Who are the women in your life who have shaped who you are? What women have inspired your faith? Can you think of important women in church history?
All too often the impact of our sisters, mothers, and daughters has not been as well documented as those of men (if they were documented at all). Sadly this is common within the church as well. Therefore we'd like to take a moment during Women's History Month to highlight a few influential women who have shaped the movement of Jesus in important ways. As we celebrate the impact of these Christ-followers, feel free to join us by sharing about women who have impacted your life or faith in the comments. Also, you'll find beneath the stories of women a brief further discussion regarding women in the church and some resources in case you'd like to go deeper on these issues.
It goes without saying, but this is by no means a comprehensive list of influential women and their legacy, but rather a starting point to kick off the celebrating:
Saint Monica was known for her unceasing prayer and intimacy with God. She was born in North Africa and was the mother of Saint Augustine. It is said that her faith and example is what set the trajectory for Augustine. She is honored and recognized for her lifelong faithfulness and perseverance to God.
Julian of Norwich
Julian was one of the first known female authors. As a 14th century Christian mystic her book Revelations of Divine Love, is a profound and thought provoking portrayal of the nature of the divine and the human condition. Many scholars and contemplative Christians look to Julian as a seminal figure in church history and her words have helped countless people connect to God in prayer.
Here are a couple quotes from her book:
“Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.”
“Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.”
“Prayer is a new, gracious, lasting will of the soul united and fast-bound to the will of God by the precious and mysterious working of the Holy Ghost.”
“God, of your goodness, give me yourself; you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honor. And if I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything'.”
Saint Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Avila was a Spanish nun, reformer, and author. She established numerous ministries and authored numerous books. Her work also includes activism against church injustice and the formation of new monastic communities who sought to live simply and differently.
Here are a couple quotes from her writings:
"Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love."
"For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God."
"Pain is never permanent."
Florence Nightengale, inspired by her faith, is credited for creating modern nursing. No big deal. She says that her calling to become a nurse came as she was walking with God in a garden one day.
Anne was a controversial figure because of her belief that God spoke to her directly and the fact that she openly held meetings at her home where she taught the Bible. Hutchinson left behind a lasting impression because she symbolized religious freedom. She was also an early proponent of women’s rights and one of the first people to show the struggle women faced. In addition, she helped found the Rhode Island colony and showed the showed the problems in the church.
A couple quotes from her life:
"One may preach a covenant of grace more clearly than another... But when they preach a covenant of works for salvation, that is not truth."
"But now having seen him which is invisible I fear not what man can do unto me."
Just a start.
These five women are just the start. There are countless others who have impacted the church: Mary, Joan of Arc, Heloise, Katharina von Bora, Mother Theresa, and more.
If you'd like a more extensive list, check out Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from the New Testament times to the present, by Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld.
The reason we've created moments in our year to celebrate the history of various groups is because these groups have often been neglected or oppressed. As followers of Jesus we remember that Christ stands against oppression in all forms and stands alongside the marginalized and voiceless. In Christ the divisions we've created between one another are erased as Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, " There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus". So it's in that spirit that we turn our attention to the legacy of women who have given their life to create a better world.
As a church we recognize that the affects of sexism and patriarchy are real, even within many churches and denominations, and that ongoing efforts are required in order to continue to move our world forward towards God's Shalom. At Oak Life we celebrate the gifts and callings of everyone a part of our community, regardless of gender. If you've been to any of our gatherings you may have seen our welcome video / poem which says this simply, "women or man here- everyone can here", and we mean it. We believe scripture not only provides numerous examples of women in church leadership but celebrates it. In fact, as we started Women's History month we even had an entirely women led service.
If you'd like to do some further reading check out the books below. Or if you'd like to connect over coffee to discuss let us know!
Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman's Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian
Why Not Women by Loren Cuningham
A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Curtis James