Giving thanks for gifted women

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I sat in prayerful silence in the chapel at Saint Oswald’s in Sleights. I gazed out through the stain glass windows. Windows that portray two of my favourite and inspiring Celtic Saints, Aidan and Hild. I have prayed during Morning Office in the chapel with the sisters and other retreatments for the troubling situation here in Britain in relation to Brexit and the turbulence that we are experiencing as a nation. I am heartened and encouraged that the church that Shirley and I belong to, New Life Baptist Church in Northallerton, has called the church to prayer on Monday. Would that many churches and other expressions of Christian community would pursue a similar call to prayer. The consumerism, trivia and commercialism that pervades our society masks us from the deep and disturbing undercurrents. What we have sown in an ill-conceived referendum is now yielding a harvest of unrest, disarray and disturbance, the like of which has not been seen in British society for many years. The debacle and damage that we are now facing pose some very serious threats to our society, our relationship with other nations and our standing in the world.
I pray for Teresa May and the Government, not because I have any sympathy for the policies and decisions that they have taken but because Scripture bids me pray for those who rule over us. I am appalled at the cynical marketing ploy of sending out Government Ministers this weekend to have their photographs taken outside food banks as a backdrop to their campaign to gain public support ahead of Tuesday’s crucial vote in Parliament. Sheer hypocrisy! This present and the previous Conservative government’s policies of austerity have widened the gap between the rich and poor, caused untold suffering and hardship for those least able to withstand the consequences of the global recession. So many of the policies stand in stark contrast to the values of the kingdom of God.
Leadership in these turbulent times is incredibly challenging and complex. So much of what I see in society, including the church has trapped us in bureaucratic management policies, systems, protocols and ways of being and working that imprison the human spirit, damage the way in which we relate to our fellow human beings and provide no building blocks for a society that seeks to cohere in trust, mutual support, respect and honouring of one another. There is a place for management but there is also a great need for leadership in these troubling times. The kind of leadership that Hild and Aidan brought to bear upon their troubled world, both secular and ecclesiological. A leadership that was characterised by its peaceableness, humility and gentleness. A leadership that was not coercive, bullying or partisan but one which was seeped in serving.
I watched the funeral service of George HW Bush the other day and witnessed an occasion that spoke powerfully of someone whose life was informed and influenced by his deep faith and which gave expression in his commitment to serve with humility, courage and grace. The testimonies of family, friends, colleagues and his former political opponents bore witness to a good man. The contrast between him and other former Presidents sitting along the front row of the cathedral with that of the present incumbent could not have been starker. Pray God that the present occupant of the White House will have listened to the words of the sermon preached at the service. A sermon that was a word of challenge and encouragement to all who occupy leadership in whatever capacity.
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I couldn’t help but wonder how the USA and the world might be under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, or what is sadly now unlikely to happen, Michelle Obama. I am halfway through her autobiography which has served only to deepen my respect for a remarkable lady. It is a brilliant book and follows on the heels of a biography that I have read recently about Angela Merkel. These are great women, women of faith, women who through their lives and works have made a difference for good in the world, whose legacies will be seen in the course of history to have served and reflected the values of God’s heart and kingdom. Angela Merkel’s open door policy on refugees, (which has caused her and her nation many problems), comes from her Christian faith. She has spoken and written extensively about the motives behind why she has taken that unpopular decision, which run like a commentary on ‘what would Jesus do’.
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Former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama discusses her forthcoming memoir titled, ‘Becoming’, during the 2018 American Library Association Annual Conference on June 22, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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I sit in the chapel at St Oswalds, in a house that belongs to the Order of the Holy Paraclete, the monastic community founded by a woman suffragette and give thanks to God for her and other women pioneers. I’m mindful of Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst and Dorothy Day. I give thanks to God for leaders with whom I am privileged to know and work with; Catherine Askew, Sarah Pillar, Lynn Green, Linda Donaldson, Ruth Rice,Mary Taylor, Shawna Snow-Wilbrink, Ingeborg Janssen, Kezia Robinson, Ali Boulton, Margene Vessel, Sr Janet Elizabeth, Gayle-Anne Drury and many more. They are gifts of God and the church and world is better served by such female leaders than many of their male counterparts.
I leave the chapel but not before gazing at the image of the Madonna and child. In Morning Office we prayed, “Hail Mary, full of grace and truth, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among all women. For you conceived the Son of God, the Christ, our Redeemer.” I give thanks for Mary and all those who carry Christ in their hearts and through whose lives the love of God is made known and the ways of Christ, the Servant King, are lived out in the world.

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Arriving at Nether Springs, our Community’s mother house, I ask Fiona, another gift of God along with the three Sarah’s here, Anne and Tina, Bekah, Margaret, (the place is crawling with them!) which room I am staying in. “You’re in Hild Roy”.
Maybe God is saying something……
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