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Patience (almost three years old) loves the kitchen. She has a play kitchen of her own, and we have bought child-sized real pots and pans and utensils for her. She loves to make raisin soup (six raisins in her little stockpot, stirred with a wee wooden spoon) which often as not gets fed to the dogs. But there is nothing as wonderful to her as real cooking, at the kitchen countertop, with real bread dough. She has a little rolling pin, and she rolls with great intent and concentration.

making her own pizza

When she knows that she will be participating in the kitchen project, she runs to the closet for her apron, gets her rolling pin and pushes a chair over to the counter. “Me cook!” she announces. “My cooking!”

But last time she got involved she wanted to run the show, and slapped at my hand when I reached for “her” mixing bowl. She was plucked from the chair, levitated into the living room, and set down in the time-out chair in the wink of an eye. She was then shut out of the kitchen. Her Nana came to see what happened, and found her, flour-covered and contrite, murmuring sadly, “Sorry, Dodie,” over and over. She was then restored through the intercession of a grandmother, gave a tearful and hopeful “Sorry, Dodie,” in person, and happily went back to work with no more temper. (“Dodie” is now her name for me. I used to be “Jii” rhymes with “Wii” but I like “Dodie” better.)

She will sweep with a broom twice her size with great vigour and little effect, will take a cloth and polish the furniture, and loves to wash her play dishes in the canning kettle.

a woman's work is never done

Housework is the work she sees day to day, and she takes to it enthusiastically. She is at the imitative stage of intellectual growth, so it is time to encourage this, and teach her not just how things are done, but that they are in fact fun and rewarding.

I see no reason for women (or men, for that matter) to treat housework and homecare as something distasteful. It is necessary and a clean, safe, beautiful home is a haven for the family. God intends nature to be self-renewing; in the natural cycle of life, things go gently into the soil as they decay; winds blow away the dead leaves and keep the air fresh; micro-organisms break down that which is harmful and then make it elemental. Humanity has made great strides in destroying the natural cycles, and the planet is not as God intended. But if you have ever been in a wonderful old-growth forest, or on a clean, untouched beach, or climbed a high mountain well above civilzation, you know what I mean. It is clean and sweet and pure, as God intended.

Our homes should imitate that purity. We can’t live on a forest floor, and we need to sweep and wash to keep our manmade floors clean, but God intends us to live in cleanliness and order. We live in an ordered universe. Even what seems random to us has been millenia in the making.

If we teach our children that housework, cooking and homecare are drudgery and demeaning, they won’t want to do it. They won’t want to participate in the natural order. We divorce them from nature by sending them to regimented schools, by dressing them in artificial fibres, by entertaining them with television, electronic games and shopping malls. We treat them to polluting and energy-consuming amusement parks, where adrenlin and constant novelty are stimulated. They don’t learn the satisfaction of a job well done, the quiet assurance that they are doing the best they can to care for others, and the joy of living in God’s creation. They are instead subjected to adrenal rushes, screams, flashing lights and overheated, overstimulated crowds.

I don’t want to be a prophet just identifying the problem; I am proposing solutions. Teach your children well. Teach them the benefits of natural living. Grow a garden, bake your own bread. Get off the worldly treadmill.

Don’t disparage the work you do, whether it is in the home or elsewhere. Be of good cheer about what you do. If you have a job that is soul-destroying, it may be time to move on to something else, even if it means cutting back on your  “lifestyle.” Get some education in a field you love. Don’t complain and have a morose attitude. Do what you do well, and set a good example.

Complaining less is one of my goals. My dissatisfactions weigh down those around me.  That doesn’t mean I have to take a passive attitude, it just means that if something isn’t going well, I need to work to correct it, and if I can’t I probably need to shut up about it. I’m a bit of a complainer, and quite eloquent about what’s wrong – it ends up being counter productive, since my complaints, while relieving my anxiety and stress, just pass the burden to others.

Raise up a child in the way in which he should go; and do it by good example.

I received a question from a reader overseas today – what do you do about headcovering when you fly? I haven’t flown covered, since I haven’t been on a plan since 2005. It was enough hassle flying in a clergy collar and suit jacket. I was a bit concerned that I would have to remove not only my jacket and shoes, but my collar and studs. (I wore the white dog-collar, fastened on with two brass studs, fore and aft.) I made it through without completely disrobing. Now, I don’t know what I would do. My kapps are fastened with bobby pins or clippies, and if I am wearing a three-piece dress, the aprons are attached with safety pins. I expect that the airline security would confiscate my pins! So there I’d be, half-dressed.

