Revd Chantal Noppen was appointed as our first Women’s Advocate in 2020.
She is there to empower, advise and listen to women in ordained ministry. She wants to ensure female clergy have the resources and support available to help them thrive in their roles.
A message from Chantal
“I am excited for the intention and courage the Diocese of Durham is showing in establishing this group of advisors and advocates to address the imbalances around us.
“Together we are the body of Christ, we bear each other’s joys and sorrows and hold each other in prayer.
“I hope that we are people committed to ensuring that all know they are welcomed and we actively strive to make sure that that invitation is backed up by action that makes inclusion a real possibility based and grounded in genuine love and respect for others.
“While I won’t be able to fix everything, I hope you will find that I am available to listen to you, and stand with you. Perhaps at times standing for you.
“I love meeting others and hearing their stories. If you’d like to go for a coffee or a beer and talk about your own experiences of women’s ministry please get in touch. This invitation isn’t just for women, I hasten to add, nor do you have to have something you need to offload or be supported in to contact me - I like good news aswell!
“This diocese is blessed by some incredibly talented and creative women ministers, I also hope to be able to share and showcase some of their work and skills with you. I am very keen to receive suggestions for this too. “
Striving for equality
The 2021 report on the Developments in Women’s Ministry from Women and the Church (WATCH) records that there is still a substantial imbalance in the lack of representation from women.
One of the biggest concerns of WATCH is to ensure that women are treated fairly and equitably. There are valid concerns that proposed cuts and reductions in stipendiary posts will have a disproportionate impact on women as a higher proportion of SSMs are women clergy.
Additionally, there are some realities of ministry that are understood and experienced through the filter of our gender. Being able to access support and advice from specialists with shared experience can be hugely beneficial.
Below are a number of resources or sources of more specialist advice and support that may be helpful. It is not an exhaustive list however.
Resources for individuals
- Join a Union – Community and Unite both have faithworker branches.
- The Suzy Lamplugh Trust do some excellent training on lone working safety. This would be useful for all PCCs to do as we often have people working in vulnerable situations, but doing it yourself is probably more immediately useful! www.suzylamplugh.org
- www.pregnantthenscrewed.com is an excellent source of advice and support for women who experience discrimination during pregnancy or parental leave.
- www.menopausesupport.co.uk actively seeks to support and assist women struggling with symptoms of the menopause.
- www.clergysupporttrust.org.uk are very keen to support those in ministry with financial support, for respite care, holidays, unexpected healthcare costs, difficult hikes in childcare expenses etc. If you’re not sure what you might be eligible for, give them a call for some free advice.
Tips and Resources for churches
For churches blessed by having female ministers or looking to support, train and encourage women in ministry, here are a few basics:
- Please be respectful and do not gender stereotype
- Please learn to listen and be willing to offer the space for our truth
- Treat all clergy the same, no matter what their gender
- Use gender-neutral language e.g. vicar, rather than woman/lady vicar
- If a member of your clergy takes parental leave, embrace the opportunity to explore how your church operates as a supportive community where all are able to flourish and perhaps try to see how your deanery can respond collegially
- Women and men are different. We can celebrate the giftings of our diversity, not all women are the same, just as not all men are!
PCCs, church staff, and those in leadership are also encouraged to undertake some unconscious bias training. There is space for us all to be more aware of how we are treating others and to ensure equity and justice is promoted through our actions.
According to The Menopause Charity ‘10% of women leave their jobs due to menopause’. Educating ourselves to better understand the impact of menopause will help women in ministry, and also in our congregations. Training is available from The Menopause Charity.
You will have in your church, in pew if not always in pulpit, those who have experienced domestic abuse and violence. Be sensitive to their experiences and alert to possible triggers. Consider hosting a service for White Ribbon Sunday and look up www.whiteribbon.org.uk for current data and campaigns.