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The PC(USA) celebrates the gifts of women

Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries has resources to help faith communities celebrate

by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Anita Wright

Nothing says “sisterhood” or calms nerves better than finding your favorite shade of red lipstick right before a Zoom interview and seeing your interviewee wearing almost the same shade of red lipstick. That familiar feeling is a gift in and of itself.  The Rev. Dr. Anita Wright, who serves Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey, was selected to be the liturgy writer and preacher for this year’s Celebrate the Gifts of Women.  On Sunday, March 3, churches can share these gifts and use the resources provided by the office of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries.

Wright believes that when we center women and their gifts, we are recognizing that women have always been present in religious life and in the life of the church. For millennia, women have been unnamed and marginalized, often set to the side. In this honoring of the contributions of women, everyone wins, and God gets the glory, Wright says.

Wright chose Proverbs 31:10-31 to help illuminate this year’s theme, Wonder Woman: Real or Myth?because of her own lived experience of believing this Proverbs 31 woman was unattainable. Wright said, “I wanted to approach this text as a way of reclaiming her, of reclaiming what’s there. I mean, if it made it into the canon, then let’s deal with it — good, bad, or indifferent.”

Asked to describe what a wonder woman looks like, Wright walked through two scriptural passages, Numbers 27:1-11, the account of the daughters of Zelophehad, and Proverbs 31:10-31, both showing what can happen when women advocate for themselves and others.

Today’s wonder woman is an advocate, Wright says. She uses her resources and means to help the poor and needy. The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman of wealth and resources who uses that power in the marketplace. The daughters of Zelophehad collaborated, advocated for themselves, and helped create policies that uplifted generations after them.  If we are going to be the wonder women of today, Wright says, “you’re going to recognize us.”

How do churches and congregations celebrate the gifts of women beyond one Sunday service?  Wright says it is imperative to address pay equity. According to a 2020 survey by Church Executive, the pay gap between male and female pastors is as high as $12,000 annually. Data shows that salaries for female clergy start at lower levels than men and the disparity is consistent over time.  Addressing pay equity is the first step to celebrating the gifts of women, according to Wright.

Wright further states that “instead of speaking over, take the time to stop and listen. Name the names of those who have paved the way, who have long since been unnamed. We can go back several generations to get [their names and stories] and celebrate them. And then teach them to others so that they understand as well.”

Wright cites 2 Timothy 2:2: “and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.”

“Once we’ve known better, I think the church can help us by changing or teaching a new way of going and being so that we don’t find ourselves in a situation again,” Wright said.

Wright will be preaching at the Chapel service for the PC(USA)’s national staff on Wednesday, March 6.  The service will be made available on the PC(USA) YouTube channel.

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