Has anyone had any experience with this? She has thought about switching to a secular type cover for flying, but feels reluctant to give up this witness.

We’ve been publically Plain for more than four years now. It was a very easy step for us, but the consequences were great, and no one expected it of two middle-aged Anglican priests. My husband, Nicholas, had lived in southern Ontario for quite a while, and often encountered Amish and Old Order Mennonite as he travelled around the province in his work. He openly admired them, the simple, Christian way of life, the lack of materialism. He adopted some of that simplicity in his life, although it wasn’t that obvious. Anglican priests, for the most part, dress quite simply. Black is the colour. That’s about it. Black shirt with white collar insert to look like clergy, black jeans or trousers, a plain black jacket or sweater. Yes, I know Anglican clergy, male and female, who are veritable peacocks. (You know who you are.) Most of us, though, keep to the simple and narrow way – it’s easier and it hides the coffee stains, which are an occupational hazard.

I, on the other hand, had closets of clothes. My daily dress was basic black, with some grey for variety. Off-duty, once out of overalls and denim jackets (raising sheep limits one’s wardrobe, too) I had dresses of fanciful shape and hue, and shoes, shoes, shoes. I had designer clothes. Oh, yes, tasteful designer clothes in those timeless styles, but cashmere, expensive wool, silk. Poor Nicholas was more than a bit intimidated by my high style when we met. (I wore designer jeans, a silk blouse and a suede cowboy hat. He was wearing an ugly plaid shirt and khakis – it just screamed “priest out of uniform.”)

Once we were together, and I had winnowed the chaff from the grain, wardrobe-wise, I was motivated to go one step further. Nicholas gave me his copy of Scott Savage’s The Plain Reader. I was home at last. Within a few days, I was down to two dresses, a skirt and blouse, and boots. I kept my black wool coat and made my first prayer kapp, thanks to Shepherd’s Hill.

But why?

It wasn’t mere Amish-enthrallment, motivated by romantic novel covers. I had known Mennonites and liked them, and had felt a bit of a tug to get Plain, but didn’t follow through. Anglicans aren’t Plain, I reasoned. No one will understand, people will hate it, I will look silly.

So I put that impulse aside. Little did I realize at the time that the hounds of heaven were on my heels.

Nicholas and I talked it over. It was a new life for us. We were already rural people, living a very simple life. It seemed practical, but it seemed more than that. We were making a break from the worldly past, and we were eager to show it. In Plain dress, with kapp and sturdy boots, I felt armored for the battle. I was ready. I was under the shelter of the heavenly hand.

That was the fulfillment of my search. I once said, “If only we could go out into the world, and take the monastery with us!”  I meant that we need to carry peace and mercy with us, sheltered by God. We move in this world, but we are not of it. We live in His Kingdom, here on earth. We are not citizens of the world of commerce and trade, just sojourners eager to return Home.

I went through many permutations of Plain, from nearly monastic to what I wear now, a Quakerly cape dress or jumper and a white or black kapp, and a very Plain Mennonite bonnet. I have made myself a slat bonnet, and those who know me as the most Austere of Austere Plain will be surprised to hear that today I bought two print fabrics for summer dresses, by Nicholas’s advice.

Nicholas looks the same as he has for four years or more: black shoes or workboots, black or blue jeans, black braces, Plain cotton shirt in white, beige, blue or black. He does have one madder red shirt he calls “orange” and thinks way too flash. He wears a black felt hat in winter, a plain straw hat in summer, doesn’t cut his hair and wears a full beard. He was wearing the Brethren chin beard, but his low vision now prevents him from shaving properly, and his beard and mustache have filled in. His winter jacket is his old peacoat, which he has had for many, many years. He’s a handsome man and I am blessed to have him by my side.

That’s us, Plain.

Churches just don’t DO hospitality well. They may think they do, but they don’t. Yes, there is coffee hour, and the potluck, and all those fellowship opportunities, like Quilt Club, and Men for Christ, and Youth Group, but that isn’t hospitality either.

Hospitality is about caring, giving and healing. It isn’t friendly chat and shared coffeecake. It goes far beyond that, and right into sacrifice and humility.

What would Jesus Christ NOT do for you?

So go and do likewise. That is hospitality.

