Over the past twelve months the importance of story telling has become increasingly apparent to me. Whether it be through realising the significant impact stories read to me as a child continue to have today, or through seeing similar narratives being repeated throughout fiction, and often history. These stories have the potential to inspire, transform, and challenge the status quo. In Cooper’s latest book, Band of Angels she explores the role of women in passing on gospel stories down the generations and across the globe.
Cooper begins by telling her own story, explaining how her mother spoke to her at the time of her grandmother’s death and how these stories helped prepare her for her own mother’s death years later. This illustration reminds the reader that the women discussed in the book were not only leaders and evangelists, but also wives, mothers and disciples. The holistic approach taken by Cooper brings a human touch to the history of the early Church. This humanity is vital when considering the role women played in passing on gospel messages before they were formally recorded. Cooper draws parallels between women in the Ancient Near East caring for both the young and elderly, and women today preforming the same roles. She highlights the unique position these women find themselves in, bridging the gap between the generations, being filled with knowledge and tradition, and having the means to pass it on.
Through identifying key areas in which women’s ministry has been glossed over Cooper examines the impact of the women who spread the gospel through business, home and church. These examples include the familiar names of Martha, Mary and Pricilla as well as lesser-known characters such as Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:10-11) and Thecla (an evangelist and heroine of the early Church). These women’s stories are presented and questioned by Cooper with inspirational messages portrayed. Chloe, Thecla and many more like them provide excellent Christian role models for young men and women, with lessons which could be learnt from their successes and failures. Band of Angels would provide an alternative starting point for home groups or youth groups interested in studying lesser-known characters from Scripture, providing details on the barriers they faced, and how they were overcome.
Reading Band of Angels has encouraged me to question whether the recent move towards accepting women into ordained ministry will change the role women have traditionally played in passing on the Christian message. Despite these changing roles Christian women today have similar challenges to those in their position 2000 years ago, but they also have many more opportunities.
Cooper’s study of women in the early Church portrays examples of strength, humility and faith. She provides young leaders with role models, which challenge each of us not to be content with just passing on stories, but to live lives, which create more stories, but also to recognise the inevitable challenges facing the Church today. We need to continually return to our fathers and mothers of the faith for guidance and wisdom.