Faith

Women’s Justice and Mercy Ministries: Celebrating the Church’s Unsung Heroes

By: Amy Cheng

Women are often the unsung heroes in the church, with their work behind the scenes often going unnoticed, but a new podcast and ebook are hoping to change that.

The podcast, More Than a Cake Stall, was launched by Jericho Road, the mercy ministry arm of the Presbyterian Church in NSW, and PCNSW Women’s Ministry Committee – with an e-book alongside it.

The podcast is the work of Sylvia Siu, Associate Women’s Ministry Facilitator for the Women’s Ministry Committee, and tells the story of women’s work in justice and mercy ministries.

What is ‘Mercy’ Ministry?

This year marks 110 years since Jericho Road was formed and it wants to celebrate the women who started the ministry and those keeping it going today.

Justice and mercy ministries provide hope and care for those in need, in a way that seeks justice, shows mercy and makes Jesus known, often in small ways such as inviting someone over for tea.

“They’re so often people who are about to fall through the cracks of life, they’re in dark places, they’re in dark times,” Ms Baker said. “They might feel isolated and lonely, and justice and mercy is about finding those people and showing them God’s mercy and love.”

Breaking the Bias

Mrs Siu said the podcast aims to champion the work of women, and break down bias, stereotypes and discrimination. 

Women at a PWA Jam Stall
Above: Presbyterian Women’s Association Market Day 2012

Through her work on the podcast, Mrs Siu has seen women being biased towards their own contributions to the church.

“I would call women to invite them to be part of the podcast and they’d say, ‘oh, you know, but it’s really not that much what I do and I really don’t think it’s worth profiling or talking about’,” she said.

“Women, I think, really themselves often feel that their justice and mercy work is not much… and it doesn’t seem, in their mind, a significant contribution.”

“A woman’s work is valuable regardless of what it looks like, a woman’s work is priceless when it’s done with her eyes fixed on God,” – Janette Baker, Jericho Road.

The church has had a role to play in this, according to Mrs Siu.

“As a church, I think we have unintentionally diminished the contribution of women; so if it’s not up front ministry, we just don’t think it’s worth mentioning or we don’t really give it any attention,” she said.

“I think that’s why we should break the bias because when we don’t, we really diminish what women are contributing.

“And we really (also) diminish… the value of the people who receive their work.”

Ms Baker believes it is important to break this bias to prevent the problem becoming worse.

“A woman’s work is valuable regardless of what it looks like, a woman’s work is priceless when it’s done with her eyes fixed on God,” she said.

Historical photos from the PWA
Left: Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Association reading room – Sydney 1931; Right: 1913 – Woolloomooloo Settlement – Women’s Club

Celebrating Women’s Work

One of the ways to break this bias is talking about women’s work, Mrs Siu said, and IWD is an opportunity for Christians to acknowledge the work of women that often goes unrecognised.

“Women are so often, in my mind, the unsung heroes, they’re often the ones that are doing so much of the hands on, behind the scenes, work that might go unseen or unnoticed,” Ms Baker said.

“When I think about the Bible, it’s full of stories of women who are often doing seemingly small things.

“We’re all the hands and feet of God and we’re all part of the body of Christ, no matter what our gender, and it’s important that we do celebrate all the parts of the body.”

One of the aims of the podcast is for people to see the value of women’s work in the church.

“(To) recognise that everything that women have contributed, specifically in our denomination but in the greater work of God’s Kingdom, is so much more than it appears,” Mrs Siu said.

“Even when it’s something as small as a cupcake donated to a cake store, it is so much more than that.”

“Women are so often, in my mind, the unsung heroes, they’re often the ones that are doing so much of the hands on, behind the scenes, work that might go unseen or unnoticed,” – Janette Baker, Jericho Road.

The stories of the podcast range from ladies making sandwiches to deliver to homeless men, to a nurse serving over in Ethiopia and Somalia in the 1960s.

There’s even a story about the first deaconess in the Presbyterian Church of NSW, Eva Holland, crossing paths with queen of the Sydney underworld Tilly Devine.

“They’re not the stories that will make front page or anything like that, but to me, it’s just as important and even more important,” Ms Baker said.

“I want the everyday woman out there to understand that God can use all of us, no matter who you are or our circumstances or however big and fancy or small we feel that our gifts are.”

The stories of the podcast range from ladies making sandwiches to deliver to homeless men, to a nurse serving in Ethiopia and Somalia in the 1960s.

The e-book introduces the stories told in the podcast and provides opportunities for women to get involved in justice and mercy ministries.

“We want people to see the opportunities around them, that they can get involved too… there’s so many opportunities for women and for everybody to play their part and be the hands and feet of God,” Ms Baker said.

For more information about the e-book and to listen to the More than a Cake Stall podcast, visit pcnswwomen.org.au.


Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

About the Author: Amy is a writer at Hope 103.2, Sydney.

Feature image: Group of women at the summer conference of the Presbyterian Fellowship, 1930s. All images: Supplied.

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