The mission of women in the Church has its roots in the Gospels and its fruit in today's world.

Holy Mothers (and One Unholy Grandmother) –

UMW in Bible Times

Women who supported Jesus’ ministry
Dorcas
Lydia
Phoebe
Lois and Eunice; Apphia
Priscilla

Other Mothers

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Timothy Learning the Scriptures. Click to enlarge. See below for provenance.
Matthew 26:10-13; Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:55-56; Luke 8:1-3; Women who supported Jesus’ ministry (8/1/2008)

The purpose of the United Methodist Women is "to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church."  We shouldn't be surprised that all three of these ideas go back to the earliest days of the Christian faith.  Today and next week we will read about women in the early church who became free in Jesus Christ, who supported each other, and who participated in ministry.  Today we look specifically at ladies who supported Jesus financially and emotionally.  Several Galilean women provided for Jesus and his disciples financially during his active ministry.  All the men disciples except John cut and ran after his arrest, but several of the women stayed at the cross to support both Jesus and his mother Mary, and it was the women who returned on Sunday morning to prepare his body for final burial.

Acts 9:35-42, Dorcas (8/4/2008)

Have you tied a knot in one of the prayer quilts that hang each week in the Welcome Center?  Have you requested a prayer shawl for a friend who is ill?  These quilts and shawls, not to mention baby blankets, children's sweaters and hats, and other items are made by ladies at St. John's for people who need love and encouragement, or maybe just something warm to wear.  These quilters and knitters are following in the footsteps of Dorcas, a Christian lady who also made garments for people who needed them.  Dorcas is also a special woman because she died and was raised back to life through the intervention of Peter.  Peter must have been a powerful pray-er!

Acts 16:11-15, 38-40, Lydia (8/5/2008)

Lydia was a dealer in "purple goods," either the very expensive purple dye made from snail shells, or the cloth dyed with it.  Thus it is normally assumed that she was wealthy.  When she became one of Paul's converts, she insisted that Paul and his group come to stay with her.  Now, Paul always prided himself on supporting himself without taking a dime from his converts; Lydia's church at Philippi is the only exception.  So in addition to being wealthy, Lydia must have been persuasive and stubborn.  Clearly she was also a leader among the converts of Philippi, because before leaving town, Paul went to visit Lydia and the (unnamed) brothers. 
 
Note that the first few verses are part of the famous "we" passages of Acts, showing that Luke was with Paul on this trip.  And while I'm on the topic of infant baptism, note that Lydia's "entire household" was baptized along with her.  Those denominations that do not accept infant baptism have not yet convinced me that there were wealthy households in the Middle East with no infants present.

Romans 16:1-16, Phoebe goes to Rome. (8/6/2008)

One of my sons is named "Madison."  This is an old and honorable BOY's name.  Madi-SON, get it?  He is named after a great-great-grandFATHER.  After the movie “Splash,” girls started being named Madison, but my son is quite a bit older than that.  It irritates me when people just assume that my Madison is a girl. 

We have the opposite problem with Biblical names.  If we don't know whether the bearer is male or female, we tend to assume that they are men. For this reason, we often make incorrect assumptions about whether women were important in the early Church.  Of the 29 people Paul mentions or greets individually in Romans 16, ten are women: Phoebe, Prisca/Priscilla, Mary, Junia, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, the mother of Rufus, Julia, and the sister of Nereus.

Phoebe and Junia are especially worthy of note. Phoebe was a deacon (often translated "servant" in this passage), and an emissary of Paul.  I can never decide whether to be amused, puzzled, or annoyed that exactly the same word is routinely translated "servant" for Phoebe and "deacon" for several men (e.g., 1 Timothy 3:8).  And Paul refers to Junia as an apostle! Some translations transform Junia into Junias, the masculine form of the name, but the earliest manuscripts (and many later manuscripts) have the feminine form of the name. The difference between the two names in Greek is about like "Frances" and "Francis," so we shouldn't be too judgmental about whoever it was who turned Junia into a guy.

2 Timothy 1:5, Lois and Eunice; Philemon 1:1-3, Apphia (8/7/2008)

If women have one role in the Church that has always been recognized, it is as a role model for children and others in the congregation.  The business of ensuring that the next generation is raised in the Faith has traditionally belonged to women.  Two excerpts from a family history that I just completed eloquently illustrate the importance of women as role models:
Acts 18:2-3, 18-19, 24-28; Rom. 16:3-5a; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19, Priscilla (8/8/2008)

Priscilla and her husband Aquila were a team of powerful workers for the Lord and staunch supporters of Paul.  They are never mentioned separately.  The church in Ephesus, and apparently also in Rome, met in their house.  Remember Paul saying, "I do not allow a woman to teach"?  I guess this applied only to public worship, because note that Priscilla and Aquila jointly "explained the way of God more accurately" to Apollos. 

Here is some total speculation that I found interesting and maybe you will, too.  Only God knows who wrote Hebrews; however, three names put forth by scholars are in today's passage:  Priscilla, either alone or in company with Aquila, and their associate, Apollos.  Here’s an argument that Priscilla may have written Hebrews.


Other Mothers
Sarah
Rebecca
Rachel and Leah
Miriam
Deborah
Ruth
Athaliah
Esther
The Four Most Important Women Who Never Lived
Women Who Expected Miracles
Mary and Elizabeth


Copyright 2008, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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