Meditation 5

Meditation 5: Dr Mavis Rose:

( former coordinator of the Brisbane Branch of the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW)).

Biographical Born in Bray, Ireland, in 1927.  I was an active member of the Church of Ireland.  I first arrived in Australia in 1952 to visit my sister in Melbourne.  Met and married Calvin Rose.  Following our marriage, we spent over nine years in Kampala, Uganda, where Calvin was on the staff of Makerere College, then the University of East Africa in special relationship with the University of London.  Three of our four daughters were born in Kampala.            In 1963, we returned to Australia, living in Canberra, where Calvin worked in CSIRO. Our parish of St. Philip’s, O’Connor, was quite progressive.    I became the leader of the Family Life Group (the young wives’ group) for several years.   I also ran a Brownie Pack.            In 1973, Calvin was appointed Foundation Dean in Australian Environmental Studies at the newly established Griffith University in Brisbane.  This changed my life dramatically as, with a university on my doorstep, I decided to enrol in Modern Asian Studies, going through from undergraduate level to researching an M. Phil. on the biography of an Indonesian nationalist leader, Mohammad Hatta, tutoring in Indonesian Language along the way.

            During this period in Brisbane, we were parishioners at St. Barnabas, Sunnybank and then at St. John’s, Upper Mount Gravatt.  In 1984, I was invited by a fellow parishioner, Gwen Roberts, to attend a weekend conference in Clayfield, led by Monica Furlong, a BBC religious broadcaster, also the Moderator of the Church of England MOW.

            That Conference gave me a new perspective on the role of women in the church.  I became a foundation member of the Brisbane branch of MOW when it formed in 1984.To strengthen my religious knowledge, I studied for a Ph.D in Religious Studies at the University of Queensland.  My thesis was a history of Australian Anglican Women, mainly from the late 19th Century until 1992, looking at their response to the feminist stirrings in church and society generally during that period.  I had to sit in on many courses along the way, including Church History, Greek and Gospel Records.  It helped me to understand the factors which led to the subordination of churchwomen.   When I finished my thesis, I was invited to become a member of the Anglican General Synod History Seminar Group.  I published a book based on my thesis entitled Freedom from Sanctified Sexism:  Women Transforming the Church.

Suggested Music “Song of the Heights” from CD Seeds of Wild Honey: “Walking in the Wilderness.” (Produced for 3rd National Gathering on Women in the Uniting Church in Australia, Brisbane, 1996)
Bible reading

1 Corinthians 1:  26-30 (adapted).

For consider your call, sisters; not many of you were wise according to worldly [patriarchal] standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are;  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Exercise for relaxation and focus. Slowly take a long deep breath, filling your lungs and feeling them expand to your diaphragm. Let the air flow out gently. Repeat this at least twice. Now relax your whole body, starting with your head. Feel a warm gentle wave pass down into your neck and shoulders.  Slowly breathe in and out.  Let the gentle wave continue down your back, chest, arms, abdomen, legs and feet.  Again breathe in and out, in and out.

Now allow your mind to transport you to a place which for you is special, and which for you has an aura of wonder and holiness.   Remember your serenity and joy when being in this special place.  Think of the natural features which make it so calming.  Allow a gentle wave of happiness and relaxation engulf you, removing any stress or tensions which linger. 


Take another long deep breath, letting the air flow out gently, and repeat this until you feel you are at peace.   Peace flows like a river.  It can flow out abundantly from those who let God into  their lives, providing fresh strength and renewal.  Imagine that your peace and joy is flowing out, empowering others you encounter along the way.   Feel light enough to soar up into the breeze and be carried along by it.


Repeat this Taize mantra as many times as you like, or not at all if it doesn’t gel with you:


“A river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings”


Personal story Until I became a member of MOW, I was a fairly conventional parishioner, involved in the activities expected of women – Sunday School teaching, running stalls at fetes, cooking, etc.- without rocking the boat.  Perhaps the biggest upheaval in my church life in Canberra occurred when the Rector introduced us to John Robinson’s book Honest to God. I remember it left me feeling slightly stunned at first but then I began to appreciate having read it because it broadened my perspective and I believe strengthened my faith.When I started university in 1975, my horizons expanded rapidly and I found myself in an environment where Christianity was not accepted uncritically, which was beneficial, for it forced me to think more deeply about my personal beliefs.  The Rector at St. John’s, Upper Mount Gravatt, Dr. Ray Barraclough, was very progressive.  Calvin and I later worked more closely with him through the Student Christian Movement.  Unfortunately for our parish, he was appointed Chaplain at the University of Queensland and was succeeded by a rather narrowly focussed clergyperson.            That first conference in 1984 led by Monica Furlong certainly changed my life.  As I watched about fifteen women tell of their call to priesthood, one of them being the Deaconess House trained assistant in my parish, who I knew was worthy of ordination as she’d run our parish for several months before the new rector arrived, it dawned on me that the only reason these women were rejected was their gender.  This was unholy sexual discrimination, because Jesus had invited women into his ministry.   I knew by the end of the Conference that this issue was important, that God wanted me to help women to be ordained, because this was a justice issue.  I didn’t feel any personal call to priesthood.

Being a member and leader of MOW could be nerve-wracking at times.  I was shocked at how my status in the Church generally plummeted. It could be difficult worshipping in a parish in a state of disapproval.  Fortunately, being a marginalized Anglican brought with it a wonderful feeling of closeness to Jesus, who also faced the displeasure of his religious leaders when he challenged them on justice issues.  MOW members met for worship every month, using our own liturgies, so the spiritual side of our struggle was not ignored.   Many clergy supported us, and let us have meetings on their patch.

MOW had an inspiring national leader in Dr. Patricia Brennan, who was a joy to work with and who kept us moving forward.  We held a National Conference every year for both discussion and workshops.   Our worship was led by overseas women priests, among them our own Australian Rev. Alison Cheek.  We also had spontaneous concerts, full of laughter and innovation.  The climax came in December 1992, when we gathered at St. John’s Cathedral for Brisbane’s first ordination of women to priesthood.

I have learned that we must keep reminding ourselves that the history of theology and of bible studies, which governed Christian formation and liturgy, was created by men within a predominantly male ecclesiological and academic context.  Women must continue to work towards gender balance in these important areas.

Silence 5 minutes
Guided reflection (1)     Do you relate to this account of being a Christian person who moves from the conventional to a “broadened perspective”?(2)   Have you experienced a parish/place of worship or work “in a state of disapproval”? What was your response to this?(3)   Reflect on whether you have felt nurtured by special liturgies designed to support and develop women’s spirituality.

(4)   What place have friendship and companionship played in your attempt to fulfil your own special vocation from God?

Music Repeat: “Song of the Heights” from CD Seeds of Wild Honey: “Walking in the Wilderness.” (Produced for 3rd National Gathering on Women in the Uniting Church in Australia, Brisbane, 1996)

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