Sunday, 6 March 2011

Women of Chile

As you may have realised if you read this blog regularly, I am not a great fan of single sex organizations or activities. Men and women doing things together usually makes for a more balanced approach to life. However, I must say that this year's Women's World Day of Prayer service was one of the best I've ever attended. The one I went to was at West Witton and was extremely well organised and beautifully presented by Gillian Vyner and some of the women from the Penhill benefice. It was a lovely early spring afternoon as I drove up Wensleydale and the small church in the heart of the village was pretty full. The service had been prepared by women from Chile which seemed particularly apt as we remembered the amazing rescue of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground earlier last year. Their plight had reminded me of my childhood in South Wales when mining disasters were relatively common and we were often glued to our radios and TVs praying and hoping for men to emerge from mines where some disaster had struck. One of my most vivid memories is coming home to find my mother sitting at the kitchen table in tears on the day of the Aberfan disaster.

According to Chilean folklore, when God craeted the world, He found, left over, a little of each element He had used; fire and cold, sun and snow, lakes, rivers and seas, burning deserts, massive mountain ranges, majestic volcanoes, leafy trees, metals, animals, birds, fish and fruits. Taking it all in His hand, He deposited it at the farthest corner of the earth and so Chile was born, a long, narrow strip of infinitely varied land, running for 2,640 miles between the sea and the mountains from Peru to Antarctica.

The service told the story of the women of Chile from the beginnings of the present nation in 1810. The theme was that, in a country of great contrasts of wealth, survival had been possible for the poorest because of the simple willingness of the women to share all they had with one another. 'How many loaves have you?' In a really imaginative liturgy, we heard the story of several Chilean communities and meditated on three readings.

Deutronomy 8.7-10 - gratitiude to the Lord who has given the people a wonderful land, full of natural resources.
1 Kings 17.8-16 - the story of the widow who shares her last meal with Elijah. God blesses the act of sharing and supplies her, her son and the prophet with enough oil and meal to see them through the famine.
Mark 6.30-44 Jesus feeds the five thousand because a few are willing to give up their fishes and loaves.

We meditated on the 'thin places' where the kingdom of God and the ways of this world come close together through the act of one person sharing what they have with another person. What can we share that we thought we could not? 

The picture above is an embroidery by a 78 year old Chilean woman, Norma Ulloa, who started embroidering by using the cloth of flour bags and home spun wool. Eventually her school of embroidery exhibited world wide in places such as Bonn and Nottingham. Norma and her embroiderers did not seek inspiration from commercial art but only from things they saw in their daily lives. She educated five children and a grandchild on the earnings from her embroidery. 

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