Hospitality is more than a handout. It isn’t the food bank, the soup kitchen or the homeless shelter. All of these are aspects of caring, but it isn’t what hospitality is about. It certainly isn’t hospitality when the providers go home each evening to a nice snug home with lots in the refrigerator, and plan their next ski vacation. There’s no sacrifice in that. That’s hospitality as a diversion, a bit of guilt-assuaging.

Could you give everything to Christ? Could you give everything to those in need, knowing that Christ told you to do so?  (Matthew 25:31-46). The poor will always be with us, first because we let them be poor, and second because in them we serve Him who we love.

Hospitality is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan had no obligation to the victim of the robbers; he nonetheless put himself in danger, gave healing medicines, provided for his housing and food, and came back to check on him.

So the question isn’t “What am I obliged to do here?”, but “How much can I help? What is needed?”

The church too often falls into asking just the first question.

Treat every guest as if he were Christ; treat every stranger as a guest. (For some thereby have entertained angels, Paul’s reference to Abraham and the three men who came from the desert.)

When  strangers enter your church, what do you do? Turn around, stare and check them out? Do you whisper, “Who are they? Does anyone know them?” Or does the usher show them a suitable place to sit, as honoured guests? Does anyone sit with them to guide them through the service and hymns? Are they greeted by many after the service, and invited to share refreshments, a meal at home, their story? Or do you leave that up to the greeters and the pastor?

Do you plan shared meals with the people who visit the food bank and the soup kitchen? If you do, is it condescending, or is it a genuine desire to get to know them, and they you? Would you invite them to church on Sunday, and greet them if they come?

Hospitality toward each other is also part of the Christian requirement. Pastors and priests often suffer from the neglect of their parishes and churches. They are given barely adequate housing that just meets the denominational standards, or a housing allowance too small to provide a good home.  The manse gets neglected, goes unpainted, isn’t refurbished but once every twenty years, and has appliances that were cast-offs from someone’s remodelling project. There isn’t family hospitality extended, and clergy and their families are often isolated in their own communities, ignored by their own parishioners. They don’t know who to call on if they are sick or have an emergency. They pay for services that most families give each other freely, such as babysitting, dogminding, or gardening.

I was blessed in a parish that treated me like a member of the family. My rectory was well-kept and very comfortable, even if small and unpretentious, which suited me. The parish members would cook for me, help with my animals, and welcomed me into their homes often. I so miss them! If I were to retire somewhere soon, that would be the place.

Our priest or pastor is an elder in our church family. It isn’t a healthy family that works against its own elders, or undermines their authority, or refuses to help them when in need. In a family we would call that dysfunctional. How we treat others says a lot about our relationship with Christ. Do we serve Him in others, or are we serving ourselves, and therefore never serving Him?

I don’t think we can expect young women (and some older ones) to suddenly decide that they are modest after all, just because they are getting married. “Raise them up in the way that they should go.”  And if we, their elders, have not given them much of an example (and I shake my head when I think of my past) then why do we demand it now? So, physician, heal thyself!

To me it is more than a matter of physical modesty; an expensive stylish outfit that shows no leg below the knee or doesn’t accentuate the bosom, paired with gold jewelry, a flattering haircut and a bit of colour to hide the grey, is still not saying to the world that a Christian woman is standing before them. Of course, the Plainest of Plain dresses, the severest of headcovering, and a sharp temper with a rough tongue doesn’t either. Modest, simple, headcovering dress and a meek temperment tell the world that thee is a Christian!

I know many will disagree with that, that they don’t think headcovering is required, that it is oppressive and outdated. I say it is back in date, even if it dropped out for a while. The world needs the Christian witness more than ever, and if we do not make that witness, if we are not living martyrs to the ways of the world, then we are not listening to what the world needs, which is the Way of Christ. We are called to be prophets of a different sort, living out our faith by example rather than words.

Nor is it enough to marry in a modest dress, live modestly and covered, and never give of our hearts. Marriage is more than the binding of two into one and the establishment of a household. It is also living out the mission of the little family church that you have become. Marriage is a mission to the world. It is a way to show how God loves us, how Jesus saves us. It is a place of extravagant hospitality in the humblest of settings.

This does not mean that the wedding reception has to be an extravagant waste of money and resources, the most expensive of everything in order to impress one’s friends. The party can be quite modest in budget, and simple in taste, while providing the guests with a wonderful time of food and fellowship.  It can be as simple as cheese, fruit and lemonade, a barbecue of burgers and sausage and salads, or a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and juice. The wedding cake should be good cake, and if it is homemade, all the better, without the over-the-top decorations of the expensive cakes we see on television. (Not that I don’t love seeing the artistic creations, but what used to be ordered only on the corporate level for huge business parties is now expected at little suburban weddings.)

