Alice Watson reflects on the origins and creation of the community artwork ‘Eva’s Call,’ which arose from the communal lament of the prejudices faced by women responding to God’s call into ordained vocational ministry.
The reflection is followed by further photographs of the artwork, and a sample of some of the things said to women clergy and ordinands.
Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments.
The community piece of art which has come to be known as ‘Eva’s Call’ is a response to the ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’ movement which highlights female resistance and power against a backdrop of societal expectations of how a ‘woman’ or ‘girl’ should act. The piece celebrates both the persistence of God’s call, and that of those who respond and follow.
It is based upon the lived experiences of ordained and ordinand women drawn from both within the Cuddesdon community and from wider groups of women, accessed through social media. The response was overwhelming: each word you read has been said to or about women, and is reported without exaggeration or editing. The central idea was to take these experiences and to transfigure them, through prayer and resistance. Looking directly at institutional, and institutionalised sin, it responds in grace, seeking to transform structures and not participating within them.
Over three days, the college community was invited to come together to pray, to create, to transform, and to dream of a better world. Candles were lit, cake was eaten, and people, from all walks of college life came by to share their stories, to think, and to produce the joy and lament that is evident within the work. We wove our stories, our tears and our laughter with those which we were given.
In a year which has both celebrated 100 years of the beginning of equal voting rights for women, 25 years of the ordination of women to the priesthood, and when the abuse, harassment, and subjugation of woman has been so visible, we worked conscious of our position of privilege as those able to live out their faith and their calling affirmed and supported.
On a personal note, this piece represents a decision and a challenge – to live out a vocation in a world which so often seems at odds with both conviction and Gospel. It represents a desire to create a cultural memory, a knowledge and a strength, to sing our own Magnificat, and to suggest that this sin, whatever face it wears, is not OK.
What course is your husband studying?
Do you know what St Paul says about women preaching?
I can’t debate things with you, you get too upset.
One of those silly feminists.
Keep away from those silly feminists.
Breastfeeding and hormonal.
Is your husband interested in theology?
LIBERAL. CHRISTIAN. SLUT.
That’s not the sort of language you expect from a lady vicar.
Should a lady vicar be wearing that?
How attractive should a female priest be?
(serving tea) I always knew you were a deacon at heart.
The problem is, you just seem to dominate the room. You just seem to be the focus of everyone’s attention.
Women only get through BAP to fill quotas. Similar standard men wouldn’t be accepted.
You’re wearing too much makeup, you look unprofessional.
You’re not wearing enough makeup, you look unprofessional.
You’re only here because you’re a woman under 40.
Let the lady speak.
Will you ever feel equal to men?
A rose between two thorns
You just haven’t found the right man.
Will people take you seriously?
Should you be wearing that?
Should you be seen to be going to the pub?
Let me explain…
I bet the children like you.
Oh we’ve got the girls this morning.
We’re just not used to priests in high heels.
I worry about the men with all these women priests.
Not conclusive to mutual flourishing.
Is your husband training for ministry?
What will you do with your children?
Are you presiding today? If so I am leaving.
You’re pregnant? Oh, that’s going to be difficult.
So, your husband will look after the children? We can treat you like a man then.
Needs time to discern if true vocation is to motherhood.
Of course we talked about whether you were going to have children at PCC before you came.
Gosh, three women on a team??? How will that work? Poor xxx, being the only bloke.
I can’t stand up here in front of Almighty God with you.
Who is going to look after your child while you do your training?
Why do we waste old ladies’ heating money training people like you? You’ll get pregnant and it’ll all be for nothing.
Isn’t your husband ashamed that you didn’t put his vocation first?
Your poor children. They’ll hate church because you neglect them, and then it’s your fault they’ll go to hell.
You need to give me the dates of your periods so I know when not to take communion.
The vicar’s wife always…
But why won’t you join the clergy wives group?
You naughty girl.
YOU WILL BURN IN HELL YOU F**KING C**T.
Women should not be priests.
Well we don’t want two women.
Some women vicars are very good.
I think it’s a case that men are not being faithful to God’s call, so he’s had to call women, even if they aren’t his first choice.
You’ve ruined my worship.
Sometimes ordained women are a bad thing.
But we don’t want a matriarchy.
Using female language for God demeans Him.
Well, I’ve never heard any of these things said…
If we call priests Father, what will we call the women?!
How are you going to cope without a husband?
You’re damaging to the gospel.
So is this a surrogate marriage?
But you would have been such a good mum.
Does this mean you can’t have children?
What if you have another baby?
How can you possibly do this when you’re a wife and a mother?
How will that work with the children?
Is your husband a priest too?
You must be so busy with the children.
Are you the vicar of Dibley?
Make sure you don’t get a married woman with children next time we have a curate.
What’s that f**king bitch doing here?
Are you automatically a vicar because your husband is?
Well at least you’re good looking.
Is your husband ordained too?
You scrub up alright.
Your family will hold you back.
