`You really are a breath of fresh air.' If Rev. Jules Middleton had a penny for every time she'd heard that, she'd be able to hire someone else to put on her kids' birthday parties! Even as a compliment its message is clear: you're different to what we expect. Jules is one of hundreds of mums in ministry across the Church today, and yet against a predominantly white, middle-class, male-dominated history, they can still be something of an anomaly. Bringing together stories from all different walks of life - Pentecostal to Methodist, single mums to adopters, RAF chaplains to disability advisors and everything in-between - Jules maps the highs and lows ministry mums may face as they seek to `break the mould' and challenge the `shoulds' and stereotypes that surround both roles. From identity and expectations to prayer and prosecco, this book will inform, entertain and ultimately encourage women that though you may not be able to `do it all' perfectly, by God's grace (and the help of some good friends and gin!) you can learn to thrive as a ministry mum.
In Breaking the Mould, we have a gem for the toolkit of every mum in ministry today. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a ‘how to’ for the world where motherhood meets ministry – though the everyday stories of ministry mums woven throughout the book do give helpful insights into the practices of others. No, this is a book which asks you to think, to feel, to pray and to imagine what breaking the age-old mould of male-centred church leadership looks like for you as a mother.
Each chapter brings together something of the picture of the struggles (and successes) of being both mum and minister. Jules has helpfully gathered real life tales from the frontline of other ministry mums, which give us insight and help us to realise we aren’t the only ones thinking and feeling the way we do. It’s a powerful and affirming book which does not say, this is the way to do it. Instead it draws a picture of the possibilities, with stories and Scripture, all written in an easily read, accessible tone. Each chapter opens with quotes from a broad spectrum of women, from Julian of Norwich to former COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. They frame what is to come perfectly and, again, add to the detailed picture of what living authentically as mum, disciple of Christ and minister looks like for each one of us.
This book landed on my doorstep at the beginning of lockdown, right when I needed to read that there is no one way of flourishing as a minister and a mother. Jules had me laughing and crying along with her. And yet, even if you aren’t a mum, or you aren’t a minister, this book is for you. This book is for anyone who cares about and wants to pray for a mum in ministry. This book is for every church member who longs to see more women rise up and become the ministry mums God has created them to be. And you, yes you, young woman wondering if you can minister and be a mum… the good news is, yes. You can do both, and Jules Middleton’s book is uniquely placed to show you how you can thrive while doing it.
Preach magazine review by Olivia Haines
Trainee priest at St Mellitus, Church of England Lancaster Diocese, mother and runner. Twitter @oashton88.