Friday, 6 February 2009

Gifted to Lead

On Saturday I went to hear Nancy Beach speaking in London.

The day was based around material from her book Gifted to Lead, and focused on leadership. It was an interactive day - and thinking about 'defining moments' as women leaders was an interesting exercise.

She reminded us of a phrase which also struck me from the book, 'the freight of being iconic'. I have not felt that experience much since I was first ordained, when as the first woman to preach or to lead communion in a church I did feel that the whole of ordained womanhood would be judged on the basis of how I was perceived.

We also explored the connotations of some words: it still seems to be the case that men are expected to be assertive, but assertive women are often labelled 'bossy'. And this affects our confidence.

I enjoyed Nancy Beach's style; and the 'American mom' thing grated a bit but I suppose was inevitable - that is her experience, and she invited us to use stories from our own experience when we preach and talk. She used some great clips of some women she'd interviewed, which meant that a variety of women were sharing their stories and insights with us.

The first session ended with a key point from the book: 'We are accountable to God for using our gifts'. Saying 'but I'm a girl' (Yuk! 'Girl' stuff really grates with me) is no excuse, and God did not make a mistake when he created us a woman and a leader.

The down side of the day for me was that for all her experience in Willow Creek, Nancy is leader of an area of ministry, not an overall leader, and the day reflected that to some extent.

There was a load of other good material... But the other thing which most grated was the attention given to the guys who served the coffee. OK, they did a good job, but when I went to another event the next day, not in a Christian context, both men and women were washing up in the kitchen without any fanfares. So why is it that in a church context we are still so stuck in gender roles that we have to give the men a round of applause for making coffee? I just don't get it.

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