Bathsheba – Named, not Shamed.

The genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels are mostly populated by men. That seems a bit odd given orthodox Judaism follows matrilineal descent. Anyway, there are some exceptions in these lists… and they are largely rather colourful characters.

My friends at Soul Food Edinburgh invited me to write an Advent blog post on a woman who’s referenced (but not named) in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus – Bathsheba. You can read it (and dip into lots of other wonderful posts about the women of Advent) here:


Karine Polwart’s cover of Deacon Blue’s song, Dignity, has kept me company throughout the pandemic. I love the stripped-back simplicity and the clarity of her vocals. 

For a while in lockdown the song was a source of hope – an old friend reminding me to trust there would be a day when travel and freedom would be possible again. In the meantime, it helped me take comfort in the familiarity of the small coastal town where I live. “There’s a man I meet, walks up our street, he’s a worker for the Council, has been 20 years” …Yes. Yes there is. Even at the height of lockdown, I would pass council workers day-by-day on the High Street and we’d smile and say hello as we went about our business. I have been here 4 years, but some of them have been here all their lives, quietly keeping things running, and being paid a pittance for the privilege.

And now, in the last few weeks, as furlough support and now the uplift in Universal Credit have been scrapped, this song has been reframed for me into something else: a ballad of lament and a reflection on injustice that ignites a flame of anger in me.

I heard on the news today that the reduction in Universal Credit is the biggest effective cut ever imposed, reducing some people’s income by 10% in the midst of massive rises in fuel costs, and at the onset of winter. I know people, and I bet you do too, whose already tight budgets will be forced into the red by this change. It will rob people of dignity. 

My Christian faith teaches me to pursue a society where God-given dignity is nurtured in all people. It’s not complicated, really. We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns, created in the Divine Image. In ancient times, the scriptures taught that the widow, the orphan and the stranger were to be accorded special care because of their vulnerability. We are charged with the imperative to look after for those who are most in need. When we fail, the prophets call us repentance on pain of disaster. Justice, we are told, will roll like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:4).

In my mind’s eye, Bogie wraps his sandwiches, in that same old bread-bag day by day, and walks up the street to begin his work. It’s cold and wet, but he trusts that with perseverance and saving he can put a little money by each week. It may be hard graft, but slowly he can build towards a dream for the future.

Hope and dignity go hand in hand, and this week the ship called Dignity sailed further out of reach for many people.

As I listen to this song again today, I think about home. I think about faith. I think about work. I think how good it would be, to be here some day with everyone on a ship called Dignity.

Hope must not be allowed to die. I hear a prophetic voice cry “injustice” and I resolve to stand against it.

An Easter Sea Shanty

One of the joys of my role is being invited to lead assemblies and seasonal church services for pupils and teachers at Dunbar Primary School. I made this adaptation of the Wellerman sea shanty for their Easter service as one way of sharing the Easter story.

The song uses my lyrics with images kindly shared in a ministry resources group I’m involved in. COVID has helped me to realise the value of collaboration… Sharing is caring!

Feel free to use and/or adapt this freely for your own context. I hope you enjoy it!

There was a time God came from above

In the form of a man, full of love.

Forgiving sins and healing pain,

Jesus is his name.


At Easter time we remember when

Jesus died and rose again.

Giving life, bringing hope,

The love of Jesus wins!

Though Jesus was a very good guy,

His enemies wanted him to die.

They made up stories,

Told some lies 

And plotted how to kill him.

Jesus had a meal with friends,

Told them he’d be leaving them.

They ate some bread and drank some wine

To remember Jesus loved them.

Something happened, very sad

One of Jesus’ friends turned bad.

Took a bribe from Jesus enemies.

Betrayed him to the Romans.

Roman guards locked Jesus away.

His friends were all too scared to stay.

Jesus faced his trial alone.

He was wrongfully condemned.

Jesus knew that he would die.

He prayed to God and questioned why.

Hung on a cross and crucified,

He cried out “It is finished.”

His body in a stone cold tomb. 

His friends were grieving, filled with gloom,

But on Sunday morning Mary found

Jesus’ grave was empty!

God brought Jesus back to life

To overcome our sin and strife.

He brings us hope 

and gives us life.

He offers new beginnings!

Shaped by Experience: Why #ChooseToChallenge Matters.

I was not raised a feminist. For this I am grateful. Instead, I was simply encouraged to be confident in who I am, and not to root my identity in a sense that to be treated with equal dignity and respect to others would require a fight. 

Yet as I’ve grown older I’ve become attuned to the ways in which inequality, based on my being female, has indeed shaped me, despite the many privileges and apparent “equalities” I enjoy.

How, you might ask?

It goes back a long way. For one thing, I’ve never – thank God – had to suffer leering and wolf-whistles like friends whose looks are closer to western society’s ideals of a “pretty girl”. Yet I could tell you about the time when I was still at primary school when I was invited to sit on an older man’s knee as he paid just slightly too much attention. Intuition helped me scarper from what might have become a much more damaging encounter, but still, I suspect the experience shaped me. 

I was lucky enough in the legal profession to work under female leaders who had been promoted to partner despite the glass ceiling. So I *knew* it could be done. But I could tell you also of the evidence of how costly it was – the price I saw those women pay in their relationships and families, which their male counterparts did not. Seeing their sacrifices shaped me.

I was fortunate never to experience sexual harassment from colleagues. But I could tell you about the client – a senior executive in a multinational – who, alone with me for a moment when my boss left the room, congratulated me on losing weight. Then he told me that prospective clients would always see a woman and “look first at your tits, then decide if he wanted to shag you, and only then wonder if you’re any good at your job”. I laughed it off and made sure the rest of my team heard the story… but his comments stuck, and it shaped me.

The church where I trained for ordination from 2011-2014 speaks out on  gender justice – and I am glad of this. Yet in three years of training, only two women modelled presiding at the altar for our cohort. And this is how my priestly vocation was formed. It shaped me.

I became a Christian in a denomination apparently far ahead of some others in seeking after gender equality – where men and women could both be called to serve in any role including Bishop. Yet in eighteen years, only one woman has been so called. It speaks loud, doesn’t it? And it shapes me.

I love my vocation. I am glad to have expertise and skills gained in a former career and other veins of education that I can offer in service of the Church, and fortunate to be part of a rich common life in my local community.  Yet often in my own institution, it feels like my former training and skills are invisible, and that in contexts where both women and men are present my voice and the voices of other women, are heard only as secondary to those of men. I am confident the men – and in some cases women – among whom I work would not recognise these behaviours and preferences in themselves. But they exist, and if I am not careful they will shape me.

I wonder sometimes if I am paranoid. But more and more, I’m confident I am not. Rather, I am more and more aware that the world is still full of inequality for women. And if I’m to live up to what I was brought up to believe – that I’m first and foremost a human; and that both I and all other women are made in the divine image – then it’s time to stop letting the micro- (and more macro-) aggressions slide. They matter. They matter because they shape women, and their shaping is a form of diminishment. So I should should #ChooseToChallenge. 

Happy International Women’s Day.