A Place at the Table, the 2008 EEWC conference was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Featuring speakers and workshop presenters including Phillip Gulley, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, Alena Amato Ruggerio, Carrie Newcomer, and Rev. Nancy Wilson, the conference was a great success!
EEWC Conference 2008 Report: Joyfully Remembering
By Kay Nannet
It was an event in the planning for 20 months, so its arrival was anticipated with enthusiasm by those of us on the conference committee. We had put our hearts and souls into every aspect of this conference; and as we prayed together before we left Sharon Bowes’ house to head to the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel on Thursday, June 26, we felt like expectant parents waiting to visualize our “baby” after a long gestation! And what a beautiful baby it turned out to be!
Thursday afternoon, people began to arrive, register, hug, laugh, talk and prepare themselves for a grand conference. There was time to wander around downtown Indianapolis, nap, grab a treat at Starbucks, shop, or visit and eat in the hospitality suite. That’s where most landed, enjoying great company and food. New attendees got to meet some of the founding mothers and all got to share in the committee’s enthusiasm for a fabulous spiritual feast.
Friday morning, after a good night’s rest in our beautiful rooms and comfortable beds, we met in the conference rooms for a delicious breakfast and an inspirational business meeting led by Coordinator Georgean Johnson-Coffey, with reports from office manager Sharon Bowes, and editor Letha Dawson Scanzoni.. Letha’s report on EEWC’s website being listed Number 1 in a Google search for “best Christian feminist websites” and further discussion about how Christian Feminism Today and our website continue to grow and expand left us all excited to be part of the organization. It was apparent that we had great leadership, organization, and direction from our Council and office manager.
We next moved on to the first of several amazing keynotes, with Reta Finger leading us in a discussion of “A Jesus Supper for Every Body.” As Reta does so well, she taught us the historical importance of Christians gathering for a meal, and showed us how the purpose of communion in Christ’s name has much to do with being in community. An interesting discussion of participants’ personal experiences in bringing community to others ensued and inspired us all to love and share more.
Fittingly, we left the plenary to join together for a meal. At that lunch, we gathered according to regions. This allowed many new attendees to meet others from their geographic community, and hopefully some longstanding relationships were forged here. As an aside, the committee’s hope in planning the event was to help foster chapter formation or at least facilitate developing regional events to be held between the biennial conferences
So, after that leisurely lunch, having enjoyed great food and even more fabulous company, it was time for another plenary led by one of our own, Alena Amato Ruggerio.. To say we were “blown away” by what we heard would be an understatement! “Theapalooza” and an assortment of other new words and new ideas were presented in dynamic fashion and prevented anyone from having postprandial (after mealtime) drowsiness! It is the type of talk that one can hear over and over again and continue to be mentally challenged and entertained.
When Alena’s stimulating talk ended, it was time to disperse to the workshops, which had been divided by theme into contemplative, meditative, artistic, and literary. Friday’s leaders were Philip Gulley, “Living in Harmony”; Jennifer Halteman-Shrock, “Just Eating: Practicing our Faith at the Table”; Dorothy Gerner, “Can There Be Peace between Israel and Palestine?”; and Helen Claire Ferguson, “Drumming from the Heart with Body and Soul.” The 100 attendees were pretty evenly dispersed among the four offerings, and all were enriched by their experiences in the workshops they had chosen.
We were all on our own for dinner Friday evening, with small groups spontaneously forming to eat at the hotel restaurants and downtown. About 25% of the attendees met over pizza to discuss possible name changes for EEWC. Stay tuned to CFT and the EEWC web site for updates. I had a personally delightful dinner with my friends from church in Crawfordsville, friends from Kansas City, Indiana EEWC friends, and Phil Gulley. We laughed more than we ate, and it was one of the highlights of the conference for me.
And then, at the evening plenary session, Phil Gulley led us in expanding our concept of community and opening our table to all in a warm and humorous manner. The evening closed with Phil talking with individuals, signing books, and attendees enjoying refreshments and conversation.
Saturday, we opened the day with music and a great keynote by one of EEWC’s founding mothers, Virginia Mollenkott. Everyone looks forward to hearing her wonderful words of wisdom and love, and this year was no exception as she challenged us to expand both our table and our definition of inclusiveness and plenty.
Following her plenary there were again workshops divided into the four aforementioned categories. Attendees were able to explore Reverend Elder Nancy Wilson’s “Future of ‘Church,’” Sr. Mary Baird and Janet Lundblad’s inspirational session on “Sacred Longings/Radiating Possibilities”, Sarah Forth’s scholarly presentation of “God, Gods, & Goddesses,” or join in “Dancing to the Table” led by Mary Bell.
