When Anna asked me to write an article for this newsletter about why I have been involved in social justice issues I didn't know where to start. It turned out I needed to go back to 1975 when I first became involved in the women's movement. My first paid job after being a stay at home mother was as a coordinator of a group for women on Social Assistance. I must say my parents had brought me up to believe that we all have choices. We either work hard and make the best of things or we are lazy and become poor.
I learned very quickly that isn't the whole story. The women I had in my groups were very much like me, except that they had experienced the desertion or death of a spouse, and suddenly had no support. I learned so much from the women I was supposed to be helping. I learned that poverty can happen to anyone depending on what life brings ones way. Some of them became poor overnight. My job was to help them seek options to turn their lives around. I discovered there weren't many. Even those who managed to get a job were paid poorly (women at that time, working full time, were making $12,000 less a year than men) and they were challenged by lack of child care options. My consciousness was raised in a hurry.(Even today Alberta has the largest pay gap in Canada between women and men).
As I grew in my knowledge of women in the workforce, I grew in my knowledge of women in the church. At that time the Anglican Bishop of Calgary took advantage of the "Conscience Clause", which meant that not only did he not have to hire any women priests, but also that any of his priests could refuse to take communion from a women when they were in another diocese.
My theology was enriched by my experience, first as a member, then as Chair of the National Anglican Women's Unit. I learned that in its earliest years, Christianity showed a remarkable openness to women. Jesus was a revolutionary. He wanted to change many things in the society in which he grew up. In the early days of his church, equality and cooperativeness and sharing were the norm. Somehow, instead of adopting what Jesus did, starting in the first century the church adopted power structures of submission and dominance which were not healthy for relationships, or for our planet, Earth. I wanted the Church to renew its theological perspectives, to seek changes in language and imagery which would include women and female children. I wanted the Church to seek changes in the structures of society; to work for peace, for equal pay, for ways to care for and nurture our greatest heritage, our children.
So, I helped to start a National Task Force called Poverty in the Midst of Plenty. I chaired the Provincial Committee which worked to get an Advisory Council on the Status of Women in Alberta. I sat on the Board of the Women's InterChurch Council for six years. I co-chaired the Social Issues Committee of the YWCA, chaired an Ecumenical Task Force on the Prevention of Family Violence and served on a Task Force on Churches and Corporate Respnsibility. I sat on vestry and pushed for inclusive language. From 1988 to 1998 I Chaired the Diocesan Committee of the World Council of Churches Decade of Churches in Solidarity Women, etc, etc.
I burned out!
I have been involved in several projects in the past decade, but not at the same pace, as previous years. So, although I am not the activist I once was, my faith has kept me grounded and I have not changed my theology. I see justice, equality, compassion and cooperation as what Jesus taught us. I cannot understand any theology that does not include these qualities.
My favourite blessing is:
"Go forth into a world where apathy and half heartedness are dominant.
Move the world a little.
In the name of God , the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer."