BREAKING THE MOULD is a timely book, written about the experience of mothers who are ordained as they pioneer a new way of priesthood; but it has the potential to be of much wider interest in our changing times. Chapter Eight, subtitled “When it all gets too much”, explores fear, trauma, and why managing guilt is as important as managing time.
In a light read of 135 pages, covering everything from prayer to Prosecco, Jules Middleton explores what it is like to be “a breath of fresh air” — in other words, to bring something unexpected into an old and very traditional institution. She writes: “The Church as a whole sometimes feels like it has the turning circle of a slightly mouldy caravan (but with some nice retro curtains at the windows) and so can be incredibly slow to change.”
As the Covid-19 pandemic shows, sometimes we need the wisdom of those who can change quickly. The author notes that those who thrive, not just survive, in times of extreme change are those who work out how they are personally going to do it, how it works for them, rather than feel pressured into trying to “fit into an outdated stereotype”.
This may look different in different places, and each chapter helpfully has a case study. These feature a wide range of stories: from an ecumenical canon in a cathedral to a widow and single mother, a disability adviser, and an RAF chaplain.
This is a passionate and sometimes funny look at being a woman and a mother in ministry. But it is also about putting those things aside, about “learning the art of disappearing, to be a window and not portrait” for God. In that sense, it is a book for our time and for us all.
The Revd Katie Thomas is Vicar of St James’s, Malden, Surrey, and the Bishop of Kingston’s Adviser on Women’s Ministry.
Breaking the Mould: Learning to thrive as a ministry mum
Church Times Bookshop £9