Today the church remembers the valiant and instrumental work of three early-church saints, a yin to the yang of yesterday’s offering: St. Lydia, St. Dorcas, and St. Phoebe, Deacons and Entrepreneurs.
St. Lydia was a European industrialist, a maker of purple-dyed goods which, in the ancient world, required quite a bit of capital. After her baptism she invited Paul and his fellow travelers to stay in her house, which was an instrumental blessing for them, as they didn’t have to earn their support while in her care. St. Paul was known to have a special affection for the church at Philippi, the community founded around Lydia’s hospitality.
St. Dorcas or Tabitha (her name means “gazelle” which is a far cry from the English use of that name, right?) was from Joppa who worked hard for the poor. Her devotion for helping the poor was known and respected by all, and when Peter brought her back to life it was at the urging of those who knew her good work. Dorcas has the distinction of having the feminine form of “disciple” applied solely to her in Acts of Apostles.
St. Phoebe (whose name means “radiance”) was a Deaconess at the church in Cenchreae near Corinth. She was Paul’s patron in many ways, and her example led to the regular order of Deaconesses founded in the 3rd and 4th Centuries. Paul commends her to the church in Rome, suggesting that she was an integral aid who went to assist and advise struggling communities.
St. Lydia, St. Dorcas, and St. Phoebe are the folks who make up the offering difference at the end of the fiscal year by virtue of their generosity and ability. They are the visitation ministers who assist the dying over Jordan, the carpenter who creates an art installation in the Narthex, and the folks who organize the food drive that feeds thousands. They are the ministers who, in their unassumingly powerful ways, make ministry happen day in, and day out in a parish.
They are a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that women have been integral, foundational to the movement, and are the pumping lifeblood of the church today despite the reluctance of many to fully accept that fact.
-historical pieces gleaned from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations