On the first weekend in May every year for longer than I’ve been in these parts, there’s a big flea market at White Cloud and Sparks, Kansas. I’m told that people travel hundreds of miles to set up their wares there and I know from personal observation that at least hundreds of people go there to browse, barter and buy. I think it’s probably actually thousands of people. It’s a sure slice of Americana, with everything from fresh Indian tacos to antique corn shellers to handmade quilts and just about anything else you can imagine, including fresh morel mushrooms.
A good part of the traffic to and from the markets at White Cloud and Sparks comes by our church on Highway 36 between Wathena and Troy. And that is why the hard-working women of our church decided this would be the best weekend for our current rummage and bake sale. Boy Howdy, have they been working!
Sharon and Kim, Betty and Betty, and I don’t know how many others have spent dozens of hours bringing in items, sorting through items that others brought in, pricing items, arranging items. Others have brought in homemade noodles, pies, cakes, rolls and cookies for the bake sale. On top of that, they’re going over at six or six-thirty each morning to start preparing breakfast as an additional service for shoppers and fund-raiser for the church.
Now, in slight fairness, some of us men have put in a few hours preparing for the event, too. We’ve helped move some tables and set up in the gym to sell a bunch of leftover construction materials and such items and have donated some used tools and stuff like that. So, yes, we’ve done a bit.
But the true bulk of the work has been done and is being done by the women. Which has got me to thinking once again about their role in thousands of congregations across the country.
In many of those congregations, most particularly among the sorts of relatively conservative, sort of fundamentalist groups with which I have chosen association, women are not allowed to fill any sort of “leadership” role. In some, they aren’t allowed to lead public prayer, do the scripture readings or serve communion. In one congregation I heard of, they didn’t have a man who could or would lead singing. So, they had one guy stand up and announce each song. Then his wife, seated in front of him, would start the song while he continued standing and at least pretended to join in the singing. In their religious group, it was important that they preserve the illusion that they did not have a woman leading worship. Otherwise, other congregations would have withdrawn fellowship from them.
Regardless of the illusions, games and strategies, the simple fact is that our church and many, many others would not exist except for the work of the women, whether in teaching classes for the kids, cleaning up the building or putting in the hundreds of hours of work it takes to conduct a rummage sale.
In my view, the simple truth is that every one of these women are, in fact, true leaders of the church. They are leading us all in applying that often ignored and sometimes forgotten principle that The Carpenter tried to teach us: “Let him who would be great among you be your servant.”