That’s the beginning of family hospitality. I don’t believe in head tables, special wines for the wedding party, or the horrid habit of numbering the tables for the buffet line. Have two buffets set up or have waiters, or keep the meal so simple that there is not a backup at the buffet. The food should be well-prepared, and most multi-item buffets just don’t meet that standard. It used to be a custom in some places for the wedding attendants or the bride’s family to serve the tables, and special aprons were made by the bride for that purpose.

And that’s just the beginning. Christian hospitality is not about entertaining friends and family every Sunday, though.  It goes well beyond that. The new family – this little church – has a mission in the world, to serve the hungry, provide for the needy, to reach out and love as Christ has loved us.  Activity in outreach, the food bank, the soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, or raising money for and even serving in mission beyond our own walls is part of the Christian family life. We will have no trouble practicing modesty if that is the mission we fulfill, because we will have little time for mirror gazing and contemplation of our own desires.

Unless you’ve inherited a very old house with a very full attic, chances are you will not find really old dress patterns. women made their own, or their dressmaker kept them for them. Godey’s Lady Book was one source; and old (19th century patterns are difficult to follow, with no directions or even sizing.

Modern historic reenactors take old garments and make their own patterns, and some are available for sale online. If your goal is to find comfortable, simple clothing, you may have to choose carefully among the patterns. Soem can be maddeningly complex. If you’ve ever been involved in hsitoric societies, you also know that many people are quite fussy about the details, so don’t get caught up too much in authenticity if all you want is a wearable day dress.  It’s easy to do if you get mesmerized by the explanations about horna nd wood buttons, hooks and eyes, hemming, natural fabrics and prints, and accessories.

I, for one, have no use for a reticule or a parasol tassel. My practical everyday dress is, while modest and plain, is not accurate for any historic period bu ttoday. I remind myself of that when I get fascinated by authentic Civil War era ladies’ boots or bonnets. I live today, in the 21st century, and I allow myself zippers and elastic. Elastic is an excellent thing, or our drawers would have drawstrings, and you know what can happen if the knot comes loose.

While a bit on the upper end price-wise for patterns, “The Sewing Academy” by Elizabeth Stewart Clark (http://www.elizabethstewartclark.com) has nice things for women and children. The patterns are $20 each.

James Country Mercantile (http://www.jamescountry.com) ha a wide variety of patterns for men, women and children. Some of the men’s things are military uniforms, but the shirt and pants patterns would be useful for Plain dress. There are patterns for women’s plain work dresses, and homestead dresses. Very interesting is a pattern for authentic bloomer suits, if you want something very modest for bicycle riding or beach wear. There are many patterns for hoods, caps and bonnets according to taste. Children’s clothes are well-represented.

A reenactor in Utah has a good blog on sewing historic “pioneer” style clothes, with lots of photos and advice: http://howtodresslikeapioneer.blogspot.com.

When I look at reenactment costumes, I am amused by the wide range of styles represented in any era, depending on one’s socio-economic class. Servants, slaves and homesteaders wore basic, modest dresses of wool, linen or cotton. Wealthy women, whether in a plantation setting or a city, wore elaborate costumes that required engineered underpinnings, made in fine cotton or silk. Today, there is little class distinction except in the cost of clothing. Only “Plain” says that one is simple living, rural-oriented, and unconcerned with fashion.

We can call the virtue of hospitality in the Church either radical hospitality or faithful hospitality. I use “radical” here not to evoke some wild, anarchist kind of hospitality, but that is the root (radix) of what we do. Hospitality is “faithful” because we do it under command.

God gave us hospitality in Eden. The first created humans lived entirely in God’s hospitality. All was love and generosity, care and nurturing. The earth itself was hospitable, sheltering, warm and nourishing. Why did Adam and Eve ever envy God? They had all that he had. But envy was their sin – they desired to be as God, thinking that it would somehow be better than what they had. (Obviously, Satan has already fallen- literally - into the sin of pride. Pride and envy are closely related.)

Is lack of hospitality a sin of envy and pride? We call it selfishness, but isn’t that a kind of pride? “I deserve to have this for myself, and not share it with someone of lesser value.”

Is there more to the myth of Eden than we think?