Obviously the advert has all the equal ops guff but students need someone to look up to, not a girlfriend or mother.
They’ll never put you forward for training.
You don’t look like the normal sort of vicar.
What about your family?
You’re throwing it all away.
Who will cook tea for your family if you’re not at home?
Your husband cooks? Aren’t you lucky.
If all vicars were as pretty as you, churches would be bursting at the seams.
Should you have this many tattoos and be a priest?
The congregation were just being kind with their positive feedback.
Jesus was a man.
Jesus only called men.
I can never hear you, your voice is too high.
You’ve lowered the tone in your voice, that’s much better!
Smile, it might never happen.
You just have to stand there looking beautiful.
I’ve never seen a woman priest who looked, well, like you.
You poor dear, you’ve taken on a lot.
Women aren’t meant to be ministers. It’s in the bible – look it up!
I believe every word of the bible.
Yes but you aren’t really the vicar, are you?
I don’t want to deliberately hurt your feelings.
My amazing friends can’t find a job because they won’t share an altar with a woman.
I don’t want to upset your feelings.
She’s very strident.
The best candidate will undoubtedly be a man.
We don’t feel it’s appropriate for a woman to be the vicar.
I didn’t put you on the rota because I assumed you’d still be breastfeeding.
We were warned we might be landed with a woman.
I can see why this church is growing. It’s got a sexy vicar.
That bloody woman.
Not very inclusive.
I spoke to your husband about it, to check it was ok with him.
Are you the strippergram?
What should we call your husband?
We already have a female vicar, we’d have rather had a male curate.
You won’t be so committed once you have the baby.
Oh good, you’re easy on the eye.
But I thought you wanted to have kids?
Oh you’re going to theological college to get married.
It’s a shame. When they let women do something the men stop.
That’s nice dear.
You won’t be presiding at communion while you’re on your period will you?
I mean you’re still going to be a youth worker right? Not a proper vicar.
Have you prayed about becoming a vicar?
Good for you. I’d never want to have a female vicar. But good for you.
This pathway would be unsuitable for you, being a mother of a small child.
It’s just not right is it? It’s like the women are taking over.
I’m sure God will call the best man.
Calling God She just isn’t inclusive.
It’s not that I don’t like women preaching, it’s just that their voices are too shrill.
What are you going to do after you ‘graduate’?
The lady leading the service.
So your husband must be the new curate then?
Oh you’re still breastfeeding, how will that work?
Oh no, they won’t accept your kind there.
I don’t think you have a chance!
All these women, it’s just the Church capitulating to culture.
You shouldn’t put your hair up, it makes you look unfriendly.
You must tie your hair up to preside, it makes you look more neutral.
Of course, you’ll be much more pastoral because you’re a woman.
Who is looking after your children?
Make sure you’re discreet when you feed your baby in church.
Where are your children? We never see them.
Your daughter looks so unhappy.
Where is your husband?
I think you will find ministry is incompatible with your duties as a wife and mother, my dear.
I can’t receive communion from someone who paints their nails.
We can’t confide in you, you’re too young.
Not bad for a woman.
You must promise not to have children whilst you’re here.
Your miscarriage is probably a blessing given your job.
You are paid to be here 100% for us, not for your children.
We all really love you, agape of course, but a bit of eros too – wink wink.
You should do something about your eyebrows.
Are you old enough?
Of course it helps that you’re easy on the eye.
Too obsessed with preaching on women in the bible.
I bet you’ve got suspenders on under that cassock.
But what about your family?
Aren’t you lucky your husband is letting you do this.
God doesn’t change so your call must be from the other one.
Have you thought about what earrings you wear to lead worship and whether they could be distracting?
You intimidate other women.
When you are ordained priest I won’t be able to worship here any more.
How are we supposed to concentrate on the service when we are distracted by your outfit?
We would have asked you, but we assumed you were busy with the children.
But your husband has worked so hard to get to where he is, it’ll all go to waste!
Here comes the coven!
You’ve ruined the Church of England.
Is there a male priest here?
But who will men go to if they have a problem?
We don’t want another female, it’ll upset the hen house.
Oh I do prefer women in skirts.
But you’re pregnant.
Are you going to get a lesbian haircut then?!
You’re going to be far too emotional if you get rejected from BAP, so it’s in your best interests to not be put forward
Wear your hair in a ponytail, you’ll be more attractive when talking to the young men.
The Whore of Babylon.
Satan’s Little Helper.
Where are your children then?
Is your husband here?
Does this mean you can’t get married?
I bet you can’t wait to have children.
Are you a children’s worker?
I didn’t’ recognise you without your children.
“Can everyone hear me?” No and we don’t want to.
Daughter of Satan.
You’ve had a miscarriage, this vocation is just a surrogate child.
You’ve got a young child, now’s not a good time to train.
Are you in fancy dress?
I want my priest to be someone I get moral instruction from, not someone I wish to copulate with.
You’re very brave.
Our lovely little lady vicar.
You might have to work on your voice, as women’s voices can be shrill and unpleasant to listen to.
