Women make the Church go round
THE Church of England is facing a ‘demographic time bomb’ as the last generation of active laywomen starts to die out. In The Religious Lives of Older Laywomen, Goldsmiths, University of London sociologist Abby Day describes how the financial and social structures of the Church are kept from collapse by a shrinking band of committed women who are about so much more than jam and Jerusalem, identified as ‘Generation A’.
They are the parents of the baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and are the last generation whose values are focused on nation, family and God, she finds. Unpaid, they have been cleaning, catering and fundraising for decades, but are now entering their eighties and nineties and there is little to show that they will be replaced by new generations.
‘Their loss will be catastrophic,’ says Dr Day. ‘Irrespective of one’s religious viewpoint, it’s impossible to deny the role the Church of England has played in providing informal social care, and a unique unconditional space for those who often have nowhere else to go.’
The Madonna is depicted serenely multi-tasking in this tondo from the studio of Botticelli (about 1480–90), cradling the Christ Child while reading a devotional book. The painting is part of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s ‘Madonnas & Miracles’ exhibition (until June 4, www.fitzmuseum.cam. ac.uk) (Visual Arts, page 106)