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Looking in to Speak Out

This past Thursday, Reverend Andrew Federle led our Easter Service at St. Clement’s Church. At the end of his homily, he advised us that St. Clement’s Church will be hosting a series in May reflecting on women’s voices and their place in ministry. As Reverend Federle wrote to me after the service, ” The theme that I’m driving toward in May is about recovering the voices of women – both in the Scriptures and in our own day, and how women have responded to their own sense of the call of God.”

I was thinking about this as I read a wonderful book entitled Essential Writings by Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman who died in Auschwitz at the age of 29. On the back cover, the description of the book notes that “years later, the publication of her diaries (An Interrupted Life) revealed to the world her remarkable voice.” I was taken with Hillesum’s reflections and it reminded me that to bring strength to voice and conviction, one must look within to get to know oneself. As girls’ schools, in particular, we have powerful environments in which to encourage reflection and to nurture each girl’s authentic being.

In the introduction of Hillesum’s writing, editor AnneMarie Kidder explains that “Gaining inklings of one’s soul involves observing how one’s perceptions and behaviour have changed over time…[Hillesum] recognized that becoming familiar with her soul’s landscape produces a sense of peace in her and compassion for others…for Hillesum, the soul is the place where inner and outside worlds meet, two worlds of equal importance.”

With the rapid pace of life these days, I believe the opportunities to look within- regardless of faith- have diminished. As Hillesum’s writing and life suggest, knowing oneself fosters voice and the capacity for compassion for others. Our girls and young women must be reminded of the power of self-knowledge, and we- home and School- must provide opportunities and time in which to nurture this.

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