Friday, 2 March 2012

Women's World Day of Prayer

Well, I was going to blog about this but my friend Revd Claire got there first and has said much of what  I wanted to say. So, check it out!
Today's service was prepared by the women of Malaysia and had as it's theme "Let Justice Prevail."

I remember this service from when I was a child, and little seems to have changed. As an act of worship, I'm afraid I still find it wordy, and bitty, with too many elements.
But I think it's more the fact that it only appeals to a small section of our congregation, that concerns me. It is actively avoided by men (at least where I am - I was ridiculed for suggesting in a magazine article that the service should be attended by men as well as women) Why should something as important as praying for justice to prevail not be a concern to all of humanity, not just half of us? It still feels slightly (and I could be wrong) as if the women are being allowed to go and have their little service while the men do other, more important stuff.
That's not to say that I don't see the value of a group of women getting together to achieve something. I was a Guider for many years so firmly believe that there is a place for women-only spaces. I'm just not sure that this is one that I particularly feel comfortable in.

Having said all that, there were some really positive moments today- and here's a picture of some of the props that were made - these lovely butterflies to remind us of the colours of Malaysia.
I also love the thought that as our service finished, another one somewhere in the world was just beginning, and that we took up where someone else left off.
And I had a great conversation with a Roman Catholic lady who is in favour of the ordination of women and who was a bit upset by the arrival in the RC church of former Anglicans in the Ordinariate.

So, perhaps as an act of female solidarity, it's worth retaining, but perhaps also the ultimate goal should be that eventually the whole of God's people would recognise that issues that affect women require all of God's people to pray and act - not just the female half.
Claire feels ambivalent about this - and so do I. You?


  1. I had a similar conversation with RC ladies after our service too....

  2. How very interesting, Sheena and I've popped over to read Claire's take on it too. As someone from an older generation (probably old enough to be your mother and Claire's) it has never struck me like this in all the years I've been attending it. Wordy, yes, though I thought this year's was better than many. Bitty - somewhat, though I've been to plenty of other kinds of services where this has been true. Worthwhile - totally and I certainly don't feel as though women are being sidelined or patronised by having it.

    My service was in one of the small country parishes where I used to be vicar and I was the guest speaker. Both the present vicar (a woman) and the minister of the chapel where we met (also a woman) were there, (though they weren't taking an active part) as were close to 20 other women, all of a certain age. No men, but there never are, as in these parishes, which were for so long male-dominated in terms of leadership, this has always been an opportunity for women to prepare, organise and lead worship.

    I like the fact that this service recognises the solidarity of women from very varied backgrounds. I like the fact that women from such different countries get the chance to highlight their own concerns as well as wider ones, all in the course of highlighting their own particular context. I love the history of its development: and would hate to see it disappear or be reinvented as something very different.

    I'm totally comfortable about the fact that this is intended as a service by women, about women and for women, just as I'm comfortable in the WI and the MU (though the latter does have a few male members) If men wanted to attend I'd be fine with that, but truly feel no need to change the nature of WWDP in order to appeal to men. There are plenty of opportunities for men and women to worship and pray together for justice or any other need. Christian Aid Week here we come....

    Sorry to have gone on a bit. As you can tell I feel quite strongly about it. :-)

    1. Thank you so much for this - and don;t apologise! I'm glad you have a positive feeling about it which I'm really pleased to read. I don't necessarily think the WWDP should change to appeal to men, especially as so little of church these days does seem to appeal to men! But I do wish Christian men would feel they could and should pray and be informed about women's issues too.
      I guess I think that something so worthwhile should be more widely shared - and where I am, the timing of the service makes it quite self-selecting. Those who were there seemed to enjoy it - but I wonder who will be organising it, in our patch at least, in 5 or 10 years' time if we don't get younger people interested.
      Like many things, it probably depends on the context, and a service so thoroughly prayed over and sincerely offered will be blessed by God. And that's probably all that matters.

  3. Sheena, I totally agree with your wish that it should be more widely shared, and particularly with younger women, almost all of whom would have been working when our service was held. :-( This is the third time I've spoken at the WWDP. The first was in a small market town in 1982, years before I was ordained and that was an evening service with plenty of younger women (like myself) present. The second was in the late 90s in the village where I spoke today, but again it as an evening service, with a good cross-section of ages.

    The problem comes when those who have been involved for years get older and less happy about coming out after dark and there aren't the younger women to take over and carry on the tradition of an evening service. I've seen the same happen with the MU in our area for the same reasons and it's sad. Not sure what the answer is, though one small town near hear did well for years with 2 MU meetings, an afternoon one and an evening one.

    Better stop waffling and finish making the supper.....