I went to a goodbye party for a co-worker, a woman with prestige in the arena of theological libraries.
I also met a couple of new people, online and in person, where I introduced myself as a teacher, and explained why I am leaving the Seminary.
All of these put me in situations where I got to comment on women and theological teaching. These were far from my first comments on the subject. This morning, I found myself engaged in that conversation again, and in my office, someone mentioned a fellow Southern Baptist Seminary that offers a degree in homemaking.
It was assumed that I would hate that. The idea of a seminary offering a degree in homemaking would correspond to the arguments I was making about encouraging women to find their true holy vocation and how church culture doesn’t support that as well as it could.
Here’s the thing about that: I don’t hate it. I can’t hate it.
I recognize that the churches in my generation are hemorrhaging both new believers and the opportunities to make them because we can’t care for people well. We might be “culturally relevant”, we might be getting our doctrine “right”, we might look cool and welcoming, but we don’t have what it takes to make a house a home.
When the women in our churches, often older than our own mothers, stop slicing the bagels and pouring the orange juice and brewing the coffee on Sunday morning, who will do that? Who among us knows how to cook for more than 5 people, let alone cook for ourselves?
Who among us knows what it takes to care for people well, creatively live within our means, and shower both guests and residents with grace and beauty? Who among the women in my generation knows that home-making is actually peace-making, AND has the skills to do it?
Now, with the privilege of growing up in the traditions of both Southern Hospitality and Italian family, I do have a few skills. I can cook for a lot of people and I’m not afraid of boisterous crowds. I know how to clean and anticipate the needs of visitors. I also, being my mother’s daughter, know how to make things pretty. I know which bowl to use and how to tie a lovely bow.
But I could use a lot more coaching on maintaining healthy, long-term relationships. I could use some training on overcoming alienation and discouragement, on surmounting my fear of strangers, on rest, on what it means to be a good wing-man instead of a front-man. I could use a place to really dissect the relationship between care of bodies and care of minds,hearts, and souls–and how to do that for children (the guests you may only have for 20 years).
And I could use more training in the Word and how to use it to accomplish those things.
These are not things we can find on Pinterest. (Though I applaud Pinterest for its contributions in renewing interest in the domestic arts and tying bows). These are things that could really benefit from some deliberate training by experienced, educated people who recognize the real needs of what it means to partner with someone in ministry to a church or a mission field–especially from women who’ve been there, done that, and who might not have been part of our family heritage.
You shouldn’t mistake me for someone who denounces formal training in homemaking by a stellar, Godly institution for the willing, but you also shouldn’t mistake me for someone who’d be a good fit for it. I’m just saying that we, as men and women constantly at work discerning the Lord’s daily work for us, should slow down a little before lambasting it. We should be talking more about the needs it has the potential to meet. We should be talking about how we can better meet the physical needs of people in our homes, and how to plan for that, the way the early church did–about what we can be doing to meet those needs with who we are, here and now.
I’m not denying the ways the program points to some things that are seriously wrong in the conversation about women and ministry and calling. It seems to lean on some problematic presuppositions about definitions of “women’s work” and the authority to define it. But that is for another post. (and there will be another post on this)
Especially as a woman who struggles to find a place for her vocation in our Christian community, I want to be fair–generous even–when talking about women’s calling, vocation, obedience, and the authority of the church. I don’t need to slam the other side to make my point.
I also want to caution us all not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is neither a way to care for this conversation nor infants in the nursery.
And maybe we needed a homemaking degree to tell us that.