Women Without Walls by Mary Cotes
'A remarkable book that graphically elucidates the gospel’s call to women to be present in the world'
Women Without Walls - How God Shapes Ordinary Women for Extraordinary Kingdom work
By Mary Cotes
Reviewed by Anthea Sully
Baptist minister, Mary Cotes, was inspired to write Women Without Walls with a passionate conviction that grassroots women should have access to the empowering stories of women in the Bible. The outcome is a remarkable book that graphically elucidates the gospel’s call to women to be present in the world.
Taking the parable of the yeast as its starting point and rooted in Matthew’s gospel, the stories of biblical women are woven and paralleled with some remarkable historical Christian women. As Cotes says, “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”. I feel this book will give all seekers of the Kingdom, and especially women, the confidence to step out and become people of transformation.
We find the Canaanite woman and Sojourner Truth hand in hand, the relationship bringing both their stories to life. Cotes relates the Bible narratives, and then very gently challenges our assumptions, suggesting we may want to look at them a different way, one which puts women and their agency at the centre. I found this approach profoundly refreshing – I was meeting with women I thought I knew and discovering they became relatable to my life and my own challenges.
This effect was amplified by the counterpoint with other women’s stories. I was aware of some of these, such as Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom who are paired with the Marys at the tomb. Others were less familiar including the French religious, Alice Domon, who stood with the mothers of the disappeared in Argentina. By weaving her story with that of the mother of James and John we see how Jesus is present in the midst of suffering and that women can respond to a call to serve.
There are some overarching themes. One is that women can indeed ‘work the yeast’ throughout the flour and in doing so engender whole community transformation. Another is that women are not only doing this work within their homes, for they are called out into the public space to witness. I have been a politician, a church leader and in senior leadership of organisations, and Women Without Walls made me think of what my calling might be both now and in the future.
I am also aware of my responsibility to encourage other Christian women in finding and living their calling, and Women Without Walls is a tremendous resource for doing just that. This is a book that is deserving of a wide and diverse audience. I hope very much that men will also come to read it.
Anthea Sully is the free churches National Coordinator for the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women and Chief Executive of White Ribbon UK