The Role Of Women In The Church
By Michaelyn Sloan
Pondering the topic for this issue of The Evangelist, “What is the role of women in the church?” I recalled how some 30 plus years ago a group of Baptist women provided one of the answers to this question and impacted my life…………
Truth be told, it was the “free child care” statement in the local newspaper’s advertisement that initially brought me to this Baptist church. It was 1978 and Focus on the Family had just been released Dr. James Dobson’s very first film series on the family.
The dreary days of fall had descended upon us and as the mother of a two year old I knew I’d soon be desperate for a place to go and something to do which involved other adults! I quickly called two close friends who would gladly welcome such an outing and we all signed up.
Fast forward seven weeks and the end of the film series. One of the women from the church - in her closing remarks - announced that they were resuming their weekly Bible study and invited those of us who had attended the film series to join them. And, by the way, the free child care would continue!
My two friends and I looked at each other and decided to commit despite my Orthodox and their Catholic backgrounds. Bible studies were something foreign to each of us but we had enjoyed our Tuesday morning outings, and the hospitality of the church. In addition, our toddlers had assimilated into the rhythm of nursery activities and their new play group.
As the weeks progressed I learned how to find Bible passages and became an attentive student on applying them to my daily life. My “teachers” were the older women in our group who I came to know more intimately through the life stories they openly shared, interspersed between reading Bible passages, discussions and prayer. They spoke of what I came to label life’s “cheers” and life’s” tears”. I was familiar with the “cheers” – a new grand baby, good medical report, an upcoming vacation and new job, but had never experienced individuals openly sharing the “tears” - an alcoholic husband, the sacrifice of caring for elderly parents, the demands of parenting a handicapped child, and how to regroup after an economic disaster. So often I wondered if it was only this particular group of Christian women that were experiencing these issues or were there others? With their obvious love of Christ, couldn’t they just pray and it would all go away?
My own mother, a devout Orthodox woman, had shielded my brother and me from life’s difficulties that these women spoke of. There was also an unspoken attitude in both our church community and neighborhood that you did not openly share “what went on in your house.” Typical of so many Orthodox homes that I visited while growing up, our Bible held a prominent place – on top of the television set. I never recalled it being actually opened. That was something the priest or deacon did at church which we faithfully attended. Prayers were said at night before bed, or on holidays before eating. Spontaneous prayer for the specific needs of others was something I had never experienced.
The Bible study ended in the spring and I reflected back on the time spent with this group of women and how they had taught me how to open my Bible and delve into God’s Word. However, it was not until later years that I realized something else I learned during this time - the importance of Christian women being there for other women -listening, sharing (the good and bad in our own lives), instructing, and sometimes even challenging one another – always in love, and never in judgment - as we make our individual and collective faith journeys in this life.