Here we go, here we go, here we go. (For those of you unfamiliar with football chants, there is a lot more of this one but you should have picked up the words by now.) Here are the calls to arms. Or more accurately, the calls to protest.
Change your avatar to wear a purple ribbon. Wear a purple ribbon. Dye your hair purple. Wear purple clothes. Wear purple nail varnish.Do nothing in church other than pray silently on 9th December if you are a woman. Wear an apron on 9th December if you are a woman. Join WATCH, join Reform, don’t join Foward in Faith by mistake. Make your voices heard.
Well, erm, actually, no. I have a voice here, and I have used it, and continue to do so. People in relationship with me, via this blog and by other means, know what I think, and how strongly I think it. I have had the opportunity to respond to an open letter from our Diocesan Officer for Women’s Ministry (sorry if I have got the title wrong) and I have taken that opportunity, in clear, frank terms. I will continue to offer my view as often as anyone will listen.
But I am a parish priest. I am here, paid by the Church of England not to work, so that I can minister here to anyone who wants me. And it is ministry that is called for, it is relationship that is called for, not overt symbols of my protests or grievances. I am called to listen, to be alongside, to articulate God in the here and now at every opportunity. I’m not called here to browbeat people about what to think on one issue. If I persuade them by my actions that the ministry of women is not something to fear, or from which to hide, then thank God for that. But how can I hope to engage with those who fear the ministry of women if I wear symbols of protest? It’s obvious enough I am a woman and that I am clergy, so for them to get within speaking/listening distance of me is hard enough already.
I already wear quite a lot of purple. I have said for some years that I will dye my hair purple if I am ever enthroned as a bishop (yeah right – I don’t see it either!). I wear an apron when I cook or clean. I often go into churches and pray silently. I haven’t joined any church organisation (apart from the Rural Theology Association, which is ecumenical). I want to be able to minister to the people here as they deserve – as me, with my God given Claire shaped ministry.
This of course lays me wide open to the charge of piggybacking on the efforts of others, of refusing to stand up and be counted, of taking advantage of those who protest. But I don’t think so. For some, visible mass protest is the fastest way of being heard. I am using other ways open to me, because they are what suit me. And I hope that others will benefit from my efforts, albeit on a much smaller scale. I believe that God is at work in the relationships, in the listening, that there is grace to be found in that.