"We’ve had some feedback that our podcast is actually keeping women’s voices and women’s preaching in the forefront of the minds of the members of the Plenary Council. So if we can have some impact on that as well, that’s exciting."
Angela Marquis speaks on behalf of the Australian Women Preach Podcast team to explain her role, what it takes to assemble preachers weekly, and the importance of this work.
Angela shares her experience of being part of the Australian Women Preach podcast and in the process illustrates the necessity for such a podcast for capturing the preaching of women in Australia. The following are edited excerpts and an outline of the conversation from this podcast interview.
[00:00:14] The Australian Women Preach podcast was launched in March 2021 as a weekly podcast that has different women preach on the upcoming Sunday’s gospel reading. What has been your role in helping put together this podcast?
I took on the role of dealing with the emails, so the invitations and requesting women who we wanted to have preach and following up with them, and we all worked together to make a pro forma, if you like, an invitation and the response to that invitation and what was required. And I deal with the emailing…the clerical administrative role. But I also wanted to preach so I’ve had the chance to do that as well.
[00:01:12] What has been the response, initial reaction, and overall feedback from these different preachers?
I’d say that the response has been varied but overwhelmingly positive. The majority of people that we asked have said yes…Louise Maher is our amazing producer and she makes everyone just feel so relaxed and calm when they are recording and so the experience I think has been positive for women. Some women have had lots of experience in public speaking and other people have not ever had that chance and I think hearing your sermon be broadcast in that light, in that public space, is really exciting.
[00:02:35] So that would be 60+ episodes and guests. Looking back on this growing and substantial amount of episodes what stands out for you?
…I guess it’s been a collaborative process and the way we have all worked together. We all live in different states and I have personally never met any of the women in person, only on zoom every week who are involved in this project. There’s six of us and for me, from a personal perspective, it’s just knowing that I’m part of a group that’s making a change in the world, change in our church space. But these women are just amazing and I feel like I’ve got five really amazing friends out of this whole experience that I’ve never actually met them.
I think from the group’s perspective, a comment that came out was that what we’re doing is subversive. You know, we are protesting against the lack of women’s voices in the public sphere and the lack of ability for many women to preach the gospel. But what we’re doing is also generative and creative and the response of the women and the response of the public is just, it’s positive. It doesn’t feel like there’s any negativity in the whole process.
We’ve had some feedback that our podcast is actually keeping women’s voices and women’s preaching in the forefront of the minds of the members of the Plenary Council. So if we can have some impact on that as well, that’s exciting.
[00:05:23] Can you speak about the backend challenges, the amount of work that’s needed for all this to come about every every week?
…when we choose the preacher, invite the preacher, hear back from the preacher and respond, from that moment then they have a conversation with our producer and that is a 40-minute process…where they will record and Louise will work through that with them and then produces it…Tracy McEwan, who is one of the first members that I spoke about earlier who had the idea with Patricia Gemmell, she listens to that and uploads it on our website. The website is maintained by Rebecca Beisler and she also does the Canva posts for Facebook and promotes it and she’s our publicity person who gets gets it out there…each meeting we’ve got our amazing secretary and treasurer Colleen Rowe who just takes all of the amazing minutes and never misses anything. And Elizabeth Lee who has always got a variety of different preachers who she’s suggesting for future podcasts and I think just the six of us work together really, really well… and so yes, there is a lot of work but I only see the emailing side of it really and the weekly meetings.
[00:08:51] I think it’s a diverse group of preachers. I love how it’s a balance of laity, religious, Catholic, non-Catholic, young, not-so-young, aboriginal… I know it’s a team collaboration but who do you feel, even with everyone that you’ve included thus far, who do you still feel needs to be invited to continue in this inclusivity?
Well I think that our intention has always been just to be open to anybody, everybody and anybody. So many women in Australia and the world who don’t have the chance to speak. So that’s why our selection process is really we don’t actually have one. We look to our networks and we have recommendations, we have people who contact us and say that they would like to preach or that they have their mum or their wife that would like to preach. We want to have the diversity of women who have got theological training, women who’ve never had theological training, women who can bring their own, the essence of what their life is. The main part of Australian Women Preach I believe is giving women the opportunity to reflect upon the Gospel and bring their own experience to that Gospel. So making the Gospel relevant for today that is the most important thing. So who still needs to speak? Probably everybody…
[00:12:15] How much structure or instruction do you give each invited guest? How do you balance having a standard format for the podcast but at the same time allowing each speaker to express themselves in their own preaching style?