After the workshops, we gathered together to relax and converse while we enjoyed yet another communal lunch. Meals together as a group added a fabulous component to the conference, and of course were fitting to have with a conference titled such as this one! There was plenty of time at the mealtime periods to relax or browse the silent auction space, or even take a short nap.
Following lunch, we were again kept awake with the mesmerizing stories and challenges in building an inclusive church by MCC moderator Nancy Wilson.
The afternoon concluded with four more workshops: “Learning and New Language” by Beverly Jane Phillips, “Exploring and Experiencing the Practice of Meditation” with Merri Leffel, “Healing Ourselves to Heal the World” led by Nicole Sotelo, and “Writing Mindfully: Exploring the Sacred Ordinary with Creative Writing” by Carrie Newcomer.
Before leaving for dinner, we had time to look over our “Marketplace,” prepared in the lobby outside our conference rooms, which provided a chance for EEWC members and conference attendees to share books, crafts, jewelry and other products of their creative abilities and passions with others. What a diversely talented group we are!
Already in this retrospect, we have come to Saturday night, and once more the committee had selected a Hoosier artist to entertain and enrich us. Carrie Newcomer is a singer, songwriter, peace activist and storyteller extraordinaire! How fabulous it was to gather for just a time of joy, laughter and inspirational music!
At concert’s end, Georgean made the announcement that the Silent Auction event was over and almost $2000 had been raised for EEWC!
The Sunday morning worship service at EEWC conferences is always amazing in its ability to engage the senses and move the Spirit, and this service was no exception. With the opening drumming, the fabulous preaching by Nancy Wilson, the palpably moving liturgical dance to set the Communion Table, and the incredible music, it was a service to remind us once again who we serve and why we do.
Goodbyes are always difficult at the end of a conference, and for those of us on the committee who had been seeing each other regularly and e-mailing each other beyond number, it was a bittersweet moment when our “baby” was born, gave joy to all, and then grew up and left home so soon! How rewarding it was then to see the words of praise and discussions of the conference content continue on the EEWC community electronic group mailing list! Thank you for that wonderful gift, and hopefully the Spirit will continue to move us all to grow and love and reach out to make a Place at the Table for all of God’s Kindom.
Writings and Music of 2008 EEWC Conference Presenters
Nancy Wilson’s ministry is described by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.
Carrie Newcomer’s CDs are reviewed by Linda Bieze in “Music to Feed Your Heart and Soul.”
Kay Kiehlbauch Nannet, author of this report, has been a member of EEWC since 1986, serving on the Council as the Indianapolis chapter representative and holding the office of secretary in the early 1990s.
She is married to Tim, and they are raising their two children in west central Indiana. Professionally, Kay works as a Nurse Practitioner in Dermatology and is also an elementary school nurse. She and her family are active members of a Disciples of Christ Church in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Kay Nannet and Barbara Crews o-chaired the 2008 EEWC Conference in Indianapolis. Other members of the conference planning committee were Becky Bender, Sharon Bowes, Georgean Johnson-Coffey, Helen Claire Ferguson, Marg Herder, and Tina Osborn.
[Editor’s Note] All of us in EEWC are deeply grateful for the hard work and long hours that members of the planning committee invested to make this conference such a wonderful success! Thank you, Kay, Barbara, Becky, Sharon, George, Helen Claire, Marg, and Tina!
“A Place at the Table” Plenary Presenters
Reta Halteman Finger
New Testament Professor, Messiah College
A Jesus Supper For Every Body
Many misconceptions surround the celebration of the Lord’s Supper–from limiting it to a solemn vertical contact with Christ–to the fear of judgment if one partakes unworthily.
We will examine Paul’s concerns in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, finding new communal and inclusive meanings, where women are central figures.
About Dr. Finger
Reta Halteman Finger, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Messiah College, Grantham, PA, has been a member of EEWC since 1978.
As a frequent speaker/teacher at conferences, attendees look forward to Reta’s keen insight and unique ability to relate the Bible to today’s issues.
She is a former Editor of Daughters of Sarah has authored or co-authored numerous books including, Of Widows And Meals: Communal Meals In The Book Of Acts and Roman House Churches For Today. Reta received her doctorate in 1998 in the Joint Program of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northwestern University. She lives in Harrisonburg, VA. Reta has two sons and three grandchildren.
Author and Speaker
Making Room at Our Table
About Mr. Gulley
Phillip Gulley grew up in Indiana, where he still lives with his wife and two sons. He serves as a Quaker pastor of Fairfield Friends Meeting near Indianapolis.
As he experienced the pain and joy of his parishioners, Gulley began to hear a small but insistent voice speaking to him of God’s boundless love and extravagant grace, calling him to a new understanding of divine will and human destiny.
