From Susan Cooper
Sir, — Professor Harriet Baber’s article “Why working women leave church” (Comment, 18 September) strikes a chord with me. It also connects with a chance remark made by a speaker at a seminar I attended on ageing: that the church never managed to connect with the baby-boomer generation.
I attended church regularly from the age of eight, Sunday school, confirmation, youth club, as well as matins, evensong, and 8 a.m. communion. As a student, I received my fellowship from the Student Christian Movement — locally in Aberystwyth and nationally. My connection with the Anglican Church was maintained through attendance at early-morning holy communion.
When I returned to the London suburbs in 1968, I found the preaching in my local church banal, and the only fellowship available for women was the Mothers’ Union. As I was unmarried and not a mother, and, pursuing my career, not available for daytime meetings, this did not in anyway meet my needs for fellowship.
Not surprisingly, church dropped down in my priorities, and I did not attend for 18 years. Having established my career and suffered a bereavement, I started searching again in my late thirties.
One Saturday, I borrowed a book from the library on being a workaholic, read it from cover to cover, and recognised my symptoms, and that a cure could be doing something you did when you were young. The next day I went to my local church — which happened to be where I had been baptised. I found the clergy were preaching the sort of thing that inspired me in my SCM days. The rest, as they say, is history. I am now a Reader there, and have served on the General Synod for 15 years.
As a member of a suburban congregation, I still feel an ambivalence as a single person with no family of my own, but there are opportunities for service as a mature person which were not available to me when my energies were required to pursue my professional studies.
I am not a very practical person, and I am not able to arrange flowers: it is not my calling; so the practical stuff that women used to be prepared to do has never been open to me.
I think that the different family patterns that exist now have not made the Church particularly appealing to men or women. There is a need to think through what real people’s lives are like nowadays, and find ways of serving people as they are, and not expect them to fit a pattern that no longer rings true to the majority of the population.
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