Thursday, 30 March 2017


One Clergy, One me... IWD 2017

Woman of Heart, Light of My Soul
Light is my Grace, My Gift and my Joy
Listen to me, beyond the far seas
Joy is my heart, it’s gift sets you free.

In this month we’ve moved into Spring, that time of renewal, new shoots and of clearing out the last of winter. I’m struck yet again by the lives of the many women whose conversations and stories are the foundation of my current writing (Women of Wit, Wisdom & Wonder: Women Who Inspire).

The theme of constant renewal, ‘re-membering’, and re-imagining the sense of identity that goes deeper and more far reaching than name; family; community; role (personal or professional); religion; nationality is powerful for me right now - personally and globally.

This was further fired by a talk and Poetry Salon with David Whyte (@PoetDavidWhyte), which deeply stirred these explorations. And given an additional edge as, whilst I wrote this, the UK triggered Article 50 signalling the negotiations for our exit from the European Community.

These reflections connect me to sitting by the Raj Ghat, the site of Gandhi’s cremation in India and on another occasion sitting in Johannesburg, South Africa, in conversation with Ela, his granddaughter. Those experiences had me question much that we call ‘identity’. Gandhi gave up so much; Ela lost so much (eg her son shot and killed in her home in front of her eyes – after the transition away from Apartheid had been agreed).

And Janet, a white activist (aka Terrorist), now one of South Africa’s Human Rights Commissioners lived in exile – a price on her head, her picture in papers headlined ‘armed and dangerous’ which was a metaphor ‘shoot to kill’ if seen.

I have met women branded terrorist, or labelled so many other things. I recently sat in conversation about motherhood and mothering. Knowing I am not a mother, will never be a grandmother, was not mothered by my mother I reflect, in our identity-led conversations, how do we navigate; how do others navigate when they do not own or experience the labels applied…

How and what do we ‘bring to the table…’

A memory surfaced – In 2011, in Brussels to run a workshop my room was burgled in the night, with me in it, asleep - Computer, video recorder, iPad, Passport, money all taken. My phone, charging in an unseen corner escaped! Turning up at the Office servicing British people (no Consulate there) I had to hand over even that before I could go in. I stood, giving my details to the person behind the screen who, typing them in said ‘No record’. I didn’t exist.
In that moment I did not know my identity. I didn’t exist, yet there I was, flesh and blood… two minutes of shock. It was a typing error!!!

Yet numerous women I’ve met lived without what we name as identity as a way of finding their (literal) survival. What they all managed to sustain was what I’ve met as a sheer joy and exuberance in and of womanhood. indeed i come think it’s those (very) difficulties that lead time and again to defiance and collaboration; that inspire us to work together to change the world and shape it in our image for a change from ‘how things are’ to something more - equal, just, creative, connected.....

Such collaboration (and at times denial of identity) was found in The Suffragettes – who sang ‘Laugh in defiance…’ (Ethel Smyth 1911); is found the energy that we’ve seen in the Women’s Marches and songs (‘I won’t be Quiet) around the world this year – forging new identities with and through an essence being that is joy, determination, collaboration.

So, for me March has proven quite a month. What have been your highlights?
As it ends I’m finding myself reflecting on:
  • Household disruption (carpets lifted; floors painted; tiles removed and new ones laid). A very local ‘digging into the foundations of me’. Building my nest, discovering the nest in me.
  • A visit from ‘hop along friend’ Martha with crutches and boot because of a torn Achilles Tendon.
  • International Women’s Day. My last organising the Emily Inspires! Service in Morpeth. Celebration, challenge; extraordinary contributions from young people, led by no fewer than FOUR women Clergy - and me! Including #BishopChristine (Second Woman Bishop in the House of Lords) . Huge satisfaction and gratitude.
  • Being stunned and delighted at inclusion on an ‘Inspiring Woman Speakers’ list by Stephen Waddington (Partner/ Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum PR; Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University) 
  • Reconnection, reflection and much laughter with friends old and new in the SW of the UK (my home for 16 years)

+Bishop Christine 'Yes, YOU can..

And, I’m curious, what have you been reading?
Books that have inspired me this month:

  • Harriet Harman: A Woman’s Work (written because she realised Men’s Memoirs were ignoring women’s work over the last sixty years… women being written out of history
  • Harry’s Last Stand (Harry Leslie Smith) – for purpose. Just read WHY we have an NHS, had Council Housing and moved towards Universal Education
  • No less than three Val McDermid! Wonderful different engagement
Next I’m starting on:
  • Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)… For why – read the interview in Observer 27th March 2017


  1. What a lovely month of varied experiences and reflections! In our culture we put so much emphasis on the identity that we carry with us in the world - our id's, business cards, websites and the like, as well as how and who others identify us as. What I've come to is the importance of being clear about our self-identification -- who am I? what do I believe? how do I live in alignment with that? A full time job I think.

    Thanks for sharing yourself here and in the world.


  2. Hi Cindy - well you showed up here with your name, not 'unknown'. I think there is great blessing in being (remember how e called it) 1950s-er... The span of life now a rich source of continuing enquiry and exploration which indeed feels like a full time job!

    Thank you for engaging