A Spiritual Discipline: Women Leaders in the Church and Gratitude

January 9, 2018
Sandra Squires, UTO Board President

Cuban Church Women EpiscopalThis past year, I have been reading about women who have been important in our country’s history and in their ministry as Christians. Their influences have been felt in the Church, but they are often the unacknowledged workers and fundraisers. These women have led through their actions, their words, and their legacies. So, this Lent, as that part of your Lenten preparation, which calls for adopting some type of spiritual discipline, I am recommending that you learn about one or more women who have made important contributions to our Christian history. You may find names in Holy Women, Holy Men or look to the Episcopal Women’s History Project. It would also be appropriate to start with the women from your parish’s or your diocese’s history.

Hopefully this quest will lead you to both knowledge and gratitude. The knowledge will inform you of women who will be forgotten if we don’t learn about and share their stories, treasure their work, and express our gratitude for all they have done. Not all of these women will be Episcopalians, but it would be truly helpful to grow our knowledge of these women to whom we owe so much.

To get you started, I will recommend a few names: Julia Chester Emery and Ida Soule, UTO’s founders; Mary Emery Twing, first secretary of the Woman’s Auxiliary; Mary Ann Fargo, founder of the Church Periodical Club; Margaret J. Franklin, founder of the Daughters of the King; Julia E. Smith, author of five literal translations of the Bible from Hebrew, Greek, and Latin into English; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, radical feminist and primary author of the controversial book, The Women’s Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective (1895 and 1898); Lucretia Mott; Susan B. Anthony; Sarah and Angelina Grimké; Anne Hutchinson; Catherine Ferguson; Mary Webb, founder of the Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes in 1800; Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr; and modern pioneer bishops in The Episcopal Church, including Katharine Jefferts Schori, Barbara Harris, Carol Gallagher, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Mary Gray-Reeves, and happily more.

Start with prayer that God will lead you to a woman whose story needs to be told or retold, learn what you can about her, show gratitude for her pioneering efforts (always a good idea to show that by giving to your Blue Box), and tell her story as widely as possible.