A few weeks ago I noticed an announcement in our church bulletin for the annual women's tea. We women were heartily encouraged to attend to enjoy some fellowship and a testimony from a woman who had adopted a child from oversees. Strangely, my response to this announcement was decidedly negative. In fact, inside my head it sounded somthing like "blech-no way do I want to go to that."
I began to wonder why my ire was raised by this church sponsored tea party. After all, I have been to high tea before several times and enjoyed it very much. In fact, I was going to be having "tea" at a friend's house the following weekend. So why the distain for this particular tea?
After some contemplation, I realized that I was feeling frustrated because many churches I've been to only offer this type of event for women. It's like they think when women get together with each other all we want to do (and should want to do) is talk about tea cups and knitting and our families. And yes, those are all things many women do enjoy, and very much should feel free to enjoy. For enjoying beauty and creativity and relationships is certainly a part of God's plan for his people. But I wonder, why have we tacitly told women (because these events are the only church-sponsored events specifically for women) that these are the only topics women can and should think about/discuss/do together? Have we become so embroiled in cultural stereotypes and the women-in-leadership issue that we have narrowed the scope of women's influence far too much? Isn't it our call and responsibility to be doing more than drinking tea together?
What I realized about the other times I'd had high tea is that I enjoyed it essentially because that was not all I ever did with my friends. Yes, we might go shopping or go to high tea once in a while, but we also attend lectures together, read books, go to live music, discuss theological issues, politics, justice and the publishing world, run our own businesses, go to the theater, and listen to NPR. I suspect many of the women at my church do the same. So why isn't there a way for us to meet that centers around any of these types of activities?
When we first started attending our church I met two women, one my age, one in her 50s. We began to discuss the Sunday School classes, which I had enjoyed very much. The Old Testament survey class I was in was challenging me in new ways and I was excited about that challenge. These women, however, didn't even go to Sunday School classes. "Ohh," sighed the younger one, "Ahh cain't undehstand all those big words those men use in Sunday School, so ahh just don't go," she said with her sweet southern drawl. "Yes," said the other with a perky smile, "I don't understand why they can't just teach in a way that normal people can understand. It's all over my head. I don't go either. I hardly tune in to the sermon half the time because it's so academic."
I could feel the anger welling up in me at this point--anger at these women for not challenging themselves more. Anger at the world for sending the message to these women that they can't understand theology or study Scripture in a class taught lecture-style by a man. I wanted to yell at them or run away or yell at them and then run away. But I bit my tongue and nodded my head congenially, saying nothing.
I have been thinking about those two women a lot lately. And instead of being angry with them, my heart went out to them and I wondered, is there a way to get those two women a) interested in learning more about the things of God and b) to believe they CAN understand the things of God? Maybe "B" has to happen before "A". And I've been thinking about the women's tea a lot too. I wondered, is there a way for the church to sponsor some other kinds of events that women like my two friends would feel comfortable coming to, and where they would be challenged to think more about things like theology, doctrine, justice and mercy issues, church history, poverty, gender issues, the role of the church in politics, how Christ and culture intersect. . . the list goes on and on.
I am tentitively thinking that God might be giving me a vision for a way I can get involved in women's ministries--of all things! I have a vision for some kind of class or discussion group that would be very relational in its format where women who know nothing about theology can come and learn all the terms and concepts and discuss how they practically affect the Christian life. But wait, you say, isn't that what they should be learning at church? YES! But for whatever reason, they aren't. And I think it will take a woman to be able to get past those fears of "men and their big words" and help them learn. Ideas are bursting from my mind of ways to get women past their fears and out into the wonderful world of ideas.
I also have a vision of a group where women get together and discuss global poverty and brainstorm ideas on what we can do with the unique talents and gifts God has given us as women to respond. We could learn about Great Commission Companies, and fair trade. We could interview my friend Beth who just started a fair trade company,Bambootique, which sells purses and hand-made crafts from around the world. The ideas are bursting from my mind of ways to get women out of their pews and out to change the world.
So, any of you out there have any comments on this fuzzy dream I have? Has anyone else ever been offended by a tea party? How could I make some of these things a reality? How would a theology 101 course for women only be different in format and presentation? What would make them feel safe and comfortable and energized about learning the attributes of God? What would help to get the women of my local church thinking about and doing more than drinking tea???
I want to hear your thoughts!