Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Florence Nightingale as theologian and Liverpool's lady chapel exhibition

The Lady Chapel at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral is currently housing an exhibiton by Alice Lenkiewicz on "noble women" - noble women is the theme of the women celebrated in the Lady Chapel's windows. I'm reading about them thanks to this great little book. One of the few working class women celebrated in the windows is Kitty Wilkinson who promoted practical hygiene and education in a selfless way. A statue of her is due to be erected. Kitty's story is less well-known than the story of Grace Darling pictured here or than Florence Nightingale whose legacy is better known and is also being highlighted this year as the 100th anniversary of her death is marked.

Nightingale was particularly remembered at the service in the Cathedral we attended - 13 August is the day she is remembered in the Anglican calendar. There is an excellent article by Rachael Kohn on Nightingale 's theology on the ABC religion and ethics site here.
Because my own view of Nightingale is so influenced by childhood tales of her heroic hospital reform in Scutari, I remained fairly ignorant about her theological writing. Judging by Kohn's piece it sounds as if I would have had much in common with her thinking - a deep spiritual longing combined with a broad church approach to understanding God.

"You say that mystical or spiritual religion is not enough for most people without outward form ... For myself, the mystical or spiritual religion as laid down by John's Gospel, however imperfectly I have lived up to it, was and is enough."
Kohn's piece is based on Val Webb's book Florence Nightingale: the making of a Radical Theologian (Chalice Press, 2002).
Perhaps one day hundreds of years into the future there will be other windows in other cathedrals depicting wonderful women - be they noble or not. Most of the "nobility" celebrated in the Liverpool windows was not so well behaved. Most of the women had to transgress to get anywhere ... this makes them a hard act to follow.

1 Comment:

janetlees said...

Ah-ha women in windows- memories of Mansfield college here then? I read a good biography of Florence Nightingale earlier this year - will try to remember the details for you. She's always been a hero of mine (obviously given my family background).