3 October 2020 |
PRESIDENT’S REPORT TO AGM 3 OCTOBER 2020
I’m not being positive or anything, but I believe in miracles.
The big one this year culminated in my interview with a web designer in Adelaide. I wanted someone I could talk to about my passion. I found him by picking three businesses near me, one didn’t return my call, one worked from a truly disgusting house (but in the very short time I was there I learnt some valuable tech terms) and the last – well he was in his car, told me he didn’t work in that business anymore but he knew just the right person for me. The rest, as they say, is history – religious history worthy of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. Dave Coleman and I talked for well over an hour in the local coffee shop. He jotted down the requirements I hoped and prayed were the ones needed. Finally, he added it all up, asked me if I had a budget, ‘Yes’. The total came to $100.00 over the generous donation we were promised. Dave then removed it. Then I found out that Dave only takes on clients if he sees and talks to them to understand their passion.
What played out on that day and has continued to over the past months is the work of God, God working in the outsider and the old. This is the stuff of the Patriarchal narratives (that title is in itself a joke really) for the theme which runs through them is God blessing women who in their society’s terms had passed their use-buy-date.
And yet – here we are – inheritors of God’s astonishing action. Consider our Christian history as well as the barren and bold women of OT. Our future has never been limited to the inspiration of the rigid and the mean, by the lovers of money or social capital. MOW today is able to reach out across the broadband through one woman’s generosity. And the generosity of a web designer who ‘gets it’, who understands the issues of gender equality and the value of us wanting to show, educate, demonstrate what we so strongly believe in
We now have the means and a way to present an inclusive, generous, loving church to anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen.
It seems to me that since Lu Piper’s stirring presentation on the spread of Sydney Evangelicalism at the AGM in Adelaide in 2018, there have been great glimmers of action in the cause of love and generosity. We produced a booklet of the papers presented at that AGM in
Adelaide, which has had limited distribution. I plan to put that up on the website. The website is testament to the action of 2020. It IS my report really.
There was of course a lead up to the board’s decision to agree with my wish to employ SEOwebcreative and I thank the board for their support during that time. Thanks to Kathleen for the extra work during the transfer from one provider to the other. The package we bought included a training day and four of us met at my home for an afternoon of steep learning for some and extra learning for others. Sue Bishop and I were the amateurs. We were joined by Janet Scarfe and Lyn Boyd, both of whom were pre-skilled and have continued to contribute. Janet has concentrated on MOW history and I was able to hand material over to Lyn. She has also assisted me when I needed help. Sue continues to assist in handing on relevant articles.
My vision for the website required that I search out people and organisations that would inform viewers about women’s ministry, a very broad palette indeed. Much of what I have been doing is still unpublish at the time of writing, such as links to websites (Dave the designer is loading those and the list is long from Trinity College Melbourne to the Sisters of the Church to Equal Voices to the Anglican Women Studies Centre in New Zealand, parishes, bookshops and more. I am negotiating with Canterbury Press for the right to make Jim Cotter’s prayer book available on-line. I have made personal contact with local and overseas writers and women priests who may offer us stories of their ministry or theological insights. Jasmine Dow, who was presenter at the 2012 conference in Canberra, is just one of those. I have documented the three women priests who have died in South Australia: Sal Tatchell (first woman ordained in Willlochra diocese), Heather Sizer (also from Willochra) and Caroline Pearce. Caroline was a leader in setting up MOW nationally in Adelaide with Patricia Brennan and Monica Furlong in 1984. She left to seek ordination in USA in 1985 and became the second Australian woman ordained after Alison Cheek, one of the Philadelphia Eleven. Read about them at mowatch.com.au.
IF we are going to be a sure and certain force for Anglicanism in Australia, we need to concentrate our collective energy and will. What might that look like? Luke tells us that when Jesus sent out disciples to carry on His mission he told them not to take this and that, essentially, keep your eyes on the prize, be careful not to get so distracted with the everyday that you forget the object of your mission. I ask you to keep your antennae up for any item of interest – this is the age of instant communication after all. The more in the moment of MOW we are, the more relevant we will become. A quick email forwarding information about the unique ministry of any woman you know (with her permission, of course) is caring and builds connections. For example, the ever-vigilant Lu told me about a solitary priest in a country diocese. Caring for women already ordained is a very important part of our ministry. Let us build a community of vibrant and caring friendships.
While I absolutely understand that many believe MOW has passed its used-by-date, and have moved on, lost interest, or focused on other things, I am saddened when those who were active and/or were in positions of leadership do not continue to support us. Their considerable skills and community knowledge are lost not just to MOW but to the women being ordained, moving into leadership in the clergy ranks or finding their way into Anglicanism. Many now have no idea of the past and do not understand the importance of solidarity with their sisters. There are many women who have been educated theologically, ordained and assumed ministry WITHOUT experiencing more than the normal trauma that accompanies spiritual transition. How then do they minister to those women like many who have been traumatized by the experience; how will they grow in tenderness and caring?
Kathleen reminded me this year of a seminal moment at the Canberra conference in 1988 when Patricia Brennan demonstrated one way of reacting to name-calling, belittling… Patricia had been called STRIDENT. She spoke of qualities that many capable and passionate women have and what they do with their gifts. They
S T I R and
Look at the way she reframed that insult. Look at the way the donor accompanied the cheque for the website – a card on which was written ‘May it bring change and understanding’.
May we all STIR AND TEND and BRING CHANGE AND UNDERSTANDING. I would love to see the artists and designers weave their skill with these words so they will light up all our senses.
Let us do everything in our power to enthuse old friends and new colleagues, old parishioners and newcomers with our current projects.
Let us build a reservoir of literature and writings to inform and grow ourselves and each other. Let us pray each day for the Kingdom of Love and Peace.
The Rev’d Dr Lesley McLean
President, MOW Australia Ltd