His books, If Grace is True and If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World, (coauthored with James Mulholland), share this journey.
Gulley is also author of the popular Harmony series which describe the fictional exploits of Quaker Pastor Sam Gardner, offering lessons of wisdom and love on the Christian journey.
Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
But Will There Be Enough?
Counting the Costs of Sharing Wisdom’s Table
Reflections concerning the nature of the table to which Sophia invites us; the inevitable tensions between appropriate boundaries and inclusive welcoming; attitudes of scarcity/greed versus attitudes of abundance/gratitude; and assessments of how global needs could actually be met not only in the “sweet bye and bye” but here and now on Planet Earth.
About Dr. Mollenkott
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, English professor emeritus, William Patterson University, is a founding member of EEWC. A frequent speaker at conferences, Virginia’s perspectives always stimulate listeners to stretch and grow on their spiritual journeys.
She is the author or co-author of 13 books, including Is The Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian View; Women, Men, and the Bible; The Divine Feminine: Biblical Imagery of God as Female and Omnigender. Virginia is a winner of the 2002 Lambda Literary Award.
She was a member of the translation committee for the New International Version of the Bible (1970 – 1978) and of An Inclusive Language Lectionary (National Council of Churches). Virginia, who has one son and three granddaughters, earned her B.A. from Bob Jones University, her M.A. from Temple University, and her Ph.D. from New York University. Her partner is Judith Suzannah Tilton.
Dr. Alena Amato Ruggerio
Professor and Author
Theapalooza: The Rhetorical Turn in the Third Wave of Biblical Feminism
When our mothers admonished us to “mind our language at the table,” they probably never imagined that they might be handing us the key to the next generation of progressive Christian activism. The young biblical feminists of the Third Wave and beyond believe that the work of Christian feminism is not just theological, it is also rhetorical. An understanding of the mechanisms behind the power of words and a playful approach to the English lexicon provide us with new ways to extend Wisdom’s invitation for all people to join together at the table of inclusion and peace.
About Dr. Ruggerio
Dr. Alena Amato Ruggerio is an Associate Professor of Communication and Interim Director of Women’s Studies at Southern Oregon University.
Her work at the intersection of rhetorical theory and criticism, Christianity, and third wave feminism has appeared in Christian Century, The Other Side, Feminist Media Studies, and Eerdman’s Encyclopedia of Religion.
Alena’s teaching specialties include courses in Women Transforming Language (feminist rhetorical theories), Texts of Truth (rhetorical approaches to interpreting sacred texts), Evaluation of Public Communication (rhetorical criticism), persuasion, argumentation and debate, and advanced public speaking.
She earned her Ph.D., as well as the Lieber Memorial Outstanding Associate Instructor Award, from Indiana University, Bloomington.
She has served as EEWC’s Coordinator, Secretary, Council representative, and conference planning committee member. Currently she is the assistant to the editor of Christian Feminism Today. She resides in the mountains of southwestern Oregon with her husband Bradley and their two astonishingly adorable cats.
Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson
Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches
About Rev. Elder Wilson
Rev. Wilson was elected to the position of Moderator of MCC in 2005, following the retirement of the Founder of MCC, Rev. Elder Troy Perry. Her office is in Sarasota, Florida. She was elected Elder of MCC of 1976 and served as Vice-Moderator from 1993 to 2001.
Rev. Wilson served as Clerk of the Board of Elders for ten years; and became MCC’s first Chief Ecumenical Officer, a post she held for 23 years. She has been the official delegate of MCC to the World Council of Churches General Assemblies in Canberra, Australia (1991); Harare, Zimbabwe (1998) and Porto Alegre, Brazil (2006).
Her published works include: Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus and the Bible (Alamo Press); with Fr. Malcolm Boyd, Amazing Grace; and her prayers and poems are included in Race and Prayer edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester Talton (Morehouse Press). She is a popular preacher and speaker; has been honored with the first “Lazarus Award” from the Presbyterian Church and was invited to preach at the Earl Lectures at Pacific School of Religion in 2002.
Carrie Newcomer Concert
Saturday, June 28th, 2008
Carrie is a touchstone of authenticity in an image-driven, media-defined musical world. She is a beautiful singer and songwriter, and deeply refreshing.
Carrie’s message of peaceful inclusion perfectly complements our conference theme.
Carrie has developed a loyal following from her incessant touring over the years, and has gained critical acclaim in the music media including Rolling Stone and USA Today. She has 9 CD releases to her credit. The most recent, Regular and Refugees is a collection of well-hewn stories that say something important and true about the human condition.
She has shared the stage with a variety of performers including Bonnie Raitt, Allison Krauss, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Nickel Creek, the phenom string band, covered her song “I Should’ve Known Better” on their 2003 Grammy Award-winning and Gold CD, This Side.
