Lent thoughts – stories

Stories are the style and substance of life. They fashion and fill existence. From primeval to eschatological vistas, from youthful dreams to seasoned experiences, from resounding disclosures to whispered intimacies, the narrative mode of speech prevails. Myth, parable, folk tale, epic, romance, novella, history, confession, biography – these and other genres proclaim the presence and power of the story. Phyllis Trible

So begins Trible’s Texts of Terror – a book to browse for my Lenten reading on International Women’s Day. She goes on to tell sad stories, tales of terror with women as victims.

Today I shall think of the stories I know of women who have been abused, and there are many. Too many. Women who had their power taken away from them by others. Women who held on to those stories in secret, not daring to share them in case they were not believed or thought to be weak. Women who didn’t believe in their own strength and ability to say NO. No, this is not how it should be.

We must listen to one another’s stories. To listen and believe. Our stories matter. Not just today but every day.

Image result for women's stories

Jokes for Mothering Sunday

A 96 year old mother was being interviewed about her long life and how she felt about being a Mother all those years.

‘I feel just wonderful,’ was her reply. ‘For the first time since I became a Mother, I no longer have to worry about my children.’

‘How is that?’

‘They’re both in nursing homes’.”


* My mother taught me religion.
‘You better pray that spot will come out of the carpet.’

* My mother taught me about time travel.
‘If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!’

* My mother taught me about logic.
‘If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the shops with me.’

* My mother taught me foresight.
‘Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.’

* My mother taught me about the science of osmosis.
‘Shut your mouth and eat your supper.’

* My mother taught me about contortionism.
‘Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck?’

* My mother taught me about behaviour modification.
‘Stop acting like your father!’

* My mother taught me about envy.
‘There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.’

* My mother taught me ESP.
‘Put your sweater on! Don’t you think I know when you are cold?’

* My mother taught me humour.
‘When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.’

* My mother taught me how to become an adult.
‘If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.’

* My mother taught me genetics.
‘You’re just like your father.’

* My mother taught me wisdom.
‘When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.’

* My mother taught me about justice.
‘One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!

mother superhero

A very spiritual, devout and holy priest dies and is immediately swept up to heaven. St. Peter greets him at the Pearly Gates, and says,
“Hello, Father, we’ve been waiting for you for a long time. Welcome to Heaven! You are very well known here, and as a special reward, because you are such a spiritual and holy man, we’re going to grant you anything you wish even before you enter Heaven. What can I grant you?”

“Well,” the priest says, “I’ve always been a great admirer of the Virgin Mother. I’ve always wanted to talk to her.”

St. Peter nods his head to one side, and lo and behold who should approach the priest but the Virgin Mary!  The priest is beside is himself, and he manages to say,

“Mother, I have always been a great admirer of yours, and have studied everything I could about you and followed your life as best I could. I have studied every painting and portrait ever made of you, and I’ve noticed that you are always portrayed with a slightly sad look on your face. I have always, always wondered what it was that made you sad. Would you please tell me?”

“Honestly?” she asked, with a little pained grimace on her face. “Well…. I was really hoping for a girl.”

unattended children

Mum and Dad were watching TV when Mum said, “I’m tired, and it’s getting late. I think I’ll go to bed.”
She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day’s lunches. Rinsed out the dishes, took meat out of the freezer for supper the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container, put spoons and bowls on the table and started the coffee pot for brewing the next morning. She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the wash, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button.
She picked up the game pieces left on the table and put the telephone book back into the drawer. She watered the plants, emptied a wastebasket and hung up a towel to dry. She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom.
She stopped by the desk and wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for the school trip, and pulled a textbook out from hiding under the chair. She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope and wrote a quick shopping list. She put both near her purse.
Mum then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night cream & age fighting moisturizer, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails.
Dad called out, “I thought you were going to bed.”
“I’m on my way,” she said.
She put some water into the dog’s dish and put the cat outside, then made sure the doors were locked. She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamp, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks in the hamper, and had a brief conversation with the one up still doing homework.
In her own room, she set the alarm; laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack. She added three things to her 6 most important things to do list. She said her prayers, and visualized the accomplishment of her goals.
About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. “I’m going to bed.” And he did…without another thought.

In which Ruth does some holiday reading

Oh my giddy aunt! I have just read the best religiousy book ever. There is a rumble going on in churchy circles about this new woman called Nadia. She has popped up on Twitter @Sarcasticluther and in the Church Times and everyone is saying, “Have you read the book by that tattooed priest?” Ok, maybe not everyone but loads of folk are. And yes, she does have tattoes, lovely Mary Magdalene tattoes all up her arms. Not a little bluebird on your ankle or a butterfly on your coy shoulder kind of tattoes. No, these are big bruiser tattoes which tempt me greatly. The book is called Cranky, Beautiful Faith and is Nadia’s journey with God. She was/is a stand-up comic, an alcoholic, and unlikely pastor in the Lutheran church in Colorado. In fact she founded a mission church called House for All Sinners and Saints and blogs regularly and is becoming the public speaker everyone wants to hear, including me. The book is gloriously honest and outspoken and it made me want to be so much braver. if you like Anne Lamott and can cope with the F-word then read this book. 5 stars.