I was struggling along with this topic – I know what it is, but how do I define it? – when I read this over at Sustainable Traditions  by Ricci Kilmer – http://sustainabletraditions.com/2010/07/justice-at-christs-table. Ricci is asking the same questions we all are.

Our hospitality as Christians (little Christs) is more than a shared meal, a donation to the soup kitchen or volunteer work at the food bank, and it is even more than the hospitality of good sustainable practice in caring for the earth. It’s all about that, but all that is as straw if we do not start from the basic act of hospitality – the Lord’s Supper.

Most of us experience the Eucharist (the thank offering) as a formal rite. We listen to the priest/minister, the actions are taken, the words said, the congregants march forward and kneel or stand (or the bits are passed along the pew) and we get a mere taste of thin wafer and a sip of possibly not very good wine.

These seems as hospitable as receiving a measles vaccine in the school cafeteria.

Before we get into a bunch of liturgical/theological debates: The words of institution must be said. Those who receive it must be baptized – washed clean for the feast. (How these are done, by whom and when is not part of this discussion.) We are there to share this feast with Jesus Christ and all the faithful everywhere and throughout time. It does take some preparation.

Have you ever experienced this? People have gathered for an evening meal. They are friends, family, even strangers who have joined the others on a moment’s invitation. The dishes are served, wine is poured, conversation is general and happy. The last dish is taken from the cloth, with just the basket of bread and the bottle of wine remaining. And someone stands up – the householder, his wife, a guest – and says to all, “In the night in which He died, Our Lord Jesus Christ took bread…” and the rest of that story is told. The bread is passed from the common loaf (real bread, baked that day) and the cup of wine is passed hand to hand, a full cup that is renewed as needed (real wine, local, organic, fit to drink.) Everyone says together, “Maranatha, Lord Jesus, come.”

That’s Christian hospitality.

In it we not only re-enact and take part in the first Great Feast, but we enter and remain in His Kingdom, sustained by food, prayer and mutual love in Him.

I was able to spend a little time with the Hebrew texts today, so here is a brief exegesis on which I based Part One. I did not try to put in the Hebrew characters, but have transliterated them for ease of reading.

God’s intention is to create woman equal with man – thus her definition is eisha, equivalent to male eish; the change in ending merely indicates gender.  Adam calls Eve “flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2.23), Hebrew basar. There is an equivalency in usage; it is not “you are part of my flesh” but identified as a separate being – “the flesh of my flesh.”

At Genesis 3.16 and 3.17, the same word is used to describe the pain of labour in childbearing and the pain of labour in tillage: atseb. Again, there is an equivalency – woman is not punished more than man. Our post-Victorian minds see hard work as satisfying and rewarding while we see childbirth as frightening and punitive. Our ancestors did not see it this way. They worked very hard at physical labour, which was at times quite dangerous. Anyone who has done manual farming and worked with animals will know what that means. Hunting and fishing could be dangerous as well. It is only in recent times that we think of work as something done primarily indoors and sitting down, with the most common physical danger being carpal tunnel syndrome.

Childbirth was not always viewed with the dread we inherited from the Victorians. While complications made it life-threatening, women who worked physically and were in good strength managed it very easily, as is true today. Neither field work nor childbirth could be avoided in the context of family life, which was the heart of Israel’s culture.

Why is woman put under subjection to man? He will “rule”, mishel, over her. This is traditionally interpreted to mean that she is dependent on him because of his superior strength and size, that he is responsible for protecting her and their children and providing shelter and food for them. The “king” or ruler (melek)  of a clan in Israel was paternal; he was father to his children and all members of the household, whether he was biological father or not. The dominion was not one of sitting on a throne and giving orders, but one of careful planning, hard work and great responsibility.

A woman had equal responsibilities in her own realm, within the tent and the garden, and with the small livestock kept close to home. She had her own authority in preparing food and making textiles. We rarely see signs of continuing domestic conflict between husbands and wives in the Five Books. Too much was at stake to risk the fallout of a power struggle in the household. Husband and wife had to work side by side and in the light of Torah; as a Hebrew commentator put it: “Obedience to the Torah…restores her (woman) to her former and proper status as the ‘crown of her husband’ and ‘pearl of his life.’” (Stone Tanach, notes to Gen 3.16 [Hirsch]).

Note: I have used the New Jerusalem Bible, The Stone Edition Tanach, and The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament in preparing these exegetical notes. The transliterations from Hebrew are my own.

