Friday, 30 October 2009

Women, Wisdom and Leadership

Yesterday, at lunch time on day one of the annual Synod / Presbytery meeting of the Uniting Church in SA, I attended a lunch that I had helped to organise. This lunch was for women, and came out of a vision of a friend of mine, Sue, to create space for women to gather for mutual support and encouragement as we engage in ministry in the Uniting Church. 
It was a fabulous event. Such enthusiasm as people entered the room, like they had been waiting for such an opportunity to gather for so long! 
We had invited Liz, Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible lecturer at Uniting College, to lead us in a reflection on Sophia / Lady Wisdom. She appears in Proverbs mostly, and some apocryphal books. It was fantastic to hear Liz's thoughts on what we can find in Lady Wisdom as inspiration for a female approach to leadership. The image of women as leaders in the picture of Lady Wisdom is of relationship, invitation, hospitality. And Liz challenged us to resist accepting the status quo of structures and patterns of organisation in the church, instead bringing the gift of our feminine approach to being and to leading. We were challenged to look for ways to embody the sense of fun and play that Wisdom brings to her engagement with God, humanity and creation. What would it look like to invite a sense of play into the meetings of the church? 
Interestingly, as I shared all this with Mum at dinner last night, it reminded her of the suggestion she made for congregational meetings at Blackwood when she was secretary of the congregation. The congregational meetings happen as part of the morning worship, which is a combined worship when usually there are two worship spaces of a Sunday morning. The meetings go on for some time, it's a big congregation and there is a lot happening in the life of this community, so there is a lot of business. Mum suggested that people bring something to contribute for morning tea - offering hospitality to one another. And there hasn't been a complaint since about the way the congregational meetings are organised. 
And this reminded me of the way the Black Wood Jazz would plan - I resisted calling our planning 'meetings'. Instead, we met for afternoon tea each month, late on a Friday afternoon. We would have beer or glass of wine, milkshake or cup of tea, and there would often be a bowl of wedges on the table. This was as much building relationship as it was planning the Black Wood Jazz spaces we created. 
So it is a natural thing for us as women to offer hospitality, to build relationships, as the way we lead. 

Another thing I noticed was as Liz made mention, on the side, of the hospitality that Wisdom offered - in bread and wine. 
Now, I think I have blogged my less traditional approach to naming and envisaging the Trinity as Creator, Wisdom Spirit? Well, to view the second person of the Trinity as Wisdom not Word, and to see Jesus as the incarnation of this aspect of the Divine, in the light of the picture of Wisdom in Proverbs, is to see some integrity, some continuity in the picture of Wisdom, of Jesus as Wisdom incarnate. Just throwing that out there - love to know what you think! 

I have some more thoughts on hospitality in the light of a book I have just read, Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson. I shall blog those another time. 

But it was interesting to read on Chris McLeod's blog his reflections on women, leadership and community in the story of Ruth. 

3 comments:

Heather said...

I was astonished to learn at NCYC 87 from Deidre Palmer, I think, of the many references to God's Spirit as feminine in the Old Testament. These were apparently converted to the masculine as much as possible as KJV gave us the English Bible, in a neat piece of sexist social / spiritual engineering. - But then, the institutional church has been not only about Jesus but about power and control, for so long.
I shall have to ponder your idea of Jesus as Wisdom incarnate. I often picture Jesus as God's passion incarnate (small "p").
Thanks, Sarah.

sarah agnew said...

mmm, that's an interesting thought, Jesus as God's passion incarnate .. I shall ponder that too!

yes, I do hope we are moving away from shaping and wielding the Bible as a weapon against our own fears and insecurities ... well, I suppose we can but hope, and trust that the Story of God will be heard despite the fallibilities of humans

Glenys said...

I came across that Wisdom woman in Proverbs. The one who danced at creation and thought of her as the spirit part of the Trinity. BUT I seem to remember talk of the fact the the Sophia image lost out to the Logos imaging of the incarnation. So that reference is of course to Jesus.
On Sunday I was visiting in a fairly 'straight' church but inthe liturgy there was some reference to wisdom as the second person of the trinity and I pricked up my hears. Can't remember it properly.
Sort of relevant is on eof my fave books when studying the Trinity. "She who is" by Elizabeth Johnson. She challenges the idea that only the Spirit shoudl be seen as feminine and makes a good case for all elements of Godness to be seen i feminine aspects. I can't describe it properly. have you read the book. I love to try to expand our thinking about God. We are so limited.