by Julie Hoke, pastor of Circle of Hope in Germantown
I know people who don’t believe I should be a pastor based on my gender. I had to dig into scripture (and sift through patriarchal interpretations) to see all the Biblical evidence for women to lead. Women in the Bible have been historically marginalized, particularly because of gender, through social norms, systemic oppression, and sometimes even authors and editors of the Bible. I had years of influence to sift through!
This summer our congregation that meets in Germantown has been lifting up some of these women in the Bible – elevating their voices, presence, and stories of faith to help us see and know God (and ourselves) more fully. God has revealed Godself through women throughout the ages, even, and especially in spite of, the ways society and history has marginalized them.
Hearing from different folks in the congregation has been an added bonus in this process. Passing the mic to different speakers each week has brought forth various perspectives that help to expose layers of patriarchy that cloud our understanding of God and the way God relates to humanity, and women specifically. People have told me that these conversations have sparked hope, curiosity and healing in surprising ways.
Pictured: Sarah Getz, Iboro Umana with Julie Hoke, and Corinne Bergmann, just a few of the speakers this summer.
One Sunday, Corinne led us to consider the Samaritan woman at the well, whose story is recorded in John 4. This woman has often been portrayed as immoral based on speculation about Jesus’ exchange with her regarding her marital status. She is often seen as an outcast, coming alone to the well during the heat of the day. But without the patriarchal lens that has so often colored the narrative about her, the details of this story look very different! We can see her more fully, as Jesus did, which opens up our understanding of who Jesus is and what he is doing when he chooses her, reveals himself to her, and uses her influence in her community to spread the good news. (If you want to hear more, you can listen to the talk here.)
All this to say, if patriarchal forces have sidelined and oppressed you, if your story has been misinterpreted, if your faith or calling has been questioned, know that Jesus doesn’t miss you. He knows your story and comes to meet you. You are loved. Your body, your gender, your identity is not a liability. You are not condemned by the hardships you have experienced. Jesus sees you in your fullness and your story matters. You may be the one whose story calls others to hope and believe. You are a worthy partner for the mission. Don’t let the patriarchy convince you otherwise.