What roles did women play in early Christian communities?
Women were included in the earliest gatherings of followers of Jesus. Mary and her sister Martha, along with their brother Lazurus, were close friends frequently visited by Jesus and the disciples in their travels. Women fulfilled the roles assigned to them by the culture of that time - bearing and raising children, preparing food, caring for the family. Women were also responsible for fetching water from the wells, helped with harvesting and gathering of crops, and other tasks needed for life in that time.
In the early communities of believers described in the book of Acts, women shared in the prayers and activities of the groups. Joint meals were important for sharing fellowship and for remembering the special memorial ritual Jesus had set out for them, and the women would have been the preparers of those meals.
Acts 9:36-42 tells the story of Tabitha, also called Dorcas, who was a devout female disciple in Joppa. She is described as "always doing good and helping the poor." By the power of his belief in Jesus, Peter is able to bring her back from death.
Many of Paul's letters conclude with personal greetings from Paul to individuals in the churches with which he corresponded. In Romans, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me." (Romans 16:3-4) "Give my greetings to...Nympha and the church in her house." (Col. 4:15)