The Gathering of Wise Women
Women tend to be relational beings, and have likely been gathering around cooking sites and tables since the beginning of time. There are a lot of common interests that draw women to share with one another. From my childhood on, I have seen the Church as a place for women to gather around common ground issues of faith, service, sharing, and friendship. During my childhood my mother belonged to two church circles, referred to as Ladies Aid back in the 50s and 60s. One group was called Semper Fidelis, Latin for Always Faithful, and the other group was called Ora et Labora, Latin for Pray and Work.
Some of us (in my younger years I was one of the worst, mea culpa!) have made or heard jokes about the Church Ladies, brought to the forefront by Saturday Night Live. I am here to say today, God as my witness, it is the Church Ladies I want to have in my cornerin good times and in bad.
In the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) the womens group is called Christian Womens Fellowship (CWF). They actively support various causes, including support for local food banks, womens and family shelters, hospice and homecare, the well-being of children, and almost any good cause you can think about. This includes being the backbone for the denomination, and each church within it.
A couple of years ago, the Edmonds Christian Church leaders decided that they needed to close. They wanted to leave a legacy with their assets, rather than wait until it was all spent on building upkeep and other overhead for their small congregation. The women decided that they wanted to continue to meet. They also decided that they didnt want to pay dues, keep minutes of their meetings, or do any studying to prepare. They simply wanted to meet to maintain their friendship, share the joys and concerns of their lives, and offer support to one another. They also wanted to eat good food, and laugh together at least once a month. So carrying on a wonderful church tradition, potluck, each one brings something tasty to the table. Alma is our designated joker. Though anyone is allowed and encouraged to bring their favorite cartoon or joke to the table, along with their potluck offering.
So, this fun-loving, faith-filled group of wise women meets at noon on the second Wed. of each month. Their meeting place is a classroom at the Richmond Beach United Church of Christ. At a recent gathering we celebrated Emilys 97th birthday. We tallied the years of life experience of each of the ten women who were there, ranging from 54 to 97, and came up with a total of 731 years and an average age of 73. We call ourselves the Wisdom Women Circle.
One of the things we talked about that day was which season of life, or which age, was our favorite. A couple of responses included, Every season is my favorite, and My favorite age is tomorrowIm too curiousI want to keep going. We also frequently talk about gratitude, and what we are grateful for in the moment. Farmers and indoor plumbing were on the list of the woman who came with 97 years of life experience, for us to celebrate that day.
A clipping from Almas joke file: A middle-aged woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital, where she had a near-death experience. Seeing God, she asked, Is my time up? No, God replied, You have another 40 years to live. Upon recovery the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a facelift, liposuction and a tummy tuck. She even bleached her hair blond again, figuring that, as she had so many years left, she may as well make the most of them. After her release from the hospital, she was crossing the street on her way home when she was hit and killed by an ambulance. When she arrived in front of God, she complained: I thought you said I had another 40 years! Why didnt you pull me out of the path of the ambulance? God replied: I didnt recognize you.
For these wise women, all of life is sacred and humor goes hand-in-hand with the sadness they sometimes bring to the table. One woman continues her journey with her husband, who survived a stroke a number of years ago, and has caused significant limitations for him. She and her family continue to navigate the deep waters of getting the best care for him, as they watch their lifetime savings dwindle with the high cost of care. Several of the women are widowssome for several years already; some newly widowed and walking the journey of grief. Some of them know firsthand the sadness of losing a child to cancer, or walking the hard road of addiction with a grandchild. Life experience is both wonderful and painful. It all gets shared at that table. We laugh and cry together. We pray and eat together. Each of us walks away from the table deeply satisfied, nourished, and supported in body, mind and spirit. Once again, in the Spirit of Christian community, we have experienced Holy Communion.
Donna Vande Kieft, is the Chaplain at Providence Hospice of Snohomish County. For more information you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.