Meeting Alison Payne

Alison Payne is contributing the notes on Radical Womanhood this month. She has been interviewed earlier here, but as we are now beginning a new year on the EQUIP book club, following the EQUIP conference, we thought we’d ask contributors some different questions. So here is another snapshot of Alison.

Favourite book you've read in 2009?

Oh, this is perhaps quite predictable if you’ve read my previous interview, but earlier this year I read Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot, which I hadn’t read before, because I was in the mood for a good novel, and I just loved the story within it called Janet’s Repentence, especially the scene of her conversion. I thought it was so full of insights into grace and forgiveness. (I was so taken with this book I actually blogged excerpts of it here, here and here). I was also moved to tears by sections of The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton, another story in the same book (which I blogged here too!).

Favourite new author you've discovered over the last 12 months?

Oh, I haven’t discovered that many new authors yet this year, I have to say, but over the Christmas break and into January I read Tim Chester’s You Can Change - God's transforming power for our sinful behaviour & negative emotions, and loved it and found it so helpful! It’s a book that is like cognitive behaviour therapy driven by the gospel and the character of God. I am looking forward to working through it again more slowly with the girls in my bible study/community group soon.

I have also enjoyed reading books by Mary Oliver and Alain de Botton this year.

Who have been your role models of Christian womanhood?

I found this quite a hard question to answer. Not because I didn’t have any – I am sure I did - but they seem to all be in the melting pot and finding any in particular is difficult. When I hit teenage years I became best friends with a girl whose family had not long returned from Papua New Guinea, where they were missionaries. So I spent quite a lot of time hanging around at their house and staying over etc and think I slowly absorbed a model of Christian womanhood there. My friend’s Mum was a woman who was highly intelligent (perhaps moreso than her husband, in truth) but she always related to her husband with that ‘posture of submission’ and they seemed to live in harmony. This woman also seemed to have a well-thought out plan for how she went about running her home and looking after her family and disciplining the kids and so forth (I think my own Mum did a pretty good job, all things considered, but I felt like things were more in survival mode at our house). It was also around that time that my friend and I started devouring Elisabeth Elliot books – I can’t remember how we got started on them but we read Passion and Purity and Let Me Be a Woman and others and I actually feel like I learned a lot from those books, even just in terms of getting me thinking through how I related to others, and would navigate “relationships”, and how I behaved as a woman, rather than just blundering on making it up as I went.

Finally, when I first came to Sydney I boarded with Archie and Ainsley Poulos for a while, and I am sure I absorbed a lot of things there also, but one thing in particular that struck me was how Ainsley (and Archie) spoke to their children. I remember actually thinking to myself 'all this praise and encouragement is a bit much – isn’t it?', because it was quite foreign to me (I think I was just a product of a different era and a sterner British heritage, in which that is not how adults interacted with children). But I also saw how the children responded to, and were motivated by that. So it’s not that I didn’t love kids before and want to spend time with them, but I think how I did that was influenced by living there.