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Women Without Walls: How God Shapes Ordinary Women for Extraordinary Work

By Mary Cotes

Graceworks, 2021, £16.99. ISBN 978-9811471568

Review by Liz Shercliff, Reviews and Resources Editor

Women Without Walls: How God Shapes Ordinary Women for Extraordinary Work

Have you ever wondered, as you prepare a sermon, how to find stories and examples of faith heroes who are not men? Mary Cotes’ book offers a worthwhile resource for just such an occasion. In this easy-toread book we meet not only biblical women such as Ruth, Bathsheba and women who met Jesus, but also African martyrs of the third century, women missionaries from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and even a couple of heroes of faith who lived into the twenty-first century.

Mary Cotes wrote this book out of a conviction that ordinary Christian women should have access to encouraging and empowering stories of other ordinary women with remarkable stories. It is a conviction all preachers would do well to share.

The theme of each chapter gives it its title, and the contents page usefully also includes biblical references and the names and dates of other women included. There are eight chapters in all: Crossing Divides; Seeking Signs; Serving Others; Reaching Out; Staying True; Loving Action; Giving All; and Living Hopefully. The biblical women included are reasonably predictable: those from Matthew’s genealogy; Peter’s mother-in-law; the woman with the issue of blood; the Canaanite woman; the woman who anointed Jesus; the mother of James and John and the two Marys at the empty tomb. The historical or contemporary (almost) women are less predictable, perhaps because we know so few influential or important women anyway. Sabina Bell, anyone?

The women included in this book form an eclectic band from whom readers can usefully learn - from a prisoner on death row, to a freed slave, a well-known missionary and ten Boom sisters, of whom many readers will be aware. Each chapter begins with some inspirational quotes, from the well-known saying attributed to St Theresa of Avila, ‘Christ has no body but yours’ to some that were new to me, such as Dora Yu’s ‘although I am still very naïve in many ways, yet God has nonetheless used my feeble witness to bless his people.’

The author, Mary Cotes, introduces the book with clarity: ‘This is a book about the many ways in which God calls women to be ambassadors of his Kingdom.’ Her first chapter takes the parable of the yeast, and she tells us ‘The action of the yeast is nothing short of amazing. Mixed with flour and water, it starts to work and becomes, as if miraculously, a dynamic agent of change’” She concludes by saying the yeast ‘is still at work, and still points us to the feast prepared for all humankind.’

This is a gentle, intriguing book that preachers might recommend to those in their congregations who wonder what roles women might have played and might still play in inviting others to the feast.

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