Reflections on UnitingWomen 2018 by Jenny Prior
I started a new hobby this year. It happened quite spontaneously. Wandering along market stalls, I paused to watch a lady weaving a string bag with plant fibres.
“Would you like to make a string bag?” she asked. “We will be making these at our next workshop. Leave your email and I will send you the details.”
I joined the Riverbank Basketmakers. One Saturday a month, I sit in the company of other creative women and listen, talk and weave.
There was another pull of excitement when I read about the UnitingWomen 2018: Weaving Wisdom and Wonder conference. It was 2000 kilometres away, but bursaries were available from the South Australia Synod to help women travel to Brisbane.
I see God in the connecting of the strands of my life. Here was weaving present again.
There were lots of vibrant experienced women at the conference. Being in a room of Christian wise women was very enriching. The conversations flowed easily. Connections grew out of shared experiences and friends in common.
Our final keynote speaker, Brooke Prentis, is a young Waka Waka woman full of wisdom about the interconnections of her culture, her faith and her hopes for the future being woven together in a new tapestry over this ancient land.
As the time for communion drew near, we were asked to write on strips of cloth. “Who are the women that have shared wisdom with you?” Heads bent and women reflected. Women wrote. Then we were invited to weave. Our beautiful communion cloth was steeped in the tradition of storytelling. Stories told, wisdom shared, women connecting in the shared love of the Great Parable Teller.
I was asked to serve communion on the last morning of the conference. This surprise blessing was a humbling and affirming experience. I was worthy of publicly bringing the words of Jesus, “Remember me”, to his precious daughters.
I thought back to the words of Eloise Wellings, an Olympic runner, who spoke on our first morning about her battle with anorexia. “God told me, I am worthy of being nourished”. He gave her the affirmation of Romans 8:28 and she ran with renewed spirit to form ‘Cents for Seeds’ to fund seed loans for impoverished Ugandan women.
I am blessed to work in the beautiful Coorong region of South Australia. Here my many-cultured kindergarten students are growing up wise in the wisdom of Ngarrindjeri elders who share their creation stories, create mosaic murals, sing and teach the children how to weave rushes into mats and keyrings.
We learn words in four languages and acceptance and friendship along the way. Here I have been nourished in Indigenous ways of being. Sadly, my contract approaches its end and I must look for a new workplace.
Kate Fraser’s words about Mary confronting her grief in the garden linger with me.
“Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me (John 20:17). Mary, let me go, and accept the grief of our parting’.”
Mary chose to walk out of her own woundedness and to speak hope into the wounds of the world.
Brooke spoke of listening with our whole body—the ancient Aboriginal practice of dadirri, to feel the presence of the Great Creator.
I am open to the Creator God weaving new strands in my life. I know he calls me to be creative and to serve and encourage others. And I know he has a plan and a place for this to happen.