The next book I read on holiday was a Christmas pressie from Son #2 called Wonder which was absolutely unputdownable. This is one of those books which you’re not sure if it is for children, young adults, adults. I don’t think it matters. I don’t really want to tell you what it is about either or what the themes are but I’m pretty sure we will have it as a Book Group choice soon. It is American and about a young boy but there are other voices too. The young boy has a disability. There are references to Star Wars. It gets excellent reviews from everyone but please read it without knowing too much more. I envy you reading it for the first time. 5 stars.

Our next Book Group book is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The theme of this book is not new – wife goes missing, husband gets accusing of murder. It is quite a long book and took a wee while to get into because neither of the characters are particularly appealing. However I did find myself wondering how it was going to end. The author is good at the psychological thriller and there are so many twists and turns but the ending won’t please everyone. It was definitely a page-turner and kept me guessing. Not sure why I didn’t love it so 3.5 stars.

Sean gunLast night I finished another of my Christmas pressies – Solo by William Boyd. Some time ago I heard Boyd being interviewed on the wireless about being asked to write this latest James Bond book. As you know, the movies are all set in the era in which they are made, but this book is set in the swinging sixties when James is about 45, which would be accurate according to Ian Fleming’s last Bond book. There are some lovely London bits in the 60s but the ‘Bond girls’ are very modern and feisty and independent. So even a feminist can read this quite comfortably! Bond is sent to a fictitious country in West Africa to sort out a civil war, which he does with a twist. Good read. I’d love to read a Bond book written by a woman. #justsaying  3.5 stars (As this book was in hardback I always take the dust cover off to keep it nice when I’m reading it. This book has the most wonderfully designed inside hard cover which I just loved. Go and just have a peak in a shop at the two covers and how they compliment one another.)

Query Corner

You’ll remember that I have been going through the archives at Christ Church. In the magazines there are editions of The Sign which appears to be a publication from Mowbray which churches could add in to their own magazine. It is full of stories, articles about the Anglican church and Our Query Corner: Hints for some of our Correspondents.  Here are some of my recent favourites.

Need one go the Church when it is really very dull, except for Holy Communion?

You are no doubt aware of the obvious dangers of that neglect of the ‘assembling together’ which is the special temptation of the educated in all ages. It was the case with those to whom the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. Our attendance at the normal services is for corporate duty, and to help us not to forget the common good. We can put a good deal into our public worship, and use it for social needs, intercessions, organised worship and work, and the like. It is possible to become too selfish.

(oooh! Take that!)

Should one sit for the Epistle when others do not?

If you seat yourself quietly when the Epistle is read, it is right, and others will join you soon.

(You reckon?)

Why do strange clergy come instead of the vicar at special times?

One reason often is that a fresh voice in a pulpit may reach dull ears, or that a stranger may speak plain truths without being thought to know what has occurred in particular individuals and families to call for it. A stranger sometimes stirs up people not reached before.

(I’ve seen some strange clergy in my time, right enough.)

Mr X says women should not go to funerals; is there any rule against it?

If women want to go to funerals, why should they not go?  Though it should be remembered that in days when certain classes of women made “scenes” there was a wide-spread opinion against the practise. It is, as you may know, the growing custom for the bodies of children and adult communicants to be taken into the church (over night if there is to be a celebration of Holy Communion), and in such cases only intimate friends and relatives as a rule attend the conclusion of the service at the graveside.

(Now, don’t you want to know what those certain classes of women were and how the “scenes” manifested itself?)

Should one make a deep reverence to the Cross?

The deep reverence or bow is reserved for our worship. One does not worship a cross, but one may salute it. A man salutes it by a slight bow, and a woman by a slight curtsey. When going up to communion we ignore the cross, but we make a deeper reverence in honour of the Presence of our Lord in the Sacrament. On coming back we may ignore (or many people do) all signs and symbols, going straight back without a reverence to the place where we kneel down to speak to our Lord Himself. We hope that these suggestions may be helpful to you. They are not rules, but pious customs of some reverent-minded folk.

(Better get practising my curtseys.)

Could one tell a preacher that one thought he was wrong?  preaching

One would scarcely go up to a man directly he had finished preaching and tell him that one did not agree with him, and local circumstances and social opportunities might never make the conversation possible or desirable. We suppose one could consider for oneself the points as to whether one was free and able to go elsewhere; whether one only personally differed from the vicar’s temperamental point of view (as may most easily happen in this world of opinions) or, whether on one side or the other, one really did not consider his views were within the wide limits of the Church of England. “For every evil neath the sun, there is a cure or there is none.” One thing is, if you can’t find the cure, try to possess your soul in such patience that your devotions are not spoilt.

