The women of the early church did not have much recognition despite their immense contributions towards the growth of the church. The early church was dominated by patriarchal power and hence women were relegated to mere subordinate levels. Men have been recognized as history makers in the church, they have portrayed as the builders of the church of Jesus Christ yet they did not work alone t o accomplish such noble tasks.
But the history of the church is full of great women like Magdalene, Priscilla, Donna Vella and Macrina amongst many others. This newsletter dedicates its discussions on the early women of the church. It will particularly focus on their Christian work and influence and how they remain relevant to the contemporary society.
The Biblical Women
The bible contains historical accounts of women who had significant contributions to the development of the early church. Such women, amongst others, include Mary Magdalene, Naomi, Phoebe and Esther. The contribution of women in shaping the Christian world began almost immediately after the church was first established.
For instance, taking the case of Phoebe, she was amongst the deacon of Paul. In spite of the strong patriarchal society where women were not given much recognition, Phoebe played, amongst other early women, played powerful roles in the society.
It is important to note that the patriarchal society continues to exist and while as much as some gains have been made towards equity between men and women, women are still regarded as being surbordinate to men. Given that the women in early church managed to rise above social patriarchy, they are able to serve as role models to women of today.
The women of the early church can then be seen to as rising up and taking vital positions in the society despite the cultural odds. Notably, initially, the church was not comfortable with the role of leadership played by women. However, the church has been becoming more receptive and recognizes women’s participation in the religious circle (Guy 165).
With such contributions the women of today can be inspired by women of the early church to rise above the culture of patriarchy, both in the church and the society at large. It means that, despite the fact that they are not alive now; the women of the early church can still influence women participation in various activities as they experience the effects of patriarchy (Guy 165).
Inspirations of the Women of Early Church
Women of the early church had lots of inspirations that can be tapped for the benefit of the current society. One of the most inspiration can be derived from martyrdoms in which many women were willing and actually died for their stand on Christian believes and doctrines. For example, Perpetua and Felicitas died as martyrs in the year 203 due to their strong faith.
Before they were executed, Perpetua Felicitas wrote an account of their experience. At point, as the father tried to persuade her to change her mind she replied the father:
“Can you see this water pot or whatever you may see it to be? Can it be referred to by any other name…? “So I cannot call myself by any other name a part from what I really am, and that is “a Christian.”
The story of perpetual and Felicitas is an inspiration to many Christians of today and even the non-Christians. They demonstrate that they are willing to loose their lives just to maintain their fundamental beliefs and principles. Despite the fact that they were persuaded by their loved ones to denounce their beliefs to survive, they stood by them.
The scenario of Naomi and Ruth is also very inspirational. Both women decided to stay together despite the difficulties they faced together. After all the sons of Ruth had died in foreign land, she asked all daughters in law to go back to their native homes and find themselves new husbands. However, Naomi refuses and promises to stick with Ruth. Naomi stated that:
“Do not ask me to leave you or to stop following you. Because wherever you go, I will go with you; wherever you settle, I will settle with you; your people shall be mine too; your God will be my God; wherever you will be laid to rest, so shall I be also and only death will separate us.”
There are other numerous inspirations that can be derived from the women of the early church. As they discharged their duties in the church, they wrote many articles that they used in their teachings and Christian activities.
Spirituality and There Music
The women of the early church were committed to biblical principals. Their spirituality was deeply rooted in the teachings of the bible. They believed in the supremacy of the death of Jesus; they taught the people according to spiritual revelations from God, especially the prophetess. Some of their spiritual practices included being baptized as a form of rebirth in Christ, being ordained as pastesses, deacons and celebration of Christmas and other significant religious days ((Guy 217).
They sang praise and worship songs to reinforce their spiritual commitment to God and also as a form of their prayer. But they were also dutiful to their husbands and family members as required by c the Christianity and Christian principles. In most cases, they sang songs that are in the biblical scriptures, mostly composed by David the psalmist.
For instance they sang such songs as, “Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.” This song was derived from Psalms 30:4. There were many songs and hymns found in the bible used by the women of the early church.
The Lifestyle of the Woman of the Early Church
Some of the women of the early church live with their families; some of them were married and had families. For example, Ruth had husband and sons who died; one of the sons was the husband to Naomi.
However, there are those women who chose to be virgins and live as nuns; in this case, the women were fully committed to the ministry of Christianity. The church began after Jesus had been crucified and later resurrected to ascend to heaven; thereafter there was a need for his followers to unite together and continue his spiritual teachings.
It was during this time when the women started getting committed to Christian work (Williamson pp.1-5). They subsequently increased in number. The women lived during a period in which the society never emphasized the importance of a woman. They were socially deprived and hence suffered lots of challenges during the time they were discharging their missionary or Christian duties. Nonetheless, the woman used to have their pilgrimages to Jerusalem
The women of the early church lived at a time when women were culturally not recognized. This is why church history never recognizes their immense contribution and instead gave supremacy to men. However, there contributions to the development of the church still remain significant and they are source of inspiration to many people in the church today, especially women.
Their determinations and commitment to their religious beliefs and principles could not be deterred even in the face of death. For this reason, it can be said that the women of the early church left a legacy that will move from generation to generation.
Guy, Laurie. Introducing Early Christianity. New York: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Williamson, Andrew. The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. New York: Penguin Group, 1989.