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The mainstay

· Focus ·

Interview with Pastor Nora Wolf

“I have never felt lonely or isolated as a woman pastor here in Basle. From the outset of my ministry I have felt accompanied and supported by the women of the community. Some belong to the different Protestant Churches, others instead are Catholics. I call them my sisters and friends, because as well as faith in God a beautiful friendship binds us. For me they are a true source of female empowerment”.

Nora Wolf, the German Protestant pastor is speaking. She is 50 years old. A minister of religion with a degree in Protestant theology, for the past eight years she has carried out her service in the Waldensian Evangelical Church of Basle. “For me my parish is the world and as far as possible I try to be present in the midst of the problems of the society: for years our Church has been a sort of “laboratory” of Swiss society which, in my opinion, is no longer imaginable in the singular, as an exclusively local reality, but should now be faced and lived in the plural”.

How is the presence of women structured in the Swiss Waldensian Church?

Today more than 30 per cent of the pastoral body is female. Women pastors have existed in the Waldensian Church since 1967. Thus they are the mainstay without which it would be impossible to carry on. I confess nevertheless that still today I often happen to hear: “Of course, you must also think of your family....”. Or I hear what I call the compliment which perfumes prejudice: “Of course as a woman, in being pastor you have the edge over your male colleagues”, referring to my ability to be empathetic and understanding.... About eight years ago I moved from the centre of Berlin, where the Waldensian temple is located, to a small district in Basle in order to continue my ministry at the Evangelical Methodist Church (the Methodist Churches are united with the Waldensian Churches), to a community consisting of people from at least 19 different countries. Here it is women who day after day build a peaceful coexistence between people who are different from each other, a reconciled diversity as one might say using a more theological language. I do not feel different from other women of this city, I am one of those who endeavour to live their lives as consistently as possible, who dream of a good life not only for their own children but also for the sons and daughters of others who are less fortunate…. Yes, I feel fortunate, for I have my family close by, I have a job for which I receive recognition, I have a house, men and women friends, brothers and sisters and a place of worship in which to express my spirituality and my faith!

In your Church what does collaboration between Protestant and Catholic women consist of?

I don’t want to seem rhetorical but it consists precisely of the daily construction of a different world, a world beyond segregation, racism and fear. In our small circle we try to do what Pope Francis did on the Greek Island of Lesbos, an ecumenism of events and of “Christian solidarity”. Our pastoral presence has in fact become continuous and can permeate the social fabric of the city with biblical studies and ecumenical conferences which are always well frequented and appreciated, but concrete work with Catholic women is without a doubt our most powerful ecumenical action. We start with people and then walk together.

In Catholic theology Our Lady is the most important female figure; what about Protestant Evangelical theology?

I believe that Protestantism has recently recovered the more “feminine” side of God, thanks precisely to the rediscovery of biblical images such as, for example, the mother who consoles. In the Protestant Churches Mary, Mother of Jesus, is considered simply to be a sister in the faith and is not venerated as she is in Catholicism. I feel particularly connected with the moment in which Mary lives her expectation of Jesus’ birth. She is unsure of how to face this event, she goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin and sister in the faith, and at this meeting is given the strength to carry forward God’s project of a new world. Mary and Elizabeth are two women who believed, hoped and struggled before us, they prayed for each other and encouraged each other in order not to lose the hope that this world might become more just and offer to every man and woman the possibility of a dignified life. It is precisely in collaboration between women that Mary shows us Protestants a way in which to collaborate with other Christian women.

Silvina Pérez

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