Mainstream churches hemorrhaging gifted passionate prayerful women

I am one of a rapidly growing group – a woman in the second-half of life, struggling to find a place of belonging in the institutional church.

The mainstream churches are hemorrhaging committed, gifted, passionate, knowledgeable, prayerful, spiritual seekers.

Women who have given twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years in the service of their spiritual or parochial communities.

Women who may still be actively involved in ministry but who are struggling with identity, relevancy and meaning. Women who dwell on the fringes – burnt out, frustrated, bewildered by change.

Or, women who have simply and quietly drifted away searching for a place of belonging.

Partly, I think the exodus reflects a growing intolerance for bureaucracy: the need to control and oragnise; the need for licences and mandates and membership fees and subscription lists.

There is a delicious freedom, a real connectedness to the essence of LOVE and the breath of the spirit, in allowing groups and rituals to arise organically from seeds sown; to allow these to flourish and nourish the lives of those who encounter them; and then to allow them to wither and die until the next season.

You also get to an age where exclusive language becomes offensive. In the first half of life, we can rationalise the use of exclusive, male-oriented language; ignore it or become too busy to even notice it, but sometimes, there comes a moment when it is no longer acceptable.

But more, I think the exodus reflects a shift in how mature women view themselves in relation to God. We are seeking intimacy; to be known deeply and sensually by God. We are more content to hold and honour the question – we no longer want definitive, unsatisfying, shallow or rote answers. We want to encounter and recognise the divine, as Mary Magdalene did when the risen Lord whispered her name. We long for authenticity: to be given space to become who we truly are.

Many older women are seeking a more collaborative, non-confrontational, inclusive, gentle approach to life and community. There is a definite move to more loosely-gathered, organic, cyclical groups which honour and respect the people who gather; which treat those gathered as adults; and which do not impose unnecessary obligations. Increasingly, there is a desire amongst us to share the wisdom and fruits of lives lived in the search of, and companionship of a loving, compassionate God, without the fear of constraint or complaint.

I, along with many women of my generation, desire new ways, fresh ways, to be daughters of God, sisters of Christ.

Perhaps the large, institutional churches need to loosen their vice-like grip on “religion” and “ritual” and “spirituality” and “God”. Perhaps these institutions need to recognise and nurture new ways of being church, of being a people of God.

Perhaps they need to embrace change before the new wine bursts the old wineskins.

Perhaps they need to recognise and honour the hundreds of unofficial, informal, organic gatherings where God is present in many guises:

  • women gathered knitting blankets for orphans;
  • women gathered in shared silence;
  • women gathered planting native seedlings along waterways;
  • women meeting and supporting each other as they seek meaningful and relevant employment;
  • women gathering, recognising the divine in diversity and variety.


  • Liz Pearce, mother of 3 adult children, loves story, dollmaking, writing and silence.


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