Silence in Heaven, a Book of Women's Preaching
Heather Walton & Susan Durber, SCM Press Ltd, 1994
Reviewed by Jane Griffith, SOF NZ Newsletter #9, November 1994
The sub-title indicates Silence in Heaven is a "book of women's preaching" which in itself makes this book unique as it is the first time a book of British women's sermons has been published.
As the introduction notes some of the sermons have been preached in pulpits, some in women's gatherings or on 'special' occasions whilst others have never been preached "because what they say cannot yet be said in churches".
As a person who very rarely reads sermons and wonders at the relevance of such a monological method of presentation of material in the 199O's I approached this book with a certain amount of hesitation as well as anticipation.
Twenty eight women contributed to this book. These women are from many different backgrounds and theological stances and therefore it is understandable that not all the sermons would appeal to every reader. For me as a woman I warmed to much of the femaleimagery and the unique way some of these women wove their experiences of conception, birthing, maturation and dying into the framework of their sermons. The language and imagery used in many of the sermons is most powerful and highlights the differing perceptions of women and men.
Silence in Heaven is divided into five sections. The sermons in each section share a common theme, make use of female imagery, and often provide a new perspective to familiar myths and texts.
Use of female body imagery introduces a new angle to the stable scene in Bethlehem, the massacre of the Innocents and the haemorrhaging woman as well as speaking about Christian survivors of sexual abuse and the Church's silence on this subject. Some of the sermons have developed from womens' pain, some from the frustrations of having a basic text (the Bible) written entirely by men. But from out of this comes a recognition that now is the time to ask new questions and use alternative strategies to listen to women's voices and tell the Biblical stories from a woman's point of view. This is precisely what this book is attempting to do and many of the sermons published show that there are women preachers in Britain who are successfully achieving this.