A recent BBC TV Antiques Road Show episode marked the centenary this year of (certain) women in the UK having been granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections. We watched with interest from the comfort of our sofa as the many and varied pioneering women and/or their friends and descendants were interviewed: there was a wide range of contributions, each celebrating particular women whose lives and careers had served to promote greater gender equality across our society over the past 100 years, sometimes at significant risk to their own well-being. There were inspiring stories of political campaigners from the suffragist and suffragette movements, an early 20th Century soft toy designer, women’s dance band members, recorded broadcasts from a pioneering opera and jazz singer, the 1928 first women’s Olympic Gymnast Team, the first female press photographer from before WW1 (whose great-great niece is a priest), wartime pilots, spies and land army recruits, post-war cross-channel swimmers, glimpses of fashion models, multi-tasking home-makers and career women, 1960’s striking factory workers, women jockeys and trainers, Greenham Common protesters, polar adventurers, particularly ground-breaking MPs like Margaret Thatcher, Diane Abbott and Betty Boothroyd, and finally our very own Bishop, Libby Lane.
At the end of the programme, Dave expressed mild surprise that one of the first women Marine Cargo Insurance Brokers at Lloyd’s, who went on to become one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England, had not been featured in the programme – but clearly I’m not yet an Antique, so didn’t really qualify!?!
Annually at this time of year, we rejoice in celebrating the many and varied achievements of all of our young people here in Bollington and Macclesfield. Whether it is in leisure centres or at Sports Days, or within our uniformed organisations, or in creative activities at RiCH our church after-school group , or in a whole range of academic, artistic and practical subjects in our local schools and colleges, we applaud the efforts and developing skills and expertise demonstrated by this future generation of pioneers and innovators, of public servants and others dedicated to make the world a better place.
I personally had the privilege recently of witnessing the graduation ceremony of a young woman, Dawn Biza, who has gained a BA in Theatre Studies at Millikin University, near Chicago in Illinois. As part of her four year University course, Dawn recently made her debut at the Globe Theatre in London! She is definitely a star in the making! I first met Dawn in 2001 when as a young child she encouraged her Mum to bring her to church and they became members of the congregation of Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate in East London where I was Vicar at the time. Although still only at primary school, Dawn was one of those who confidently chose a few years later to be confirmed by the Bishop of Barking at a special service to mark the 150th Anniversary of that church, when the then Borough Mayor (who happened to be a Sikh) was also present! I was honoured to be at her graduation ceremony in May this year, to celebrate her academic achievements and also her work as a socially aware global citizen who is a strong yet humble woman of faith. I am proud to count Dawn as one of my friends as she now steps up resolutely to take her place upon the world’s stage.
Whatever their aspirations and ambitions, may we continue to nurture all our young people in faith and love, praying that they may each be enabled to fulfil their true God-given potential and to discover and develop their talents, for their own continued well-being and for the greater common good. As the late MP Jo Cox declared: “We have more in common than that which divides us.” May we recognise the unique part we have to play in our society today and may we encourage one another to always be the best we can be, to the glory of God and for the betterment of the world we have inherited from all those who’ve dared to mark out new paths and sing new songs across the centuries.