’s wife told me about children as young as ten in her community who are supporting four siblings after their parents have died. The picture she painted of them leading their younger siblings by the hand to school is both heart-breaking and a big ol’ kick up the bum to act all at once.
Mid-way through the meal, when he got wind of my plans to start ordination training, the Bishop was busy signing me up for a stint in South Africa with the brilliant offer of ‘You can come and be a woman! And preach! Everywhere! As a woman!’ Womanhood and preaching practice all in one. Now there's an offer I can't refuse!
There’s been some really interesting blogs this week about being a woman today by the always hilarious Liz and a new favourite blog of mine by Emily. The book Liz talks about, Caitlan Moran’s How to Be a Woman, has already sparked lots of conversations among my friends and colleagues about what it means to be a woman in 21st Century Britain. Add the additional layer of complexity of being part of an organisation that has only just let women be ordained leaders at all and you have yourself an interesting mix.
Being part of what has been an entirely male profession for pretty much its entire history (though I suppose you could say that for basically all jobs!) can be quite daunting but also very exciting. To be part of what is really still the first waves of women as ordained leaders is tremendously brilliant and there are already so many inspiring women to look up to. To me that is the message of Caitlan Moran's book - that with all the hard one freedom we enjoy as women today in this country lets not squander it and allow the same old issues (sometimes even self generated) to dominate our lives, or the lives of the generations coming up behind us. The offer to go international at some point during my training and the openness to having a women speak and work in their communities is hugely encouraging. I hope I get the chance to take him up on his offer!