For God's glory

Church attendance has doubled at the church of Rev'd Stephanie, who is described as 'blonde' and 'pretty.' She is also a Cambridge theology graduate and has exchanged a high-powered job for the calling to ordained ministry.

If we have a secure theology of our wholeness, of the incarnation and a healthy body-theology, there should be no reason to think anything apart from people's attraction to someone vibrant and fresh-looking who has the message of the gospel to impart. I wonder what this kind of media attention says about the preconceived images that are at large about your typical cleric or even your typical Christian, at that.

Our recent horizons have been dominated by images of Christians, on the latest Louis Theroux program, who were full of hatred and took to the streets with their homophobic campaigns. We have also been treated to the apocalyptic predictions of one Harold Camping, who has now revised Armageddon for October 31st.

What we desperately need is more coverage of a church that is approachable and relevant, a church where the 'girl next door' might be just as easily be also that very vicar in the pulpit the next time you choose to attend church.

Update 26/5/11

What do you think Steph's image does for Christianity? Is it an issue? Why the attention on the looks of this woman? Would similar articles be written about an attractive young man?
There has been mixed reaction to this post in terms of my linking to the Daily Mail and in terms of this paper's coverage of the story.
What kind of response does this article invoke in you and for what reasons?


I have more questions than answers said...

I am sorry, but your link to this article has made me really quite angry. This is, in my view truly dreadful on many many counts.

This article demeans and undermines the ministry that is being carried out and puts it purely that the church numbers have increased due to their being an attractive female curate (facts inaccurate, Stephanie is serving her title there). As a man I find this wholly offensive, I'm sure a number of my female ordinand colleagues may feel the same way and if not more angry.

The article has one focus and one focus only. Comments such as ‘The first time I walked down the street in Caterham in a dog collar I was so embarrassed,’ are dressed up as being down to her being attractive, but I suspect the comment made by Stephanie is being more down to that self consciousness that all of us will feel when first ordained and out in our clericals.

Whilst I don't deny that it is great to see church numbers increase, I am rather staggered by your rejoicing in this article that is insulting to so many. This article is sexist, voyeristic journalism at its worst.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised! Do you *really* think the DM would print the mirror article about a young sporty good-lookng male curate who had a similar energising effect on a local parish? no. It wouldn't and therefore proves to me that this article is not about church growth or positive images of the church either. Its about sex and the objectification of women. standard DM fare. Dressing it up with "healthy theology of the body" doesn't take that away I'm afraid. I rejoice if people are hearing the gospel. I cannot rejoice in the way this is reported.

Rach said...

Hi both
Thanks for your comments. It's good to hear different takes on this story. I have just spoken to one of my friends in training who is aware that her blonde hair and attractive appearance causes her to think through how she presents herself and moreover how she might read others' appreciation of what she does. She wants people to encounter Jesus through her and about this she is very certain, however I have also witnessed people's responses to her, commenting upon how she is like 'a breath of fresh air,' etc.

Personally, I find little that is offensive in the DM article. I think that the image of the church is something about which we should be mindful for the sake of mission.

I have more questions than answers said...

Rachel, your take on it is very interesting. The DM article, though is not about the image of the church, it's about the image of Stephanie and the DM has taken it's grubby journalism to the lowest common denominator - ie appearance and sexualisation.

We would not expect such treatment of either men or women. The tone is just at one level. It's not about praising God. It's sexist rubbish at it's worst and something that many in the church (and society) have fought against for many years - and continue to do so - and to promote this sort of article throws away and ignores the struggles that have gone before.

Of course, we rejoice in the growth of congregations and people discovering God in their lives. However, we must not rejoice in this sort of low level, insulting journalism. I struggle to see how people in ordained ministry or training for ordained ministy as well as others are not offended by the article.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but really?? little to be offended by??

Describing the curate as "foxy"?
Will that be ok if a local paper describes you thus next year? just because you're under 40, female and attractive??

the whole tone of the article is purient and distasteful.

of course we need to be mindful of the image of the church, or course we need to be seen as relevant and attractive ( on all sorts of levels) this kind of article does nothing for any of that... quite the opposite; and it demeans and belittles women like you & me ( and Steph)who have worked hard get to this position of ordained ( or about to be) ministry and would like to be treated with respect and equality -isn;t that what we've been asking for for so long?
This is retrograde.

I've been told I'm going to be a breath of fresh air too -been told I already am... that's fine... that's a million miles from being blonde or young or being judged and commented on on your appearance.

Joan of Quark said...

The Daily Wail can't even be bothered to get its terminology right - "vicar" when she's a curate, "Revd Surname" etc., uses faux archaic language in its opening paragraphs, runs a cartoon making it plain it's majoring on the "foxy" angle... almost entirely business as usual in the yawn-inducing misogynist press as far as I can see.
Maybe there is a slight glimmer of hope in that this is not a "vicar has affair" article.

Anonymous said...

Intresting opinion.


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