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Out of the Shadows: Preaching the women of the Bible, by Kate Bruce and Liz Shercliff

13 August 2021

These neglected names can be preached on, says Victoria Johnson

THE scriptures are often presented and preached through a single, gendered lens, following the lives of patriarchs, priests, prophets, and apostles whose voices and perspectives are usually heard loud and clear. But there is a parallel narrative that can produce a rich seam of reflection and resource for preaching.

Kate Bruce and Liz Shercliff, experienced preachers and teachers of homiletics, take us on a journey through the scriptures with an attentiveness to many of the voices that are not always heard so clearly: the voices of the women and girls of the Bible who also receive the good news and also play their part in the story of salvation. With the ongoing re-examination of the way in which we present history generally, whether through class, race, or gender, it seems appropriate to re-examine, too, the way in which we view the stories of scripture and, in this case, look a little more deeply into the lives of the women who are so often forgotten, overlooked, or silenced in the liturgical life of the Church.

This is a timely book that helps the preacher bring to light the unheard voices of women throughout the scriptures. Can we preach on Eve rather than Adam? Does Sarah’s faith have something to say to us in addition to the faith of Abraham? In the Acts of the Apostles, can we dwell with the women who lead, worship, and work alongside Paul in the ministry of the Early Church? We are challenged to enliven and reinvigorate our preaching while dismantling unhelpful stereotypes.

The authors offer practical wisdom and theological insight that reflects on the perspectives of some of the women of the Bible, though they acknowledge that justice couldn’t be given to all. Among those who are seen and heard and brought into the light are Eve, Sarah, Ruth, Huldah, Vashti, and Esther, poor neglected Abigail (not even mentioned in the lectionary for Sundays), Mary, Elizabeth, Martha and Mary, Lydia, Lois, Eunice, and Phoebe.

In addition, we are called to be attentive to the women in scripture who are not even dignified with a name, but are only known by the name of those who possess them (Jepthah’s daughter), their piety (the woman who anoints Jesus’s feet), or because they are subsumed into a group of women (the five “lowly” women). Each woman is lifted from obscurity and given a voice, deepening our appreciation of the might and mercy of God working through the lives of all people, not just the powerful and obvious.

Offering a lectionary-based approach for each character and also an alternative sermon-series programme, this book should give every preacher the chance to step out of the shadows and speak with confidence on the lives of those women who have gone before us in faith, but have not always been given a chance to let their light shine.

The Revd Dr Victoria Johnson is Canon Precentor of York Minster.


Out of the Shadows: Preaching the women of the Bible
Kate Bruce and Liz Shercliff
SCM Press £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £16

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