Keep wearing those skirts and batting your eyelids at the Bishop and you’ll not have to worry about your career.
Can we speak to your husband?
A woman who thinks she is a priest is like a whore trying to attend a cocktail party. No one is fooled.
Well if she can’t preach, at least she’ll be nice to look at.
Now then, are you going to listen to the men in the room?
When’s all this women stuff going to be over and done with?
I am ashamed of you.
Oh, you’ve been a busy little girl, haven’t you?
You’ve misheard God.
She’s the four F’s of women’s ministry: Fat, Female, Forty, and Thick.
I’m not being told what to do by a slip of a girl!
You have desecrated this cathedral.
We shall have to find another church, we could never worship somewhere led by a woman.
Nice to see the girls leading the service today.
Not really leadership material.
That skirt is unfair to your brothers in Christ.
You’re just too emotional.
God’s Plan B.
If priests had looked like you when I was a lad, I might have gone to church!
I don’t believe in women priests.
I don’t take communion from you.
It’s nothing against you.
I don’t think we should have been given someone who will just go off and have babies.
Is your husband babysitting tonight?
Well that wasn’t bad for a little girl.
Do the gentlemanly thing and just resign.
Oh he loved women, in the kitchen and the bedroom, but not in positions of leadership and he’d really not want a woman doing his funeral.
Even more gorgeous than her photos.
Are you wearing mascara?
I’d have come to church if I’d known you’d looked like this.
I wish all churches had someone as good looking at you.
There’s plenty of work you can do without being a priest.
Stay in your lane.
Don’t you love God? He wouldn’t call you because you’re a woman.
Our party girl.
You’re doing the work of the devil.
You’re just a pseudo-priest.
SPAWN OF SATAN.
I believe women should be nuns and nurses, not priests and doctors.
I just get such a maternal vibe looking at her.
*Spat in face* during procession.
A good fundraising idea – come to church to ogle the vicar.
You have a husband and two young children, isn’t that enough?
I won’t be able to take communion because you’re a woman, what are you going to do to accommodate me?
You probably won’t like this question but I need to know what kind of priest you are – did you lose your virginity before you got married?
I’ll put a list up of dates you’re presiding so people know when it’s safe to attend.
I can’t see you doing this, but I could see your husband as a vicar. The calling must be for him.
I didn’t listen to the first few minutes of your sermon because you’re a woman. Actually, you were quite good.
You have a young child, you don’t have time to train.
So who does the cooking in your house?
Of course I can’t take communion from you.
You need to have a family before you get ordained.
Of course, you’ll only be able to minister to other women and children.
You’ll need to apply for churches that men wouldn’t want to apply for.
Ooh if only I was 10 years younger.
I’m coming back to church, just to get you out!
There’s no sexism in the Church.
All women ministers should sign to say they won’t get pregnant whilst in their post.
So you’ll be able to bake cakes and preach about it.
As your brother in Christ I am obliged to encourage you to re-consider taking a pastor / teacher role in the church as it is clearly prohibited in God’s word.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way patronising you.
I can’t see how the creator God would call you for something that He is against.
You say that God is not against women in leadership, so why was man created head?
Your pregnancy is bloody inconvenient.
You are the Mother of Satan
Are you planning on having more children because that could make training difficult?
You have a much nicer arse than that other female priest. She has better tits though.
Cleavage in a cassock.
But what about your family?
Don’t your children miss you?
She’s on her hobby horse again.
Do you think that this vocation is instead of a child?
Where do you intend to dump your children when taking services?
Your role is clearly to be with your children so we won’t be looking at stipendiary ministry.
You’re damaging your children.
Has the girl finished talking yet?
Where can I go to find a proper priest at Christmas?
Don’t go to the joint Good Friday service, someone pretending to be a priest will be leading it.
How dare you dress up as a man.
They’ve had two young females out of curacy, and now they’re looking for a mature man who will suit them better.
Is this the girls’ table?
Your husband is so brave!
I never really saw you as the leadership type.
Is your husband ordained as well?
Is that fancy dress?
To celebrate women’s episcopacy is triumphalist.
Why is someone so pretty going to be a vicar?
You’re too young to be a priest, and you’re a woman.
You’re far too pretty to be a vicar.
Hello, are you a strippergram?!
How will you manage the housework?
Where’s my kiss before you go?
Do you want to practise slamming the door in case you can’t manage it?
If you really knew your bible and were a proper Christian you would know that women can’t be priests.
Its good you’ve found something proper to do now the children have left home.
And what will you do for support if God doesn’t give you a husband?
Blonde vicar with a cracking rack.
Can you ask them to make sure we get a man next time?
Ha, well you would love beaver wouldn’t you…
You are the Devil’s gateway!
I don’t accept the patriarchal narrative.
Don’t worry, we’ll do everything possible to keep a pretty little thing like you in the diocese.
Now, the question is sex, that’s not how much you would like, but whether you’re male or female.
Do you mind if I touch your hair? It’s irresistible.