Women’s Work


I sat at my dining room table this summer running massive amounts of thick grey fabric through the sewing machine. I thought of my mother and my grandmother before me. I remembered the work they had done for their churches on their sewing machines as their children and grandchildren looked on. Well, maybe less “looked on,” maybe more like interrupted them with countless demands for drinks, and entertainment, and refereeing of childhood squabbles.

I sat at my sewing machine because my church was being updated. The pews were being painted white and the rust orange pew cushions needed updating, too. But while we had the will, the little church I pastor didn’t have the finances to pay a professional to re-cover the pews. So my sister and I loaded down my minivan with cushions and got to work at my dining room table, just as we had seen our mother and grandmother do.

The church has always needed women’s work. In any church of any size that is working you will find the women quietly doing that work. There are meals to be made, people to be fed, floors to be swept, Christmas pageants to be organized, work to be done behind the scenes and on the edges and the women are doing it.

Wasn’t Lydia the first woman on the edge? As a woman working with purple cloth, Lydia financially supported the church despite the fact that her society did not value the gifts of women. The church did, and she found her space in the church.

My grandmother, too, found her place in the church. She organized the Yankee Peddler Fair and made literally thousands of Raggedy Anne dolls and apple pies to sell to the community. She saved dolls to give to her grandchildren, and they sit proudly in my daughter’s room. Her degree in home economics was used mightily in her church.

But even in the church where the work was used and valued, the work of women was relegated to the edges, to the kitchen and the sewing, to the feeding of the flock. If you don’t attend to the edges, the article you are working on isn’t complete. It is the women that have always attended to the edges of the banners, and the cushions, and the community that calls itself the church.

Jesus has never wanted women just at the edges. God chose to birth His only son into this world through one of us–a woman–and to reveal his resurrection to this world first to a woman. We are still working toward this goal as a body.

In February I was given a church to pastor. I am doing it faithfully to the best of my ability, and I preach almost every week up in that pulpit. And sometimes when I come home from church, I get behind my sewing machine and finish up a pew cushion cover, because all of it is women’s work, and all of it is holy.