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Monday, March 19, 2007
Emerging Women Midwest Gathering

Hi all. We are back from the Emerging Women Midwest Gathering and besides being totally exhausted, I am really encouraged by the dreams and passions that I witnessed this weekend. As the coordinator of the event, I didn’t really “experience” it in the same was as everyone else, so I hope we can hear a variety of perspectives about the weekend.

We gathered in a Castle in Oregon, Il and I thought it was a fun setting for our conversations. We of course had fun with the castle theme with décor and a “make your own tiara” station, but our main theme revolved around re-imagining the Kingdom. We had workshops that explored ideas of how that is done and heard stories of women who re-imagined in our main sessions. We also spent time re-imagining worship by providing space for experimenting with fresh forms of worship.

I really appreciated the diversity of women there. We did have women from all ages and backgrounds. This provided for some great (albeit emotional) conversations about theology and what in the world is this whole emerging church thing. We saw the variety of ways women come at their faith experience and how they conceptualize and talk about God.

Over the next few days, we will post resource lists and other reflections on the weekend, but I thought I would post my notes from my opening and closing session remarks to help others get an idea about what our theme and purpose was for our time together.

(opening remarks)
Once we decided on the Castle location for this gathering, we knew we had to do something fun with the whole concept of the castle… There was of course talk about all wearing Ren-faire costumes and jokes about exploring the sacred feminine by dancing nude in the moonlight in a grove of trees (a few too many of us have read Dance of the Dissident Daughter…) But as we really began to think about it, we realized that most castle themes just didn’t seem to fit. You have the knights in shining armor, the violence of the crusades, and way too many damsels in distress – not exactly Emerging Women fare. But it got me thinking. I love history so I began to wonder, “what do we know about the women who lived in castles?” and as a logical follow-up “how do we know it?” As a student of the history of history, I realized that it was only with the advent of a method called “social history” that the day-to-day lives of the women who lived in castles became known. Social historians decided to re-imagine history. Not to throw out facts and truth, but to re-imagine which facts and which sources are deemed important. While most other methods of history focused on the lives of rich and powerful men, social historians began piecing together the stories of women, minorities, and the poor. As they did this, people began to realize the impact these previously-ignored groups had on the shaping of our world. It took leaving the fortresses of assumption and bias behind to get the big picture for these historians. And it is from that re-imagining that we developed the theme for this weekend.

Unlike the stories that were passed down through our common imagination, we are not just Princesses waiting around to be rescued as our t-shirts proclaim (although we all do need helping hands from time to time). We are not waiting around to be told what to think or waiting for permission to join the conversation, we are ready to worship and serve God. For some this is a struggle – we have been wounded, we have been denied a voice, or we just don’t know how to have that voice. So, I want us to step out beyond the castle walls this weekend – leave behind our assumptions about who and what are important in God’s Kingdom, and re-imagine ways that we as women in this emerging, postmodern culture can worship and serve to truly make an impact on our world.

We are a diverse group. We have different church traditions, different theologies, different worship styles and that’s okay. We don’t all have to agree on everything this weekend – in fact some of the people leading workshops might present differing views, its okay. Many of us have the commonality that we are interested in the emerging church conversation (others came with a friend and have no clue what that’s about). But if you’ve been around the emerging/emergent conversation long enough, you know that it expresses itself in many different forms. We can explore some of those together this weekend. But mainly we want to help encourage each other as women to serve God and have a voice, how that plays out in our lives will look different for each of us. I hope it will be a time of learning and of refreshment for each of us.

(and from our concluding session)
Sometimes it’s the world that needs re-imagined – the systems of injustice, the pain, the evils. Sometimes it’s the church that needs re-imagined – traditions and theologies that have usurped the call to serve God. Sometimes it our worship – when we forget or are frightened by the variety of ways we can connect with God. Sometimes it our lives – when we realize that perhaps God is pushing us to step up and serve, to use our voice, to use our talents, to use our compassion to serve him. Where is God calling you to re-imagine?

As you leave this weekend, how will you re-imagine the Kingdom? What do you see in the world or the church that needs to change or improve or grow? What in your own life needs re-imagining? Is it how you worship, is it how you serve God, is it how you interact with others? What will it mean for you as a woman to do these things? How will you re-imagine?

To return to our castle theme – we are Princesses but we’re not in need of rescue. Even in our brokenness, even in our fear, even in our questions we can go out beyond the castle walls – literally and figuratively. We are the one who can re-imagine. We can start the conversations, engage with new ideas, experiment with our worship, use our voice, work for justice, and not be afraid to risk it all to serve God. But we are not alone – we have gathered as women at learn from and encourage each other and we can look to each other for support.

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posted by Julie at 10:16 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


15 Comments:


  • At 3/19/2007 10:53:00 AM, Blogger Janice

    Sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to hearing more from everyone! :)

     
  • At 3/19/2007 11:11:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    Thanks for the recap, Julie.

    As they did this, people began to realize the impact these previously-ignored groups had on the shaping of our world

    Do you know of any good books that talk about this? I'm equally comfortable reading a scholarly source as I would be reading something that can be picked up at Borders...I'd just like to learn more about this. :)

     
  • At 3/19/2007 06:20:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Perhaps if there's a good that's accessible we could even do it for EW book discussion.

