I am very grateful for the invitation I received to visit Edmonton, Alberta, Canada last month. It was an opportunity to learn about the history of CRC men and women uniting with the Committee for Women (CW), to advocate for women.
The CW was launched in 1977 by Joan Flikkema, Dorothy Van Hamersveld, Carol Rottman, Donna Sieplinga, and many other men and women. Its purpose was and is to advocate for women. Some of its longtime supporters have passed, but their efforts were not in vain; we stand on their shoulders.
My journey began with an email invitation to meet Cheryl Mahaffy and other women leaders of Edmonton—women who are still passionate about the full use of women's gifts in the church. These women met a few times to decide on next steps and explore whether or not there was interest in a future gathering. They kept me informed about the meetings by including me in the email exchanges.
On Thursday, October 24 at 7 p.m. we met at St. Albert CRC for a gathering titled Witness for Women. More than 50 men and women came to witness God’s faithfulness through a series of events: lovely music and songs, a review of the Edmonton group’s history, entry of the Bird with a Broken Wing, a preview of upcoming 25th Anniversary recognition at Classis Alberta North, a panel of three clergywomen (Karen Norris, Michelle Kool, Anne Vander Hoek) reflecting on their journeys, and an open mic. I gave reflections on my entry into the CRC and a broad perspective of how we are going forward in the denomination to support women leaders, churches, and classes.
The idea of creating a bird with a broken wing came to mind while a small group sat around a campfire in the summer of 1993 at a learning event about communicating through art. Potter Edith Sinnema was in that circle, and she crafted the bird, which was sent to Synod that year to symbolize the ultimate impact of decades of decisions concerning women. I saw the bird for myself and met Edith and some of the other people who sat around that campfire.
At the Thursday evening gathering, I learned that Lillian V. Grissen, the former associate editor of The Banner from 1982 to 1989, was the Edmonton group’s first speaker of many retreats to follow in the ’80s and ’90s. She spoke on Working Together in Christ. Lillian passed in 2016.
At another Edmonton retreat, women’s advocate Joan Flikkema was the speaker. We honored her at last year's synod. Other retreat speakers included Drs. Richard Mouw and Neal Plantinga.
I appreciated hearing about Edmonton’s history in the words of Dolores Huizinga, who was part of the group from the beginning. In her closing remarks, she said, "I believe we still need to continue this work until we really come to a place where this idea needs no more discussion." She was referring to the CW's motto, "The Committee for Women works toward the full expression of women's gifts in the church. We wish to support, encourage, and train women to become aware of the use of their abilities in building up the body of Christ."
We will continue this work...