A 2018 CFT Gathering Reflection by Marilyn McDonald
For me, one of the outstanding features of the 2018 Christian Feminism Today Gathering was the music, which helped set the mood for our time together. The hymns, written by Jann Aldredge-Clanton, were brilliantly poetic, specific to the topic or theme of each particular session where they were sung. They were inclusive of the Divine Feminine, and many were based on biblical stories and citations—prophetic and powerful calls to action in the cause of social justice. We were also gifted with the presence of our talented musician John Saxon, who played the piano with conviction and spiritual inspiration. It was such an uplifting experience to sing these inclusive hymns in unity and fellowship.
The presentation of the Gospel of Mary, by two of our Bible scholars, Mark Mattison and Dr. Deborah Saxon, was a fresh reminder of this beloved and long-overlooked gospel and its uplifting power and grace. This was an excellent opening presentation to whet our appetites for more to come at the gathering. I am extremely interested in the non-canonical and Apocryphal writings, and also in the history of Christianity in relation to women, the LGBTQ community, and the Divine Feminine, so I appreciated this plenary on the first night of the gathering.
The “Building Bridges” presentation by Dr. Kendra Weddle and Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, with a response by Letha Dawson Scanzoni, was a beautiful introduction to Kendra and Jann’s biography of Letha and her transformative influence on countless individuals. I loved hearing some of the stories of people directly impacted by Letha and her work on Christian feminism and supporting the LGBTQ community.
There were powerful presentations on such important topics as the role we can have in advocating for immigrants, the biblical story of Esther as an example of presence and power for us today, and the effects of trauma on women and how we can be more informed about each other’s lives and show support. I loved the blending of Bible stories and social justice issues in this conference.
One plenary presenter, who will hopefully be invited back, was Dr. Julia Stronks, who provided eye-opening information on law, especially with regard to the pursuit of justice in relation to the LGBTQ community. Her information is the tip of the iceberg and just a tiny taste of how the legal system works and how we can be most effectively involved. I would like to hear much more from Dr. Stronks in the future.
The workshops offered a variety of more interactive sessions which built on the theme of the gathering,”Standing Up and Speaking Up in Such a Time as This.” My only regret is that I couldn’t attend all of them. It is useful to have kinesthetic and experiential mini sessions interspersed between the longer and more biblical/social justice themes to keep our hearts and minds focused. The morning sessions of yoga by Mama Lisa were truly a gift, preparing body, mind, and spirit for the day.
Always favorites at the CFT gatherings are the Student Presentations, which offer fresh, personal, and scholarly information and experiences. It’s wonderful to ride along on the journey of these young and thoughtful minds.
The Saturday evening “Special Presentation” was a telling of personal stories, each one followed by healing music, improvised by John Saxon specifically to capture the essence of each individual’s reflection. I found this collection of stories to be extremely moving and touching. I appreciated the honesty, humility, tragedy, and triumph expressed by these lovely women.
The whole gathering was blessed at the close with a lovely worship service coordinated by our beloved Reverend Leslie Harrison. This worship service felt uplifting, inspiring, and filled with grace, and it was a fitting end to this powerful weekend. I loved the collective blessings by other women pastors and ministers, the beautiful altar reflecting the ecumenical nature of the service, and the inclusive hymns.
This gathering offered a wonderful opportunity for building bridges and lasting relationships in our ongoing collective desire to see and experience more of the Divine Feminine influence in our lives and in our efforts to pursue social justice for marginalized groups. I look forward to future gatherings which promote this delicate balance.