In this series of posts, University of Roehampton chaplaincy staff are reflecting, in honour of International Women’s Day, on women who have inspired them. Here Chaplain Ginny Jordan-Arthur writes about Nadia Bolz-Weber.
I first came across Nadia Bolz-Weber in 2009 at the Greenbelt Festival. I was intrigued by the Bluegrass Mass being celebrated by a church community from Denver, Colorado called the House for All Sinners and Saints. This new church community self-described as:
a group of folks figuring out how to be a liturgical, Christo-centric, social justice-oriented, queer-inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient / future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination.
I joined the late-night gathering and was not disappointed; the bluegrass liturgy held an authentic twang while also keeping a traditional liturgical essence that transcendence a particular time in history. And as the founding pastor of the House for All, Nadia embodied something of this community that welcomed those on the margins. There is no doubt when you picture a vicar, Nadia is not likely to be the image you conjure up. I’ve had the privilege of sharing space with her over the years and as a bystander it’s hard not to feel empowered by her presence. She has a confidence and self-awareness that is refreshing and as a self-proclaimed feminist and former stand-up comedian she is unapologetic in her personhood. She is heavily tattooed, a weightlifter and ‘swears like a truck driver’, all parts of her journey that I find refreshing and beautiful.
Nadia is open about the fact that like the church community she, and all of us are sinner-saints, and through our brokenness and struggles we embody something of God and are beloved. As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict, she is open about the darkness and the imperfections in herself. She writes real, at times irreverent but always engaged theology for the ordinary person, as she explores deeply personal and honest accounts of herself and others. Titles include: Cranky, Beautiful Faith; Accidental Saints and Shame-less.
Through this past lockdown year Nadia has continued to inspire. Her authentic, inclusive and outspoken words, prayers and raw honestly are refreshing. She doesn’t shy away from her anger directed at God and asks hard questions; she admits the challenge to be compassionate and she recognises her brokenness and so often she has spoken the words I’ve felt but couldn’t express. She continues to inspire me and in no way has this short blog celebrated her depth, so if you are intrigued you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram or check out her website. You can hear her story in her own words here and some short glimpses into theology here.
Ginny Jordan-Arthur is the Catholic Chaplain to the University of Roehampton.