During Michaelmas term 2023 we dug deeper into some of the stories of
Old Testament (OT) women and the choices that they made, using a book written by the Reverend Clare Hayns, College Chaplain at Oxford University’s Christ Church, and illustrated by her son Micah.
In our Chapel services during the eight weeks leading up to St Kate’s Day, we explored through Clare’s video reflections some of the challenges and struggles that these women faced, and that we too may have come across in our lives today (see below). Discussion questions for each topic surrounding the OT woman were available in Chapel for students to reflect on in their own time, and images of Micah’s paintings are up in the refectory corridor to aid contemplation.
I wonder how many women of the Old Testament can you name? Some we might know well, but others are barely remembered.
Here are a few examples of those we explored. We began with Eve as we thought about how we make choices and the choices that have influenced our lives the most. We considered what friendship means to us as we looked at the story of Naomi and Ruth, two women from different backgrounds and faiths, who form a strong and faithful friendship.
The importance of speaking up against injustice and the power that groups have in bringing about change was raised by exploring the lives of five sisters who were the daughters of a man called Zelophehad. The power of their voices together changed lives down through the generations.
The story of Lot’s wife was a difficult one, about hospitality and violence, of a family who are urged to flee their home town and yet, the grace of God working to redeem an uncertain future. We considered how we know when guidance might be from God, and whether we’ve ever felt guided away from something or a particular situation.
Queen Vashti was another difficult story, but she refuses to be exploited, and her refusal was possibly the first stand for women’s rights – to stand up for what is right and empower the downtrodden. On this occasion we reflected on whether we’d experienced humiliation or shame in front of others; and who we might turn to as a strong role model for those who feel powerless and threatened.
St Kate’s Day Eucharist – Thursday 23 November 2023
We were delighted that Revd Clare was able to join us as the guest speaker to give the sermon for our St Kate’s Day Eucharistic Celebration. Clare spoke to us about how she came to write the reflections for her book and shared with us her thoughts on Jesus’ meeting of the Samaritan woman at the well using another of Micah’s paintings.
“The unveiled series has done exactly what it said on the tin and ‘unveiled’ the Old Testament women for me in a completely new way. The combination of in-depth biblical study and the beautiful paintings opened up their lives and I saw them all differently regardless of if they were very familiar or if I was discovering them for the first time. My favourite women would have to be the daughters of Zelophehad, they were completely new to me and yet their bravery is so inspirational.”
Grace (Year 13)