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Midwives of an Unnamed Future:
Spirituality for Women
in Times of Unprecedented Change

by Mary Ruth Broz, RSM and Barbara Flynn
ACTA, 2006

review by Heidi Schlumpf

This is not a book to read; it is a book to experience. The authors, both spiritual directors, have created a handbook for women who want to go deeper, for those who may struggle with institutional religion or who simply want to explore how God is present in their everyday lives. And they’ve made it easy, with 16 chapters complete with suggested music, rituals, and reflection questions that can be used by individuals or groups.

The power of the book lies in its use of images and metaphors, the overarching one being that of women as midwives, helping one another to “birth” new things in their lives, in their faith communities, and in the world. It is circles of women, they assert, who are making a difference in this time of unprecedented change. “As we have shared our common concerns and hope for something more, we have begun to uncover new visions of the holy and new experiences of the sacred that have sustained us through some of the roughest times in our personal lives, as well as through times of tremendous upheaval in the church and the world around us,” they write.

Think women in book groups reading Anne Lamott, coffee klatches of young mothers wanting to raise their sons and daughters differently, women theologians and church workers imagining God in new and creative ways, or corporate women networking with one another about a less masculine model of business.

Broz and Flynn, who used to run a women’s spirituality center in Chicago, offer plenty of wisdom not only to those needing an introduction to feminine spirituality but to women who have already tested the waters or jumped right into this alternative way of seeking the Divine. Again, the images that illustrate each chapter’s theme bring in the concrete and the everyday: quilts for fragmentation and wholeness; yeast and bread for the process of becoming; water for wellness. One section uses the four seasons to illustrate pieces of the spiritual life: wonder, harvest, Sabbath, and growing pains.

While some of the midwifery imagery may not resonate with women who have never given birth, the meaty reflections by Broz and Flynn provide universal wisdom for women in all stages of life. Struggling with change? Facing a threshold moment or waiting during “in between” time? Whether birthing a baby or a new business, the need to trust the life-death-life cycle applies. “Suddenly, change becomes the norm and stability an illusion,” they write. “As we move through our own birthings and endings, grievings and celebrations, we come to recognize a larger mystery at work, calling us to trust that life is changed, not taken away.”

In the end, Broz and Flynn are talented midwives themselves, and their book will help birth new spiritual paths for women. So grab your journal, or better yet, call up a few women friends and experience this book together.

Copyright ©2006 Heidi Schlumpf

Midwives of An Unnamed Future...
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