I know not to covet my neighbour’s donkey! Though working in my new role with our Probationer ministers, I have to confess that I do covet their energy and oomph. I still love ministry, and when I see our new ministers start out, I would love to be in their shoes, setting forth with their passion for the gospel and a commitment to the Church. Perhaps I could borrow some of the acquired wisdom accumulated over the year, but then you can’t have everything!

Old age, they say, never comes itself. There are of course signs. Hair colour lightens and the eyes weaken. I may be a bus pass loving sexagenarian, but refuse to be labelled as ‘old’. Though I have to confess that this menopausal season has not been without its challenges.

First it was the night sweats, and the body itching. Then the broken sleep, and the changing body shape. The great lethargy. Together with the  variances in mood and mercy me, the brain fog! The gospel story of Jesus meeting with the haemorrhaging woman is now read with a new filter – for those who know, I need not say more.

In ministry, at  times we soldier on despite what our bodies throw at us, menopause or other. There is always a new target to be reached, something important within the congregation to be done, before we tend to ourselves. So, what to do?

There has been a growing awareness among women of the impact of the menopause within their bodies and their lives. Conversations have opened as celebrity chatting on morning TV and weekly woman’s magazines seek to normalise the natural. Few of my social gatherings with only female friends are without the sharing of symptoms and talk of HRT. Do these need to go beyond this tight circle of trust? If so, how can we find ways of safely and  courageously finding ways of exploring this? And is it just women that should be involved in this colloquy? What of the men? Menopause is a time that impacts on married and family life. It impacts on congregational life. It impacts our ministries. It impacts faith. It impacts on us all.

When the haemorrhaging woman reaches out and touches Jesus, something miraculous happens. Not just her healing. Nor is it  this exchange between this man and woman. This story is included in all three synoptic gospels, strikes at the biblical taboos of the time, and at our modern-day inhibitions. Old Testament purity laws ostracised women, demanding that they lived in a state of ritual uncleanliness and isolation. Do we in similar ways, confine the menopausal season to whispered corners and seclusion?

For women in this season of life, please do not languish with symptoms that threaten to debilitate your life and ministry. Reach out and find healing. For some, HRT  and other interventions help bring relief and the return of balance. For all, the need to be heard and understood is critical. This is not an illness, but a natural season of life. For many women once travelled beyond, there is a release from the monthly crimson tide and a new sense of life.

For our haemorrhaging woman, despite the drain on her finances and wellbeing, it was her faith that kept her whole, complete. The menopause does not diminish us in God’s eyes. We are made in His image. Ever loved. Treasured. Precious. Valued. In all seasons of life.

By Rev Eleanor McMahon