(I dare you. Really, I dare you…)

Is cigarette-smoking (on the part of a woman) to be thought of as a sin?

From The Sign (magazine of the Anglican Church) December 1915

Q.  Is cigarette-smoking (on the part of a woman) to be thought of as a sin?

A.  We think the matter should be treated on the same level are other recreations.

flappers smoking

If there is excessive indulgence then sin begins. The excessive cigarette-smoking in our Army is very “natural” just now, but our hospital authorities say it is already doing real harm. Practically, we would add that if a person has not acquired the habit of smoking he or she might consider whether it is well to begin. A woman with experience says that “if a girl comes up to town she is far more likely to keep in the right set if she has not to go into her club’s smoking-rooms”. Surely it is a pity, for various reasons, when young women and young mothers smoke – especially as they only smoke cigarettes. All things are lawful, but all are not expedient.

In which Ruth is impressed by the Methodists

I missed our Synod this year, because we were on Iona. I’m not sure then whether the debate on ethical banking got another airing or not. It is something I’ve been thinking about lately and I know some churches have already made the move so some bank whose name I don’t remember.

However, while catching up with 4 Church Times, I was most impressed with an article about the Methodists who are taking a firmer line against companies in which it invests when they fail to appoint women to their boards. Yes, I had to read it twice too before I could believe it. So while the CofE still haven’t agreed on Bishops who happen to be women, and we still haven’t appointed one, the Methodists are so passionate about equality they carry it in to their banking.

“In future, it will vote against the reappointment of all directors responsible for boardroom recruitment in FTSE 100 companies if there are no women on the board and no plans to put that right.”

I wonder if we even attend the AGMs of companies in which we invest. Someone must, I guess. Does anyone know?  The Methodists are also toughening their stance on companies that fail to report their greenhouse-gas emissions clearly, and also keeping an eye on executive pay.

At the end of the article it proudly states:

The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group advises the Church’s investment bodies to challenge companies that award unduly high bonuses.

Well big deal, frankly. I hope we are all doing that. But the women thing? Now that’s radical – and it bloody shouldn’t be.

In which Ruth gets angry for her sisters up north

In the past I have faced a bit of prejudice about being a priest who happens to be a woman. I say ‘in the past’ because, for me at least, it all seems to have blown over. People who were once agin women priests either have changed their minds or have moved to worship with fellow-haters. On the whole it just doesn’t seem to be an issue any more. I suppose my gay sisters and brothers are the ones getting the flak at the moment. Well, the ones who want to get married or be bishops at any rate.

However, this week I came across this letter from the Hebrides News. Let me print it here in full:

The pulpit is no place for a woman       17/5/13


One cannot help but sadly see that the Church of Scotland continuing her downward spiral when she gleefully and shamefully supports bizarre unions and appointments that the Bible clearly opposes. The continuing appointments of women at skyscraping levels in the church is not just wrong but very wrong, just as it is unbiblical for a woman to be a minister in any church denomination or congregation. There are around 196 women which are now ministers in the Church of Scotland. This is 196 too many. There may be only a few women ministers in our Highlands and Islands church congregations, but these few are still a few too many. The very fact that they are women debars them from the Christian ministry.

The pulpit is no place for a woman minister, however elegant she may be in public speaking or proficient in her knowledge of Biblical theology. She may rise up and hold high office in a nation, just like Queen Elizabeth and as the late Mrs Margaret Thatcher did, but not the steps that lead up to any Church pulpit, whether in Inverness Ness Bank Church or St Peter’s Episcopal’s Church in Stornoway.

Yes, women are to remain silent in every church assembly, and that includes pulpit, presbytery and the annual General Assembly. It is best to hear what absolute truth has to clearly say: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14v34-35).

The truth is that God has never ordained or anointed any woman to be a preacher or teacher. If it were God’s will that women should hold such a post in the Church, Jesus Christ would have shown an example by choosing one woman, at least, to be an apostle. But he did not, and even when he selected 70 disciples whom he sent out, two by two, no woman was included. Although Jesus had many women ‘disciples’ He certainly did not send any of them to go about preaching.

God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Certainly women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men.

Yes, a woman, by reason of her faith, knowledge and good understanding, can rise to a place of honour in the church but there are certain offices and privileges which God never assigned to women: no women apostles, no women bishops, no women elders, no women pastors, no women evangelists, no women deaconesses, no women priests, no women moderators. Clearly, the Bible has nothing to say in support of any of these appointments despite what many undiscerning women and unspiritual men may claim, whether in the church or out of her.

