22 – 24 November 2021
35 women from Cumbria gathered in late November for their annual District Methodist Women in Britain event at Thornleigh, Grange over Sands, under the skilful leadership of Rev Dr Nicola Price-Tebbutt.
The theme for the event – over 3 days – was 'Women of Faith in times of Crisis'. There were five sessions with intriguing titles – 'Fight or Flight', 'Pain Relief', 'The Still, Small Voice', 'Being Hope' and 'Being Women of Faith'.
Nicola drew on stories of women from the Bible, from history and the present day.
Among others, we learned about Sojourner Truth – born into slavery as Isabelle Baumfree – who became a Methodist, an abolitionist and human rights activist.
The play 'Life in a Jar' recounts the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from the ghetto; she kept a record of their identities, burying the papers in jars so the children could be identified later on – her life an example of 'being hope'.
Modern day examples relating to unhelpful perceptions and actions towards women who suffered abuse or had a chronic debilitating condition enabled us to reflect on women being 'bearers of pain in society'. Then there were challenging stories from the Bible – of Hagar (Abraham's concubine and mother of his son, Ishmael), Shiphrah and Puah (who refused to obey Pharoah's command to kill all male babies at birth).
Each session was grounded in encouraging us to take time to reflect on how we react in a crisis, what our own experience of 'being found by God' was like, how we have experienced God's silence, and to identify who has been a figure of hope in our lives. Nicola shared some of her own experiences and we were challenged to ask where God is calling us to be, and what we need from Him.
Appropriately, the final session – a service of Communion, was also led by Nicola, in which she encouraged us not to be passive recipients of God's love, but to reach out to him, whatever the circumstances. Nicola concluded 'We are women of faith in a time of crisis, and God needs us to keep on being that, as God, the creative life force, calls us to become his perfect creation.'
Besides providing an inspiring programme, Nicola enabled a warm and open atmosphere. This invaluable experience of sharing together was further enhanced by morning and evening prayers, led by the Cumbria District Co-ordinating Team, and 'fun time' in the evenings with entertainment from 'Harps North West', and a thoroughly enjoyable quiz night.
Joan Wager (MWiB Cumbria District Team)