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How far does being a woman define how we work and how we exercise leadership? Do you think of yourself as a woman accountant/solicitor/manager? These are two of the questions pondered at our City Women lunchtime event led by Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, Bishop of Aston and hosted by St Philips Chambers.

Bishop Anne recognised that being labelled as a “woman bishop” could constrain her to a role someone else wanted to place on her: she is keen, instead, to leave space to discover what kind of woman and what kind of bishop she is becoming.

She resists the way image can be narrowly dictated in a stereotypical way and she expressed her disappointment with BBC news coverage of the announcement of the appointment of Libby Lane as the Bishop of Stockport, the first woman bishop to be appointed in the Church of England. The news report started with a close of up the bishop’s ankles and high-heeled shoes, before panning up her legs and finally reaching her face!

As well as exploring image, Bishop Anne also highlighted the importance of role models. She explored our perceptions of God, given that men and women are all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). In reflecting God’s image, we are affirming our capacity to create, to think, to know right and wrong, to love, to form relationships – affirming qualities that go deeper than being either male or female.

We may want to reclaim the female and feminine images of God from the Bible – like a mother comforting her child at her breast, or a mother hen gathering her chicks, or a woman searching for her lost coin. As we do so, we may find that we grow in confidence in who we are as people, fully and equally made in God’s image, with all the beauty and potential that entails.

Bishop Anne finished by sharing some words from Marianne Williamson on “Freedom from Fear”:

 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves,

Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won’t notice you.

We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

If you would like to discuss any other this further, please do get in touch with our City Women Leader Sarah Thorpe and arrange to meet for coffee: sarah.thorpe@chaplaincyplus.org.uk