Welcome to this month's update, where I am thrilled to introduce the network's poets. You are about to hear from a compilation of talented wordsmiths; here to inspire and affirm but also challenge about the realities of gender inequality. Let me encourage you to watch, listen and read this month's update and actively reflect upon the voices, within the verse.
- I have a voice - by Bethany Tavener (Re:verse)
- Interview: Jo Dolby and Re:verse - a spoken word project for young people in Bath.
- Jarring - by Carolyn Whitnall
- She - by Naomi Aidoo (Authentic Heart)
- A woman’s measure - by Tomi Ajayi
- The people God made us to be - by Ellie Wartew
- We cannot be defined - by Meg Cannon (Koko)
- To Katie - by Kristen Sobalvarro
- Poetry Review: Dawn After Curling by Hannah Caroe and photography by Jonny Baker - Reviewed by Helen Crawford
- Join us at this year's Sophia Network Equipping Day! Find out more here
- Find out more about the leadership programme, happening this Autumn (November 23rd-26th) called 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership.
Interview: Jo Dolby and Re:verse
...that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
She was always giving him lip
these days; she used
to hold her peace, at least, he mused.
He was the pain in her neck that would
not lift; she’d left
too much too long too unsaid.
She had been a thing he could handle –
once; her new stance
was in spite of the manual.
He would shoulder her over, at
ev’ry turn; God
forbid he be less than above her.
She came with a body for flaunting;
she taunted him,
wanting him endlessly wanting.
He still tried to pull the old ‘foot down’
routine; as if
that decided all things, or should.
They were nearing breaking point when
it was given;
they held it/it held them together.
And the seams glowed, like treasure.
Carolyn Whitnall lives in Bristol with her husband Ben and they try to follow Jesus. When she isn't researching 'something to do with computers, sort of', she enjoys learning and writing about all sorts of other stuff. She has a website http://critic-cal.blogspot.co.uk/.
She - by Naomi Aidoo (@authenticheart)
Naomi Aidoo (@1authenticheart) blogs and vlogs at www.1authenticheart.com. Having just left a seven year career of secondary school teaching, Naomi has recently been appointed as Director of Interns on a Church staff team part time. When she's not training and teaching on the Intern programme, she will be concentrating more heavily on writing and using her creative gifts to glorify God and make His name known. Naomi is married to James and lives in West London.
A woman’s measure – by Tomi Ajayi
How do you measure a woman?
How do you capture her worth?
How do you define her value and price
if she’s poverty-stricken from birth?
Do you add up the number of steps and miles
on her daily trek to fetch water?
Barefoot, in the heat, on a dusty path:
it’s the burden of being a daughter.
Do you subtract the years she’s absent from school?
(There’s no money for her to learn.)
At home she must stay, to clean, farm and cook
while her brothers are taught how to earn.
Do you bottle the drops of tears as they fall
when she feels the rusty knife?
The blunt blade cuts her childhood away
and ‘prepares’ her to be someone’s wife.
Do you count the wedding wishes she gets
as she leaves the family house?
Married too young, to a middle-aged man.
Just a girl, but now also a spouse.
Do you multiply the fear that she feels
with the sense of feeling numb,
when pregnant she falls at the age of 14
and discovers she’ll soon be a mum?
Do you divide the pain, the loss and despair
of a complicated birth?
With no medics to help, her baby has
just a fatally short stay on earth.
Do you add up the other children she bears:
her first baby’s sisters and brothers?
With no access to family planning she has
no choice about being a mother.
Do you tally up the hours spent
with bent back and outstretched arm,
while she’s tending her maize and cassava plots
as the head of the family farm?
Do you weigh her generous heart and soul
that enables her to deliver
food to her children, though she goes without?
A tenacious, courageous giver.
Do you subtract the lack of power she has;
the inequality that wrecks
the potential of millions of women
simply because of their female sex?
How do you measure a woman,
When she’s poverty-stricken from birth?
Poor she may be, but to God and to me,
she’s a jewel of immeasurable worth.
*Extreme poverty disproportionately affects girls and women, including their access to healthcare, education and economic opportunity.
Tomi Ajayi works in the media team for an international development charity. She lives in London, but was based in Sierra Leone during 2014. When she finds time she loves to write, particularly about social justice, faith and society. @trustTomi
The people God made us to be - by Ellie Wartew
Gender often, rightly, defines us,
For God made us intentionally from his moulds,
But gender needn’t necessarily confine us,
To a particular type of role.
Women are not from Venus
And men are not from Mars
God has made us all different
And uniquely gifted us as we are.
It might be that I am sensitive and caring
Or that I am adventurous to follow God’s plan
I could be passionate and daring
But am I a woman or a man?
I could hold two Nobel prizes
And have introduced Polonium to the world
I could have great scientific prowess
But am I a guy or a girl?
I may be gifted with children
They might hug me or sit on my lap
I could care for them from a young age
But am I a lady or a chap?
I could be the Sovereign of a country
I could preside at a Mass
I could be President of the United States
But am I a lad or a lass?
