Instead of a regular blog, the following is an anonymous note shared by a younger woman who belongs to one of our ELCA congregations. She wrote this letter to another member of her congregation, but decided not to send it.
Dear Naomi (name changed),
I have watched as you shut other women out, not allowing others to lead ministries. Please understand: We don’t want to take over, just to share in leadership. We know you are talented and brilliant, but you don’t need to do everything. That would free you up, so you wouldn’t have to complain about how busy you are all the time. We actually do love you, and we don’t want you to burn out. We also would like to be able to serve.
But you’ve not been willing to let us in, and you have not wanted us to ask any questions, even when those questions were caring, logical and merited. Sometimes, when some of us were frustrated, those questions might not have sounded caring. We apologize for that.
But we’re frustrated.
When some of us disagreed with your opinion, you misunderstood this as a personal attack, rather than a different view, and maligned us.
Worst of all, you told us our gifts of time, talent and treasure were important, then with no apology you threw away our gifts of time and talent, and told us our treasure was not enough. “Give more,” you said.
According to a recent Pew study, the percentage of all Americans attending church weekly or more dropped by 4 percent to 35.7 percent between 2007 and 2014. Only about a quarter of Millennials attend church each week. I’m sure there are various reasons for this, beyond my story.
You’ve complained that there aren’t enough younger women involved. But you are losing me. From here on out, I am praying for God to help me to not be bitter, to forgive you, and to forgive myself for not being able to make this work. I am also still praying for the situation to change, even if I need to leave to find another faith community.
Ruth (name changed)
It is not the first time we have heard these kinds of concerns from younger women. We invite younger generations to get involved in women’s groups and overall church ministries. But we need to look at how authentic our invitations are for them to become involved? What can we do to make sure that our invitations are genuine?
“1795-William-Blake-Naomi-entreating-Ruth-Orpah” by William Blake – Scanned by H. Churchyard. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons