Recently I led a women’s spirituality retreat. What spurred me on to do that was twofold: an abiding interest in women and their ‘being’ and a memory/ recognition that surprised me.



Caroline S Coggins – Chair of Parish Pastoral Council

I saw a purchase I had made a few years ago when searching my bookshelves, ‘How women pray’. I recognised the  book because it’s author was someone I had since come to admire. Her poems had moved me, and helped me to find a new freedom. She had this affect on other women who I had worked with in their spiritual lives.

But I had not opened it, it was to be a present for some other woman, not me.  I, in my mind, was not to be categorised with ‘women’ well not ‘normal or ordinary’ women anyway!

I think many women in my world might think the same, that they are ‘fine’.

A friend of mine wrote for International Women’s Day about dreaming/imagining our place in the greatness of things.  That’s an arresting thought, the idea of being great. Perhaps the idea flashes across our minds of being famous, wealthy, or respected. But knowing this woman I imagine she’s actually speaking of an interiority that enables greatness to happen.

But what is this’ greatness’? I would call it freedom, vision beyond the constraints, beyond opposition, into the clear space where women can see and imagine wholeness. Because there is not wholeness now, in whatever world we inhabit, our view is blocked, it is culturally affected, and often internally shy.

There is an image that Doris Lessing uses in her book. ‘Marriages between Zones Three, Four and Five’. It is of women of Zone Four who aspire having heavy chains placed around their necks so they cannot lift up their heads, they cannot lift their eyes to the mountains of the much freer and equal Zone Three. They cannot aspire to the higher planes internally, never mind what happens on the outside.  They live in a prison.

Our eyes must lift. Often it feels that we must wait to be given this right by an outside authority.

Women are blessed with a different frequency, bodies that are particularly seasonal, language that may be circular and a desire for inclusivity. Often we are hearth/ fire keepers, soul nourishers, sojourners and pilgrims into what is not so easily seen or spoken about, not always moving in straight lines or even outcome focused. We are makers of the fabric, creating the texture.

For all women, then, let us dream of greatness, giving support to each other, fabric makers, weavers of the weft and warp, not oppositional but centred. Aware that our gifts and opportunities are to be shared, they are never just for ourselves. It is about the dignity and joy of being given and giving life.

Caroline Coggins

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