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Faith, and women’s history

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that women started to take more formal roles in church ministry

March is Women’s History Month, making it the perfect time to focus this column on women of faith and their unique contributions to religion in Bermuda and around the world.

Historically, religion has been a very patriarchal sphere of human life. Leadership in religious organisations has been male-dominated for centuries. However, beneath the layers of misogyny one would find that women have been the heartbeat of ministry since the very beginning.

Let’s take Christianity, for example. Of course, you have Mary, the mother of Jesus but there are several other women who were influential in the birth and growth of Christianity. The New Testament provides examples, such as Mary and Martha, Priscilla, Lydia, Phoebe and Mary Magdalene.

We don’t know much about them or their lives, but the small bits of information the Bible does give us suggests that these women, and likely many others, were key in spreading Jesus’s message and supporting those early founders of Christianity.

However, the church was still in many ways influenced by the secular world around it and as such, formal leadership roles such as the office of teacher and sacramental minister, were reserved for men.

This continued through the Middle Ages and the Reformation period. Despite many women in the Roman Catholic tradition choosing a life of piety as nuns, this never led to church leadership.

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that women started to take more formal roles in church ministry, marking the beginning of a journey towards gender equity in church leadership. A journey that in many instances is still evolving.

This month, as the world reflects on women’s history and the theme of embracing equity, we will reflect as well and share stories of Bermudian women and their journey and contribution to ministry and faith in Bermuda.

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Published March 04, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated March 03, 2023 at 6:45 pm)

Faith, and women’s history

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