I can understand why women today are attracted to Wicca. No, it’s not the silly spell casting and consorting with the faeries. That’s just romantic, even superstitious nonsense. It is a place to be a woman in a spiritual sense. Christianity has failed to give women a good place to stand in the House of God, and too many are casting about for something – anything – to replace it. Feminist theology has failed Christian women. Many of us had no good reason to work up that much anger at the church and men, even while admitting their foibles. Feminist theology, in my view, pushed us to challenge men for their place in a power-mad hierarchy.  Many of us had neither the drive nor the interest to engage the old church on its own terms.

What we needed was to be valued as women.

Without the feminine in the church, in the Body of Christ, there is a lack of creativity. (Theologians and the rank and file of clergy for millenia have confused the corporal body of Jesus with the spiritual Body of Christ.)

The myths of our Holy Scriptures have been used against us, beginning with Eve. “Myth” is something that is true in an abstract way without being provably factual. The Book of Genesis in particular contains myths about Creation. Whoever wrote the first chapters of Genesis was not an eyewitness to the Creation; this happened long before the invention of written language, certainly. An essential truth is expressed in the narrative of Adam and Eve: We were made by God to walk with God, to know God face to face, to live in His love and to love one another. We failed to do that by our own free will, one of the attributes we received in God’s image. (Creationists, do not bother writing in to refute. I am not entering into this argument. I stand where I stand.) Eve has been blamed for all the ills of humanity since. If Eve was beguiled, then Adam was complicit.

God expels His creatures from the beloved garden; He sends them out into the wilderness to make their own way, to survive and perhaps prosper by their own labour.  While they have brought a curse upon themselves, God turns it into a blessing. They will not have to live as animals, surviving by instinct only. They will till and spin, sharing in the growth of the land. It will be in labour that Adam will produce fruit from the earth; it will be in labour that Eve will bring forth children. God’s left-handed blessing is that they will share in the act of Creation; the created will create, each to its own kind. Eve names her child Cain, “God has given me a man” – from Hebrew “qanah” – to acquire.

By Genesis 12 we are entering firmer ground as far as a history is concerned. Nothing about the Abraham/Isaac/Jacob-Israel is provable; there are no confirming historic records, just archeological surmise. The narratives are plausible, though, in the sense that Christians accept that God does speak to His creatures and directly influences what these creatures do. We accept that God has the power of life and death, and the power and will to judge, reward, and punish. Abraham, Sarah, and their descendents see God and talk to God. They know His presence directly. They lived in a world of miracles and blessings. So do we, but we don’t have eyes to see God’s presence as they did.

Recreating their world is a big challenge. They lived semi-nomadically, moving seasonally amongst the springs nd natural meadows of Mesopotamia. It was a fertile world, most of the time. They could set up camp, something like a tent village, and expect to see no one else for weeks. We know some things abotu their day to day life, how they tended herds and flocks, how they grew some crops, how they cooked, baked and brewed. The more intricate details of their lives are harder to piece together.

Some of you may have read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This is fiction about the life of Jacob’s family, his twelve sons and his daughter. The central theme is of women’s spirituality and their cultic practices at that time, with the women continuing to engage in pantheistic and idol-centered rituals. They keep their ritual life apart from the YHWH spirituality of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob-Israel. While the author writes as if the YHWH cult was minor, and certainly its practitioners were a minority in their larger culture, Genesis supports a view that the Abramic family were the “priests” of the cult, with many followers in their clans and amongst their slaves and servants. The only hint in Genesis that the women may have had a separate cultic practice is that Rachel, wife of Jacob, stole her father’s household idols when the family broke off from him. These may have been clay or stone cultic figures obtained from shrines, or they may have been ancestral relics, such as the decorated skulls that have been found at Jericho. Was she trying to rob her father, Laban, of his power? This is not a likely explanation since his idols had not enriched him. He did not prosper until the God of Jacob, YHWH, bestowed blessing on Jacob. More likely, Rachel was trying to secure a right to the inheritance Laban tried to keep back from her and her sister Leah, Jacob’s first wife.

The women in Genesis participate in dialogue with YHWH, turning to the altars and sacred places when they have questions about conception and birth. YHWH seeks out Sarah as well as Abraham, and informs her of her impending pregnancy. YHWH is always their God, and speaks to them about the sacredness of procreation.

Part Two will concern more about how God spoke to the women who know from the Bible.

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