Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Strong Women, Courage, Assertiveness, Truth-telling, Violence.

from Google images - For Sharissa who, at 7 when told recently that one day she is going to be somebody, replied instantly, "I AM somebody!"

I've been thinking. Always a dangerous activity. About women. Strong women. Truth-Telling. Abuse. Violence. Assertiveness. Courage. Speaking up.
  Image from Google
Overall, I like this quote of Gandhi's. I feel using the word ignorant can be seen as judgmental, though. I would take out the ignorant and add "Even if you are incorrect - or perhaps know only part of the truth - speak the truth as you know it and it can lead to dialogue." 

And following along with the Gospel on Sunday about sheep and goats...  I've felt kind of sorry for the goats. I love goats. I've held baby goats. I used to feel joy seeing the little critters leaping about on and amongst white tombstones in Haitian cemeteries.  Those represented by goats in Matthew 25. 31 - 46 seemed not to even realize they had missed seeing Jesus in "the least of these."  We wondered at St CHL if those who are unable to reach out can't because they have, for various reasons, not faced and owned their own woundedness. When I had a breakdown many years ago, some of those who were most able to accompany me and believe in me were those who knew their own depression, helplessness, hopelessness... ahhh... nothing simple ... 

One of my favourite quotes is: "Speak your mind even if your voice shakes." People have often not believed that I am shy and an introvert, and have even tried to argue with me about it. Because my ministry is in situations that call me to work 'out there' with people - to speak up - because I sound confident - they assume I am an extrovert - and it doesn't cost to speak up. It costs. And I often shake.

At our recent synod our diocesan treasurer, Norman Spencer, told me in the hall before his financial report that he was wearing a grey suit for me. After the report, I stepped up to the mike and Norman said, "Now I'm worried." :-)  While I was trying to turn the microphone on to speak to the 2015 budget, Norman then went on to tell everyone that he was wearing the grey suit because of me plus his version of a story at Synod 7 years ago, the year he was elected treasurer. 

I can add a bit to it. I didn't know who he was and he didn't know me. I was waiting to speak against a motion concerning finances and a particular grants fund being subsumed into our general funds. I may not have the details (financially) accurate - it's not my strongest area. The theme, however, is correct. 

Synod 2007: While I stood near the wall awaiting my turn at the mike. the then executive archdeacon came over and whispered in Norman's ear. I didn't hear what was said, but the archdeacon supported the motion. :-) Norman stood to speak, but that put him unknowingly in front of me. So, I approached him, shaking internally, and tapped his arm gently. He motioned me forward to go first. 

So... according to Norman, I said I was sick and tired of men in grey suits making decisions about finances, and that subsuming grant money into general funds that had helped Mile End Mission survive was wrong. I know I was passionate. Angry. Frustrated. And my body shook when I sat down. And, Norman, I don't remember the grey part; I only remember saying 'suits'.   ;-)

At this year's Synod, after Norman had told the story, and while still trying to open the mike, looking down, I said softly, "It wasn't that bad." I'm pretty sure I heard someone on the floor say, "It was worse." Ummmm... perceptions are different ... I shouldn't have, in effect, apologized. Maybe it WAS bad from some people's perspectives. It wasn't pretty, but it was real and honest - and grew out of 12 years of frustration and wasted energy fighting for what should not have needed a fight.  Over and over. Most people knew nothing of the struggle.

This particular fund had helped Mile End Mission stay afloat at least twice when promised funds from the diocese had not been forthcoming.  And there were other pleas and struggles. I had, by then, been 12 years at the Mission, and had (being polite), fought for stable funding nearly every step of the way. Hard. A waste of energy on getting support for a ministry that was not mine alone - but was (and is) an essential diocesan ministry - and more to the point - God's ministry.

So - pretty or not, after Synod 2007, the speech was instrumental in the funding for Mile End Mission finally being stabilized, and I, and we, were able to concentrate our efforts on wonderful and creative ministry, mission, outside fund-raising.... 

And I want to say something about Norman and his grey suit - he is a man who stands with and for strong women.  He may not like me writing this.  :-) Bishop Barry also supported the changes. Both continue to support and encourage the ministry. 

In looking up the quote about speaking our minds I found the following about the author of it - and it's even better than I knew it was!! YES!

Maggie Kuhn

from the National Women's Hall of Fame: 
"At age 65, when many people prepare for quiet years, Maggie Kuhn embarked on the greatest adventure and most important work of her life. ... Kuhn's advice to activists interested in creating social change shows the strength of her convictions: 

And here it is folks!!! WOW!

'Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind - even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants. And do your homework.'"

There are other whole aspects of these issues. Women's issues are men's issues, of course. Change comes about together. I'm especially aware of these dynamics as Sue Montgomery of the Gazette in Montreal and others create change through a tweet that's gone around the world #beenrapedneverreported. More and more women are telling their stories who have kept silence, some for many, many years. The Jian Ghomeshi story at CBC and allegations of violence against women; America's Dad, Bill Cosby facing increasing numbers of allegations of having raped women; MP allegations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa; the violence we see around the world and the stories coming to light... all as we approach the 25th anniversary of the massacre at the Université de Montréal on December 6th, 1989. A man whom I am not going to name, singled out women in the faculty of engineering, murdering 14 and injuring 13 others before turning the gun on himself. Because he had not been admitted to Ecole Polytechnique - because he hated women - and many intelligent, creative, wonderful young women had been accepted into a faculty that had traditionally been the field for men.

I was a student at the Université de Montreal on December 6,  25 years ago doing a masters in Etudes pastorales. We remember precisely where we were when we heard. We remember the shock, disbelief, horror. To remember means to act. 

These are times when women are beginning to speak more and more about the violence they/we have endured, and that we see around us. Join us, if you can, to remember in solidarity on December 6th and, strengthened again, to go out into the world and act for justice with compassion. The Revd Canon Joyce Sanchez is preaching at this service., The Revd Shirley Smith is presiding assisted by the Revd Merlyne Howard and others. There will be a powerful liturgical dance 

We've watched the survivors of December 6th and their families organize with others to create a nationwide gun registry, and we've watched our present Conservative government destroy the registry data even though the police spoke clearly that it was necessary. We all know women living in abusive situations. Some know women who have been killed by their spouses or boyfriends. Many have experienced abuse as children or adults. We still have glass ceilings. It is still dangerous and often a re-abuse to report abuse to authorities. It seems that change is in the wind thanks to people like Sue Montgomery having the courage to speak out and to begin the tweet that has gone viral around the world. The pot is boiling over. Silences are being broken. We are supporting each other - acknowledging suffering and celebrating courage.

...  Light a candle on December 6th. 14 if you have them. Give a red rose to a woman. Wear a white ribbon. Remember. Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God - by whatever name you may know God - or - if you don't believe in God, is there a difference if we leave the God part out? Nah. Seek justice, love mercy. Walk humbly - that is - in truth (your own and others') - not as a doormat as it was presented to us long ago.

Sue Montgomery and others have organized an event on December 4th. See poster. Sign up soon. Spaces are limited.

And to any men or boys who happen to read this blog, if you haven't taken the White Ribbon Pledge, you can find it online.Fred Hiltz, our Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is sending it out this week to all of our churches and ministries. I'll add the link when it comes. Read Fred's message and the pledge at church on a Sunday during the 16 Days.

Maybe this quote should say 'work with a strong woman' or 'handle working with one.'  I don't like the idea of being 'handled.' or even needing to be 'handled.'  There's truth in it though, and I know from experience about being labelled. Which is not to say I don't have an attitude. Is attitude bad? Any ideas for a better, or at least different, translation?   :-)