     
  • At 3/19/2007 07:17:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    The only book title that comes to mind is a work that makes use of the social history method - The Great Cat Massacre: And Other Episodes in French Cultural History by Robert Darnton (which has a good chapter on the history of the fairy tale). I think Telling the Truth about History by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob deals with those ideas as well - but its been a number of years since I read either.

     
  • At 3/20/2007 08:00:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I think Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is a fairly well known example of a kind of social history - though with perhaps more of an activist agenda.

     
  • At 3/20/2007 09:06:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Zinn's book irritated me because it was so blatant and redundant in communicating it's thesis; along similar lines, I've enjoyed "Lies my Teacher Told Me." There's a great little section on Helen Keller and others on the ways in which we dehumanize people by making them either heroes or villains.

     
  • At 3/21/2007 11:07:00 AM, Blogger L.L. Barkat

    I like that statement about not just being princesses waiting to be rescued. I agree... yet I wonder why books like Captivating capture such a high degree of sales. Somewhere, the princess thing is still playing strong. Why?

     
  • At 3/21/2007 01:33:00 PM, Blogger anne

    Oh, I think we all need to be rescued, but it's neither men nor women, but all of us. And then we help reach out our hands to others.

     
  • At 3/21/2007 08:49:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Sue Monk Kidd's book, "Dance of the Dissident Daughter" has a great section on the princess archetype and how we project onto men the part of ourselves that is strong and able to deliver us -- and that only when we find that place in ourselves can we truly be free -- including to have a healthy, equal relationship with a loving man. But the desire for someone else to rescue us, our knight in shining armor is a strong instinct...and the problem behind many marital disappointments, I think.

     
  • At 3/22/2007 06:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Refreshed, reinvigorated, redeemed, resurrected (I FELT dead, OK?!), reimagined. It's a good time to be alive in the community of faith.

    I'm systematically visiting all of the blogs and church sites listed in the contacts for the weekend, and trying to comment as often as possible. I can't wait for the next women's gathering. There is something so satisfying about coming through something this intense together and being able to take that new knowledge, emotion and spirit back out to our real lives.

    As for the princess metaphor, I'm owning it--along with the pink t-shirt and the tiara which has a place of honor on the pink wig I wore for Halloween!

    --Sarah S.--

     
  • At 3/22/2007 10:11:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    I agree...we all need to be rescued. I personally don't understand the negative reactions I come across about books like Captivating and Wild at Heart. Just read Gilligan...there ARE differences across (albeit also within) genders. Not that one is better but that both are marvelous in their own ways. And maybe, just maybe...if we look intently at both we get a better idea of God as God's image bearers in the masculine and feminine combined. These two books describe archetypes and so its forgiveable in my mind to appeal to some broad strokes about what stimulates the heart of a man and a woman. It is the poetry in Eldredge's writing that is compelling to me. I don't read him for statistical differences or theological treatise. I read him for his psychological insights and find he has some helpful concepts for the wounds of childhood and how to repair them under God's direction and guidance and power. I don't recall Eldredge claiming women want to be rescued so much as they want to be desired and an adventure to play an important part in. I resonate with that...as a princess who thoroughly enjoyed her castle-dwelling last week end and who was reminded during her time there of the wild adventure she is truly in.

     
  • At 3/23/2007 07:18:00 AM, Blogger jledmiston

    Thanks Julie for a good discussion. Would love to hear more about the theological discussions. And love the notion of tiara stations.

     
  • At 3/24/2007 12:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Yes, Stronghold, The Presbyterian Church (USA) is a great place for these retreats—thought you might want to lift that up.

    Debra

     
  • At 3/25/2007 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Nancy, I think (I can at least speak for myself) the reason some react negatively to John Eldridge is because he does not acknowledge (that I know of) that he is speaking of archytypes. I have only skimmed his work briefly, but form what others have described, it seems like he comes across as pronouncing what a man and woman *should* be in a way that creates a sense of resonance for those who genuinely identify, but a sense of alienation and rage for those who don't fit in the box. I think also some of the passionate affirmation and negative response toward Eldridge comes from the fact that he speaks largely to an audience that is already strongly impressed by traditional roles for men and women, so that his books serve to further entrench those roles in an attactive coating, rather than liberate women and men to be who they are, including, but not limited to those aspects that resonate with archetypes such as Eldridge describes.

    I think I would response very differently to Eldridge's ideas if the book was labeled as a book on archetypes, rather than a Christian self-help book.

     
  • At 3/26/2007 07:37:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Interesting perspective, Jemila. My old faith community had quite a row over "Captivating". Far from them being concerned about it promoting traditional gender roles, the leaders of the church, after reading it thoroughly decided it "smacked of feminism" (as though this were a really bad thing)! So go figure...it really underlines the notion of personal perception (and all that goes into it) that Rollins so beautifully described in "How (Not) to Speak of God". Some people see a duck and others a rabbit. Interestingly, "Wild at Heart" was easily accepted by the faith community and it was not until the book on women came out that their (Eldredge's) scholarship came into question.

    Personally, I did read both and have found them helpful in reflecting on both the masculine and feminine energies with in myself and across genders. However, like you, would not say they are necessarily universal representations that have global application. They give little but they do give some attention to the notion of individual differences on the spectrum of masculine and feminine energies.

     

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