Mr Donald J Morrison

85 Old Edinburgh Road


I was so shocked and although I had heard that a friend who is the Episcopal priest in Stornoway had met with some prejudice I had no idea it was as blatant as this. To use the bible (and incorrectly at that) to justify misogyny is even worse. A friend on Facebook asks if censorship is the answer, and I keep thinking that if this were about black or Asian or gay people it just wouldn’t be printed. So perhaps censorship has to be considered. However, I suppose it has exposed this vile prejudice and made me realise how awfully hard it must be to live and work with this all the year round.

The funny thing is that although I suppose I am considered a Spiritual Leader in some circles, I have never really felt like that. My church is much more round-tabled. So if the only thing that women cannot do in this man’s church is teach men and have spiritual authority over them, then that’s fine. I share things and listen to peoples’ stories. It seems to be that it is his church who has turned it into a hierarchical model, not me. And whatever happened to making use of our spiritual gifts?

“Oh sorry Holy Spirit, I can’t lead the church as you ask and inspire me because I’m the wrong sex?”

“Oh sorry God, I can hear you calling me but I must say no. I’m a woman, you see, so you must be mistaken.”

My action has been to let her know that I am praying for her and to write a letter to the newspaper.  Would you consider doing the same?

Break the Chain

OK, so I’m a bit late in finding these things. Blame it on the timing and clergy being kind of busy on the 14th of February. Not with an abundance of roses and kisses, at least not in my case. But with the old Lent thing beginning etc.

So that is why I didn’t come across this until now.

This is an invitation for the world to come together and dance on Feb. 14th St. Valentine’s Day, a day intended to celebrate love.

 The One Billion Rising Organisation here is calling for a billion women and men to stand up wherever they and dance together Feb. 14th in a global effort to shake the foundations of the world and stand united against abuse of women.

 The sober truth is that one out of every three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. 

That is 1 billion women treated as objects, beaten and bruised, used and exploited sexually without their consent, humiliated and mutilated invisible victims of war. Some are as young as 3 years old.
 Many of them are targeted and attacked in their 70s. 

 Groups can send  videos of to One Billion Rising’s website when it’s over to become part of the archives of a world that has finally called violence against women what it is: immoral, illegal, unjust and inhuman.

Girl power

Last Friday I took the funeral of a very important woman. As is often the case, I didn’t quite realise how important that person was until after they died. Jinty Kerr was secretary to the Vestry when I first came here but never came to church in the whole year I’ve been at Christ Church. The reason was that she developed cancer just before I came and although she did a splendid hand-over and kept me informed of what had happened in the past, I only met her at her own home when I regularly took her home communion. I knew that Jinty had been a police officer and had attained promotion throughout her career but I had no idea that she was responsible for so many ‘firsts’. She led the way for women in the police force breaking through the glass ceiling on many occasions. There are splendid obituaries for her here and here. Jinty was a pioneer for women in a man’s world and rarely spoke about it to me. We spoke about churchy things and about chemo things and about family things. I was there at her death when she whispered the Lord’s Prayer with me, received communion and died. There were about 300 people at her funeral which spoke volumes about how much she was loved and respected.

Today a link on a blog took me to One Hundred Women: The unseen powerful women who change the world. Each of them has a story like Jinty’s. Stories of women who make change happen, sometimes in very small ways but all in ways that make our world a better place.  If you ever think you are too small to make a difference then you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito, sayeth the Dalai Lama. Read some of these stories and you will be inspired to greatness.


Gender Issues

I read with interest Kenny’s comments on the Gender Audit in our Church. (I tried to make a comment there but unfortunately wasn’t able to  so will have to do it here.)

Kenny says: “I am about to start worrying about a movement that seems to want positive discrimination for women. When appointments are made, in this Diocese at least, I know that the best person available is appointed. Because of years and years of discrimination, sometimes the posts require experience and acquired talents which mean that women are sometimes not appointed.”

I am not aware of any movement which seems to want positivie discrimation for women but that may be a Glasgow Diocese thing, so I won’t comment on that.  However, I will comment on Kenny’s next statement that some posts require experience and acquired talents which mean women are not appointed because they haven’t been ordained as long as men. What tosh! I said this at General Synod last year and will say it again… nobody seems to be taking into account transferrable skills which women have brought with them into the church. We may not have been ordained as long as some men but we may bring with us a wealth of talents in business, such as managerial skills, teaching, administration, and a whole host of other skills which can benefit senior positions in the Church. Some of these skills may be far more relevant to senior posts than being a parish priest for however many years you care to mention.  Length of service does not equate to suitability for any post, let alone senior ones.

This is also demeaning to the skills of the laity too. Many women priests will have been lay people in the Church before ordination and may have far more knowledge of the SEC than some men. They may have served on Committees, been Lay Reps, and elected Bishops which again may be more than some male priests have done.

So enough with the waiting for a few years until the imbalance is redressed. There really is no need.