Post by Sarah Bessey Re: Churches Ignore Never Married Older and/or Childless Christian Women, Discriminate Against Them In which they are overlooked in a sea of hipsters”
- A few months ago, I requested stories or anecdotes about how it feels to be a woman in the church. I was more than a little overwhelmed by the responses, both the sheer number and the content, but I did my best to respond to each one. Women filled my inbox with stories – beautiful and horrible, hurtful and empowering – about their experiences within the institutions of Christianity.
After all my research, I thought I knew what to expect. And sure enough, there were the stories about women feeling marginalized because they are not married or do not/ cannot have children; stories about women who had men turn their backs when they stood up to preach their first sermon; stories about women who stayed in abusive marriages because of their church teachings; a lot of affirming women who found their voice and healing within church.
But one theme emerged that I hadn’t looked for, over and over: Women, in the middle of their lives, who felt invisible and ignored by the church, the same way they feel invisible or ignored in our culture.
These are women of my mother’s generation perhaps, maybe ten or even twenty years on either side. And I heard their hurt and sorrow and stoicism.
..One woman told me about how she had led worship at her church for years. But when a new young pastor was hired, he wanted a cooler band to get more young people, and the first thing to go were the older women. “No one wanted to see old women on stage,” she wrote candidly without bitterness, and so she was replaced with young women in their late teens and early twenties. She misses leading worship.
…Women told me about how hard it is to be middle-aged or to be considered unbeautiful in a church culture which values youth and energy and talent. In a sea of hipsters and motivated young people with self-promotion apparently engrained into their DNA, they feel invisible and over-looked, slow and ignored.
..I asked older women in my life and found the same was true. Once a woman reaches a certain age or if a woman is not considered beautiful or outgoing or charming, she often disappears in the eyes of her community. She still has a rich and meaningful life, don’t get me wrong, but they all said, sadly, that yes, they are well-educated or experienced or wise, and yet, they are never asked, they are never invited, they are rarely noticed.
…It’s an idealist view, a dreamer’s dream, but if there is one place where women of a certain age or women who do not fit the cultural expectations of “beauty” should feel valued and affirmed, celebrated and acknowledged, honoured and even just seen, oh, my goodness, let it be within the Body of Christ!