Read an Excerpt
From the Preface (pre-publication version):
Spirited Women is an invitation: an invitation to travel across time and space, an invitation to discover lost relatives in the faith.
Spirited Women can be read in a number of ways. It tells the story of the women who were present in the gospels-last at the cross and first at the tomb-during the earliest years of the church. Many people who read The Magdalene Gospel asked me, "Well, then what? What happened to them after the Good Friday, Holy Saturday experience? Why do they seem to disappear?" Spirited Women is my way of answering that question based on research, intense biblical study, and imagination.
Spirited Women can also be read as a story about those early years about which folk who've gone to church and read their Bibles for years often know little. I've set the story at a key moment in the life of the earliest church, when the Hellenistic believers are scattered after the death of Stephen-when they start to take the story on the road. Through these women's stories-individual and collective-I try to flesh out some of the challenges of those early days when many issues were being hammered out-pivotal areas like how much of Judaism to keep or throw out, how flexible to be in relation to local cultures, what being a believer in Jesus really meant. These were extraordinary times in the life of the church.
Others will want to read Spirited Women as a launching pad to deeper research into women's lives in the first century Graeco-Roman world and especially in the very early church. There is no shortage of material available on these topics, but much of it is scattered throughout learned texts, oftenin prose that is more scholarly than readable. To read Spirited Women in this way would involve not only reading the material within the chapters, but also consulting the notes for further reading at the back of the book.
I also believe in the power of the scriptures to touch our lives today. To facilitate this, I have included chapter-by-chapter questions for individual readers who wish to allow their lives to interact with the lives of these, our spiritual fore-mothers. At this level, it is my hope that Spirited Women might provide an encounter with these women, allowing them to encourage and challenge us as contemporary women.
The women in Spirited Women (and in The Magdalene Gospel) met Jesus as individuals but also met Christ in each other and in the gathered community. Reflecting that, I have provided questions for group study and discussion, coming out of the individual questions, so that Spirited Women could provide a gathering point for a number of study sessions. I hope that many different kinds of women might be drawn into studying and discussing Spirited Women-those who are fully involved in the faith, but who want to learn more about their foremothers; those who have felt disenfranchised by the church and would like to engage in some honest discussion about Jesus and his relationship with women and the way the church has treated women. I would hope that even those who are not at all sure about Jesus or the church might find Spirited Women to be a starting place. A number of folk who work with Graduate Christian Fellowship have told me that they wanted to start a group for graduate students at their universities to study a gospel, but that people felt so distanced from scripture that they couldn't get them to join, and so they used The Magdalene Gospel which offered a certain fictional distance. I hope that Spirited Women will function in the same way.
Finally, in a book like Spirited Women, the individual women's stories can function on their own. Many have used the stories from The Magdalene Gospel as parts of sermons, talks, retreats. I would like Spirited Women to similarly help to bring from oblivion these voices unheard for too long.
I am grateful to many people for encouragement in writing Spirited Women, especially some spirited women who helped me work on this material in retreats and dramatic forms-Judy LeWin, Bette Schelper, Letha Wilson Barnard, Persis Elkins, Barb Olson, Kathy Langley, Kathy Nevins, Judy Hornbacher, Elizabeth Carlson.