Hats, big hair and bling may be stock-in-trade but one Ladies’ Day at Sandown Park will subvert the stereotype.
In partnership with Mothers’ Union and Project 3:28, the Christian Resources Exhibition (15-17 Oct 2019), Europe’s leading annual exhibition of church-related products and services, will devote its final day, Thu 17 Oct, to issues faced by women in today’s world.
‘In a programme of special presentations and seminars, we’ll highlight the contributions of women in church and society, especially those who have been forgotten or neglected,’ said CRE owner and managing director Steve Goddard. ‘It has been 25 years since the first woman was ordained by the Church of England – and this presents us with an ideal opportunity for reflection.’
The Bishop of Dorking, Right Rev Jo Bailey Wells, said: ‘I’m thrilled to be invited to speak. Our church is built on the leadership and service of women, even though so much of this has been unrecognised for centuries. I rejoice that this is changing and long to empower all God’s people in the ministry to which God calls each of us. Saying “Yes!” is the best thing I ever did – an adventure of faith that I’m still discovering.’ Bishop Jo will speak at 1.15pm on Ladies’ Day, Thu 17 Oct.
Project 3:28’s Natalie Collins, who will speak on sexism, said: ‘Although the Gospel is liberating for both women and men, too often Christian culture limits women. More broadly, the #metoo movement has shown harm to women is depressingly widespread. How great that CRE is responding and equipping churches to empower and liberate women!’
For many within Christian culture, womanhood looks a particular way but is this biblical? And what does it mean for women and girls who don’t fit the ideal? Drawing from her new book “The Girl Deconstruction Project”, Rachel Gardner, director of Youthscape, and president of the Girls’ Brigade, will offer a new vision for women and inspire us to see that vision realised in our churches, communities and families.
Dr Sanjee Perera, a research fellow at the University of Birmingham, will examine how goodness, holiness, beauty and virtue became synonymous with whiteness, and how this has become a double burden for women with black and minority ethnicities.
Many of us will know the stories of aristocratic saints who lived centuries ago, but have we considered how their stories might clash with the earthy biblical narratives that speak of prostitutes alight in Grace, of famine and slavery, of unbending dictators, genocide and the fall of empires? Dr Perera had to search to find the stories of the black women who have served and inspired the church.
Among several artists contributing to Ladies’ Day will be Saltmine Theatre Co, presenting Chosen, a play about the life of Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union and a duologue and monologue from a passion play about Mary Magdalene. Musicians will include Marilyn Baker, Christine Asamoah and Daughters of Davis.
Almost 200 organisations have booked stands at CRE National 2019 to display everything from card donation kiosks to communion wine, musical instruments to motorcycle funerals.
‘Local churches face a multitude of questions and the exhibition offers some vital lightbulb moments,’ said event director Brett Pitchfork. ‘Experts fill every aisle, guiding visitors through the complexities of local ministry.’
More than 4000 local church leaders and members are expected to visit the three-day event which will be opened by former Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones and actress Fiona Hendley.
• CRE National 2019 at Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey opening hours: Tue 15 and Wed 16 Oct, 10am-5pm; Thu 17 Oct, 10am-4.30pm. Book your tickets in advance and save at least 50 per cent on day‑of‑entry admission. Visit www.creonline.co.uk for more information.