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.
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.