I could be a paediatric nurse
Or work with elderly folk
I could arrange flowers, cut hair, or do make up
But am I a bird or a bloke?
Are we being the people God made us to be?
Are we honouring his plan and design?
We need people who fight to the finish
We need people who publically cry
We need hearts that are caring and tender
We need souls full of courage and strength
We need those who will speak with conviction
And those who will listen at length
We need people in places of power
Who are humble enough to concede
That those people created to follow
Are as precious as those who lead
We need those who will serve at the bottom
With pride, as though they were the top
So that equality and justice will reign
And persecution can finally stop.
Ellie Wartew is Director of Children's Ministry at Christ Church Flackwell Heath and an officer for 1st Flackwell Heath Girls Brigade. She loves music, films, tap dancing and playing with words. Most of her spare time is spent eating out with friends, scrolling through Facebook and enjoying her extensive range of pyjamas!!
We cannot be defined - by Meg Cannon (Koko)
[repost from Christian Aid Collective]
Meg is the founder of Koko, a project to inspire, encourage and challenge girls worldwide. Join the adventure at thekokostory.com.
To Katie - by Kristen Sobalvarro
You’re never going to be happy
Until you decide to be happy
You’re never going to love your body
Until you decide to love your body
You’re never going to love yourself
Until you decide to love yourself
Dear Katie, you are beautiful.
You are strong.
And you’ve got a good head on your shoulders
And I’m damn tired of people telling you otherwise.
People being your mom
People being society
People being the voices in your head that scream and shout and tell you that you’re not good enough.
Because no amount of diet pills, doctor’s bills, and expensive frills
Are going to eventually make you see your worth.
You are beautiful.
You are B-E-A-Woman!
You poke and prod and press and peel away at a flesh so temporary
And you’re wasting precious minutes on a pointless scale showing puny numbers
Dear Katie, you are strong
And until you see that, that ulcer in your body and mind are going to continue to tear you down
And turn you into another statistic.
Dear Katie, you are worthy.
Worthy of a life only you can lead
And one so perfectly planned by our perfect, loving, life giving creator
The One that made Katie.
And until you start being Katie
Expect this tortuous life to continue
I’m talking about Katie
The Katie I know is in there
Screaming to be free
Not the Katie raised by your parents
Not the Katie that doctors have prescribed you to be
Not the Katie that society is grooming you to be either
But Katie the Strong
Katie the Magnificent
Katie the Beautiful
Not by the way your body, skin, clothes, hair look
But by the flaws, radiance, and grace your God has perfected you with.
Until you accept your flaws as individually, and perfectly you
Until you become Katie the Great
Until you believe what God is telling you
Scratch that, until you believe what God has
Everyday of your many years of scrutinized existence,
This is all you’ll ever be,
A piece of torn up flesh under a magnetized mirror.
Kristen Sobalvarro is actively pursuing a career in camp ministry at Mount Hermon in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. She studied at Biola University where she focused on Liberal Studies and Bible. She has been writing poetry and performing spoken word throughout her adult life and her passion for social justice, art and spirituality are common themes reflected in her work. Kristen is inspired and motivated by women like Tina Fey, Nadia Bolz Weber, Rachel Held Evans, and Mary Oliver.
Poetry Review: Dawn After Curling - by Hannah Caroe
Dawn After Curling is the debut poetry collection by Hannah Caroe and is interspersed with photographs by Jonny Baker. Setting out to tell the tale of ‘someone who has fallen in love with God’, Dawn After Curling certainly delivers, with its prose-poetry beginning followed by a stream of more regular verse, ending with a neatly posed question.
Beginning with the ‘rose-purple darkness’ of a challenging home life, we journey with the author through the longing until something new and trustworthy is palpable. In between we dip into an ancient fairytale, stroll through sumptuous countryside and right up close to the heartbeat of the author.
Ranging in length and mood, we move from domestic moments with a local town feel – complete with Sainsbury’s bags – to the energy of nature; the freedom of the birds.
Strong imagery and raw emotion run through the collection. It’s taut with pain in places – captured perfectly by the rhyme scheme in ‘Flight’ – while poems like ‘Aslan’ tell the reassuring love-story we were promised in the introduction. It’s a collection that is uncompromising in its love for God and for the Christian story: the rescuing work of Jesus.
I feel my own experience captured in poems like ‘Tiredness’, which describes its eponymous subject to a T, and ‘Prayer’, where ‘a shy curling/away from darkness/into a sky warm body’. Gorgeous. This is balanced by the light-hearted scene-setting of ‘Picnic’, the mild irreverence of ‘Good Friday’ and the warm fun of ‘Roosting.’
Dawn After Curling evokes a sense of God-at-hand, his presence close to us. It’s as Caroe shares this experience that she invites us to see God the way she does and enjoy the same relationship.
And that’s why ‘Question’ provides the perfect ending. It’s the thread running through the whole collection: looking at God from this point of view, how will you respond?