What are the roles that women have generally performed in religious organizations, particularly women that are not members of the clergy?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While women have not traditionally held leadership roles in Protestant and Catholic contexts, such as being in the clergy, they have had opportunities to exercise unofficial leadership. Some of the positions that they have held are the following:

  • Church Secretary - This is considered in many churches as an executive position which involves the organization of all activities and the running of church business, such as organizing the church calendar, distribution of all correspondence, handling all phone calls, keeping membership records of such things as baptisms, marriages, sick list, etc.; scheduling of meetings, travel, counseling, and the like; maintaining supplies in the office, forms, etc.; handling the petty cash. In smaller churches, the secretary may also handle the accounting responsibilities of payroll and general bookkeeping.
  • Committee Chairs - Traditionally, the women in a parish or congregation organize bazaars, charitable committees, missionary work.
  • Teaching - If there is a church-affiliated school, often the women members of the church are teachers
  • Church nursery - Some churches have a day-care facility and women in the congregation serve as caretakers and managers.
  • Housekeeper - In the Catholic Church, women are often housekeepers for the parish priests.
  • Ladies' Auxiliary - In Catholic Churches, there are often auxiliaries of women that support male organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus. At one such church, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church, 

The mission of the Ladies Auxiliary is to supplement the Knights of Columbus’ spiritual and charitable growth of Christ the Redeemer, enhance the social life of our parish, promote good fellowship and love, and perform selected works of charity.

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