Today we honor Emily Malbone Morgan, founder of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. Born in 1862 in Hartford, Connecticut, Morgan came from a prominent family with deep Anglican roots. Through a friendship with a homebound friend who looked to Morgan for spiritual companionship, Morgan began to gather a small group of women for prayer and companionship; this group evolved into the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. Morgan worried about working women who were tired and restless but had little hope for a vacation. She formed summer vacation homes for the working women and their daughters for physical and spirit renewal. She also formed a permanent home in Massachusetts, which is still the headquarters and retreat center for the Society. Today the SCHC has 31 chapters and over 700 Companions in six countries. The Society lives a life of prayer and contemplation rooted in tradition and has led to commitments to social justice for women.
What I love about Morgan is that she comes from a long line of strong women. We hear about some of these women in scripture today. First we hear of Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives who clearly disobeyed the king and saved many children. Then we hear of Martha and Mary, who both witness to the full and complete spectrum of the ways women participate in the life of faith. What I love about all three sets of women is that they boldly lived into their faith, sometimes taking on risks, thinking outside the box, and ultimately shaking up expectations of what men and women can do.
These last couple of years, the issue of the way women are treated around the world has become a hot issue. Wage discrepancies, and susceptibility to violence, oppression and societal limitations have all come under criticism. As legislation around women’s bodies arises, many women have fought back. What I love about our lessons today is that both God and Jesus praise the women who step out to seize power and equality.
For the midwives, Shiprah and Puah, God rewards them for their loyalty and bravery. For Mary, Jesus praises her for taking what was usually only given to men – the privilege of sitting and listening. Today our lessons and Morgan’s witness invite us to consider our own role in inequality and God’s invitation to be an agent of change. Amen.