When I was a teenager, I remember writing in my diary “I would rather believe in the Care Bears than believe in God”. Even though I can say now that I’ve found my own connection to God, I still share part of that sentiment with a 15-year-old angst-ridden young adult. God seemed to be all rules, regulations and control. The Care Bears had love, cloud-slides and fun.
Anyway, I digress. People around me in work or life in general know about my faith. I’m criticized mostly – usually by those making the judgment that if I’m a “Christian” I must either be a) deluded and stupid or b) in the category of fuddy-duddy-ness, perverted Catholic peodophiles, out-of-touchedness and graveyards. It’s difficult to explain it has nothing to do with a cold, stone building or the horror stories of control through religion. I don’t belong to a church, I don’t read my Bible every day, I wear skirts above the knee and I live in sin with my partner. And I drink alcohol occassionally. Yet despite their judgments, I also get a quiet searching question over a break-time cup of tea, “What do you think about abortion?” or “Do you think prayer really does do anything?”
Sally Hitchiner dyes her hair. She wears pencil skirts and high heels. She posed in this magazine article I was reading in (surely not a real?) leather jacket. She was actually wearing lipstick. I’ve never read an article by a priest using the words “Topshop” and “dog-collar” in the same paragraph. At least, not in that way. She seems like a real, live, 2012 young woman who is passionate about her job, as a chaplain at Brunel University and inter-faith advisor.
And she’s gotten flack for it. Someone wrote on their blog something to the effect of, “No wonder the Church of England don’t want women bishops – look at her!” Shortly afterwards came the comment, “You wouldn’t see a policewoman accessorize her uniform like this!”
On Sally’s blog, three years ago now, she wrote these thought-provoking words:
If we are to be Christlike in our evangelism there must be a sense of coming to people on their level, on their turf, in their language, rather than expecting them to come to us. It seems we read the command at the end of Matthew of “Go!”, and translate it “Get them to come!”. We put on meetings in church buildings and set up speakers on platforms with booming microphones. While I really don’t think this is wrong in and of itself (I’m part of this system and regularly participate in it) – part of me thinks there has to be a value of something more than this… In this time of change especially , we need an evangelism that listens more than it speaks, an evangelism that isn’t afraid to give other views a voice, a deeply secure evangelism that is always prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in us (implying that these opportunities are found more in the unpredictability of everyday life than in evangelistic services in churches).
Whether you have Christian connections or not, or whether you have faith or not, I hope this quirky, passionate, imperfect woman can remind us that even if some crumbling old institution such of the Church of England want women bishops or not, what really matters is if those who profess to have faith have sincerity, passion and true love for their fellow humankind. Whether or not they wear lipstick.