We find ourselves in extremely strange times. I hope that this letter finds you all well and able to sustain yourselves and those you love in good health and good spirits during this time of trial. Our perspective on life and what matters has been so disrupted by COVID-19 that many things can seem trivial in the light of simply getting by. Like other organisations the executive of WATCH are learning to hold meetings online and giving thanks for new technologies that we are just about getting to grips with.
We are fortunate as a charity whose work is not time sensitive so we can simply continue to work on our projects championing the issues that matter to women in the Church of England.
Church of England Family Friendly Policy
Over many years we have worked through the Transformations group to get a national policy around Maternity Leave and other family friendly practices. The status quo has been that these are diocesan matters for each diocese to manage. This has led to a lack of clarity for those in ministry and those exploring ordination. It has also meant some gaps for women in training or moving between jobs and diocese when pregnant.
We are delighted that the tenacity in insisting that this was an issue which the Church of England needed to do better has now paid off.
We are particularly pleased to see the recognition that becoming a mother may enrich people’s ministry rather than seeing motherhood as a problem.
Harassment and Bullying
In Transformations one of our focuses now is to push for a coherent national harassment and bullying policy for the Church of England that improves on the 2008 Dignity at Work. For Outlook, Cath Williamson is researching different diocesan policies in the hope that we can commend good practice.
However, policies are only good if they are usable. We are interested to know if any diocese has Harassment offices who have been trained to support those who have concerns. If you have any examples of good practice do please let us know.
Susy Brouard is conducting in a research project on the role of Deans of Women’s Ministry which will be completed in the next few months.
Lizzie Taylor is researching the Transparency of Conservative Evangelical Churches in their stance on women’s ministry. This has particular concerns for churches with large student focused ministry.
A liturgy writing day was hosted in Oxford in February back in the days when we could travel. It was a lovely day and some very creative liturgy was written around the theme of Holy Week. We hope to hold more days around the country when gathering is allowed again.
The Five Guiding Principles
The Church of England Working group reflecting on the 5 GP’s of which I am a member has presented a paper to the House of Bishops which we had assumed would come to the July Synod.
Members of the WATCH committee are working on a booklet that will help those reflecting on the principles and how we live in a church where they are to be maintained.
In these strange times we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. I have been reflecting a lot recently on the women standing at a distance from the cross. We are all having to think more about social distancing. We are distancing ourselves for positive reasons at the moment but so often women have been distanced because they are deemed not to belong in the action.
The Women at a distance
Women have often found themselves at a distance,
far from the action of men,
kept away for their safety,
Or simply not deemed important enough to be there,
Here at a distance they are marginalized.
Silent, they seem to have no part to play
and yet there they are.
Watching, waiting, praying, weeping.
Were they near enough to be seen from the cross?
Close enough to see the suffering?
Was their act of solidarity registered; did it help?
We honour their act of witness
As we honour the watching weeping witness of women down the ages
distanced from the action
watching their loved one’s suffering
Powerless to help.
We remember that these women went early in the morning to the tomb and were the first witnesses of the resurrection. May we find hope in the resurrection however or wherever we celebrate this Easter. For Christ died and rose again for us and for all people.
Blessings to you all
Chair of WATCH.