15: Julian of Norwich

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#15 Julian of Norwich

Today we honor Julian of Norwich, a woman who spent most of her life in self-quarantine as an anchorite. Becoming an anchorite was a symbolic death. You received the last rites and were walled into your “tomb” which you would never leave again. Julian’s tomb was in a church and had two windows: one interior window allowed her to observe services and her maid to bring her food and take her waste, and one exterior window that allowed her to converse with passersby. She also was more physically, than socially distant. At the age of 30, Julian became very ill. She was on her supposed deathbed when she instead experienced sixteen ecstatic visions of God. She recovered and wrote of her experience in her book, “Revelations of Divine Love,” the first English language book written by a woman. Julian experienced God as both male and female, referring to Jesus as “mother.” She experienced God as purely loving and without judgment. She is best known for the quote “all shall be well” which Jesus told her in her vision. She didn’t write this as someone living during easy times. She lived during the time of the Black Death (plague) and the Hundred Years War as well as the usual scourges of poverty and famine. The people who came to visit her and receive spiritual counsel from her kept her from being completely isolated from the realities of her day. But in her visions, she was shown that even in the most frightening of circumstances, if you are with God, you are never alone.