Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Prayer Meeting down by the riverside

Today is the memorial day of St. Lydia of Thyatira, widow, trader in purple dye, one of the first hosts of the infant Church. Here is her story.

Paul had been ministering to the Church in the Near East --- Antioch, various towns in Turkey --- when he had a vision directing him to "go west, young man", to the unreached peoples of Macedonia. So he went, sailing to Philippi, the main trade city in Macedonia and a Roman colony. There were some Jews there, but not enough males to make a quorum for a synagogue. So when Sabbath came, Paul and his companions went to the banks of the river, hoping to find a Jewish prayer meeting. Jewish women would go to the river regularly to observe the laws of family purity, and so it became the standard gathering place for prayer in towns without enough males for a synagogue quorum.

Paul and company did indeed find the prayer meeting, and its leader, Lydia, a convert to Judaism and independently wealthy woman --- purple dye was an extraordinarily rare and extremely expensive commodity. Paul sat himself down and spoke to the gathering. Lydia was converted, she and her whole household were baptised, and she took Paul and company home to stay with her. The Church was established at Philippi, and lived its first generation, in Lydia's living room under her guidance.

If anyone rattles on about only men exercising authority in the Church, and how women are so very oppressed, start by pointing them to the strong women who made St. Paul's ministry work, such as Phoebe and Priscilla, and Lydia.

1 comment:

andrea said...

I love Lydia and had completely lost track of the fact that today is her feast day. I would have worn purple in her honor if I had remembered. Thanks for mentioning her.