Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Theology and the Sphere of Women

It was 1964 and the Beatles had recently appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Two young girls age 9 and 11 walked to school and sat through unremarkable school days as children and students. They chatted about Paul McCartney and Nancy Drew and hockey players and so on.

Within a year or two they would be fans of Twiggy and go-go boots, and miniskirts. Crocheted purses, braid-trimmed bell-bottoms, and patchwork maxiskirts would all be products of their imagination and fingers well-trained in needlework.

But every day that last fall of childhood, they walked home at lunch and entered the house, hanging up their handknit bulky, flannel-lined sweaters, and tromped into the kitchen to sit on high stools at the kitchen counter where bowls of soup and bread and cheese were waiting.

Mother sat at the end of the counter with a book propped up on a metal frame and she knit and read. Her needles clicked and the pages turned. At the end of lunch the girls put on their heavy sweaters and trudged back to school.

What did mother read to her little girls, the tail end of her large family, in those rare few months when we had her to ourselves, between the foster children and the grandchildren and elder care, and shelter offered to others in need.

She read Merle D'Aubign├ęs History of the Reformation. She knit through Wycliffe and Huss and Tyndale and Erasmus, Calvin, Luther, and Zwingli. Even now, when I read those names the needles click and the ball of wool jerks in response as the yarn ravels up into mitts and hats and sweaters. The faggots crackle on the fires of the martyrs and men gallop across Europe at breakneck speed.

We are the children of a Brethren woman teacher. Church history spliced into the sphere of women, slip one, knit one, pass slip stitch over, later the biographies of the Methodist preachers, and theology and Greek.

I often wonder how men learn theology, what ancient rhythms bind their minds to the nouns and verbs of history?


bobbie said...

what a glorious her-story and heritage you have suzanne!

i always felt that one of the greatest strengths of the brethren movement was their autonomy - but it was also one of their weaknesses - they were rarely sharpened and challenged to greater thoughts by their fellow gatherings - so much that was in error or toxic was allowed to fester and grow.

when they are healthy and vibrant brethren churches are a beautiful thing, but when power corrupts and error creeps in they can be ugly things indeed.

again, thank you for sharing about the rays of hope and beauty found there!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Oh--what a blessing and treasure for you! That is wonderful. I have similar memories of my sister (the one I recently blogged about) who taught me to love books and words and thoughts and far away places and times. I can hear her voice in my memory, the rise and fall, the wonderful experssion--and the sound of pages turning.

We didn't read Zwingli though, or others of his ilk . What a heritage, and no wonder you are the student of the word that you are!

I also got a kick out of remembering Twiggy and related items. I was 14 in '64. I kept my white boots for a long time. And I still listen to the Beatles now and again.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Singing Owl,

I have written about two people that I know well who have Alzheimers. Elizabeth Wilson and my grandfather. My heart goes out to you.


Every denomination has its share of difficulties.