Louise Maher, she gives an intro and the standard intro and outro and introduces the preacher but even that bio is whatever the preacher has offered to us. And so we don’t actually have a standard format at all. We want it to be just about the women bringing their experience to that Gospel. So I guess, to give an example, we had Louise Gosbell and she had her sermon signed for Auslan, for the deaf community, and that’s the only podcast that we’ve had that’s actually up on Youtube. So we changed the format and everything for the way we did her episode.
Danielle Anne Lynch who does music in our intro and outro, she’s a musician and theologian and she sang her beautiful song into silence in her episode, in one of the earlier episodes. And then we had a group preacher preaching on Palm Sunday where the preacher worked with another teacher and two students at their school in Cairns in far north Queensland and delivered incredible reflections as a group. So I think we’re really open to diversity in both in what people want to say, how they want to deliver it, and yeah we’re not, we’re not closed and we definitely don’t have a set format.
[00:14:16] Is there a time limit?
Well we, in the invitation, we say that it should be between 12 and 15 minutes. And usually it’s about, I think, that’s about 1500 words or something if you’re writing it. And people have gone over, women have gone over and some women have had much shorter than that. But Louise works through that and does incredible things…
[00:15:02] I saw that Bishop Vincent Long of Parramatta wrote a supportive letter on March 28, 2021, mentioning that he uses the podcast as a reference to prepare his homilies. What other feedback have you heard from the guests or audience?
…one of the stories that comes to me is one of the preachers who was so excited to go to Mass on her Sunday and hear the priest preaching her gospel and her mum leaning over and poking her in the ribs and saying, “you said that.” I think everyone has you know very varied experience but I think there’s something to be gained or gleaned from hearing a variety of different people preaching on the Word…
[00:17:55] In every interview I ask all my guests the same questions. The first is what is one scripture verse or part of the Bible that really resonates with you and why?
I think along with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza I would have to say, in memory of her, the woman who washes Jesus feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. It’s found in all four gospels and I really believe that in this Gospel passage Jesus is speaking and talking about the world that he envisions, that he dreams of and it really is, it’s almost painful when I think of it because there’s so much that’s denied. Because of whether you were born with male or female genitalia we are all God’s children or we are all of God. We are all born in the image of God. All creation is the image of God and there’s so many rules and regulations that don’t acknowledge the women. Don’t acknowledge women’s contribution. Jesus says wherever the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world what she has done here will be proclaimed in memory of her. Sorry. It just makes me really emotional.
[00:20:20] I’m seeing you now and that’s why women’s voices need to be heard and understood because I feel as you’re expressing this I’m sure many men probably never considered that emotion. And if you don’t hear it how would you understand that that’s where people are coming from. I appreciate you expressing that. That’s why I keep loving the Australian Women Preach podcast because it creates that platform for your voice and all the other guests you had and will have to put it out there and people to actually listen and grow from that. That’s where I would like to say as a family of God we can then start actually understand each other and then be finally in communion with each other and God because we are finally talking to each other, understanding each other. I’m sorry if I cut you off.
No, not at all. I guess it always reminds me of the last moments of somebody’s life and how this woman is able to anoint Jesus for his burial or at least that’s one of the readings, of the way of interpreting that one of the scriptures. And that sacrament, to provide that sacrament is denied to women. And I just imagine what that would be like or I know what that is like with my father. My father died last year and I was there in those final moments of his life and that you are not the person who can be called on to somebody in their final moments to administer the sacrament of the sick because you’re a woman is just a, it’s a very emotional thing for me. So sorry, you didn’t cut me off at all.
[00:22:40] The other question I have for you is what is one word or a couple of words that you would like God to use in describing you?
So I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic God so I don’t believe that God would use words to describe me or anyone. I always think of the reading in 1 Kings where Elijah’s looking for God in the earthquake, the wind or the wind goes past, the earthquake goes past, the fire goes past and God’s not there. And God is found in the sheer silence. So I hope that God might find me in the silence, in the roar of the deafening silence and striving to speak and to be heard.
[00:24:23] The last thing I would ask is there anything we can help promote or you like others to support or any final comments?
Well I think Australian Women Preach owes so much to The Grail in Australia which is of course the international Grail and also WATAC (Women and the Australian Church). So looking to those two incredible organizations and those networks, they have been so supportive financially and in their integrity and working out our values. But basically I think just listen to these incredible women, incredible women each week. Share the podcast. Just share, share, share the link…