Many Carrie Newcomer songs on Regulars and Refugees are about people. With the deft hand of a playwright or a novelist, Newcomer works through her characters to deliver stories—always stories and never sermons—covering issues ranging from living wage, mental illness, loyalty and betrayal, immigration laws, a passion for the arts, deep abiding love, abusive relationships and the mysterious and spiritual in the lives of us all. She even manages to put words in the mouth of a sincere and faithful mutt dog that helps its owner cope with the loss of his wife.
Since 1997, Carrie has consistently given a percentage of her tour album sales to charitable organizations. For the Regulars and Refugees tour, Carrie is donating a portion of her album sales to Second Harvest, the nation’s largest food bank network. Newcomer’s activism springs from her Quaker faith and from her belief in the power of an individual’s calling in the world, and it manifests itself in the thing about which she has the most passion—her music.
Admittance to Saturday night’s Carrie Newcomer concert is included in A Place at the Table 2008 registration.
For more information on her and to hear samples of Carrie Newcomer’s music, please visit her website.
One of the highlights of any EEWC conference is the chance for participants to learn from a diverse group of presenters in small group situations.
Conversations About Sacred Longings and Radiating Possibilities
Sister Mary Baird, PHJC and Janet Lundblad
What do you really want? Participants in workshop will be encouraged to get in touch with their deepest desires and re-instill a spiritual quest as an element in the transformation of desire lived out in Christian community.
Sister Mary Baird, PHJC and Janet Lundblad are committed to helping all people realize their deepest desires. Mary has touched numerous lives at many levels as a Catholic Sister of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Janet, an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, now serves as a chaplain in a Catholic hospital in the Chicago. She became acquainted with EEWC through friends in Daughters of Sarah.
Dancing to the Table
Dance can be an expression of prayer and worship. Experience holy movement in this workshop by learning characteristics of liturgical dance incorporating our conference theme – A Place at the Table.
Mary Bell has a BA in dance from Butler University. She choreographs and dances in the liturgical dance medium in Indianapolis. Her gifts and creative abilities are highlighted in the book Praising God Through the Lively Arts.
Drumming From the Heart with Body and Soul
Helen Claire Ferguson, M. Div, LMHC
Come and join the fun that will surely prove to be a meeting with the Sacred as we drum together! This workshop will offer a little history of drumming, a description of styles of drumming, examples of various instruments used in drumming, and an explanation of how this art expression may enrich your life. If you have your own drum, rattles or bells, please bring them with you!
Helen Claire Ferguson, M. Div, LMHC, was a member of an informal drumming circle for nearly ten years and sometimes uses drumming in her work as a licensed mental health counselor.
God, Gods, & Goddesses
Sarah Forth, Ph.D.
What’s behind the Hebrew Bible’s models of God? Together we will discover this answer including how the Israelites borrowed liberally from their polytheistic neighbors as they struggled to express their monotheistic faith. By knowing this history, participants will feel freer to draw upon the deep wellsprings of their own experience in re-conceiving and drawing closer to their God.
Sarah Forth, Ph.D. earned her doctorate in theology in a joint program at Northwestern University and Garrett Seminary, and is currently a university lecturer in religion and women’s studies. She is the author of Eve’s Bible: A Women’s Guide to the Old Testament.
Can There Be Peace Between Israel and Palestine? Is There a Role for U.S. Citizens?
The turmoil in the Middle East is complex and often seems overwhelming. Yet, there is a Prince of Peace. Together we will explore the history, root causes, and present obstacles to peace. We will gain an understanding of what needs to happen if peace is to come and learn what our own roles can be in this hopeful process.
Dorothy Gerner is a longtime peace and social justice activist. She serves as a retired Diaconal Minister of the South Indiana United Methodist Conference. She worked closely with her late husband, Henry Gerner, Th.D. who served as president of Christians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East.
Living in Harmony
Meet with one of our keynote speakers, Phil Gulley, in this lively workshop as he shares his experiences with faith, fiction, storytelling, publishing and of course, life in Harmony.
Author and pastor Phil Gully’s books include If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person and If God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World (coauthored with James Mulholland), and the popular Harmony series of novels. His show “Porch Talk with Phil Gulley” won an Emmy award and can be seen on the Indiana PBS affiliate WFYI.
Just Eating: Practicing our Faith at the Table
Jennifer Halterman-Schrock, M.Div
There is more to eating than a full stomach. Topics discussed in this workshop include
- food sharing as sacrament
- food and the environment
- creating community with food
- food to nurture the body
Leave with a grab bag of ideas that can help a congregation, women’s group or supper club discern God’s call to action and think more deeply about the faith related to food.
Jennifer Halterman-Schrock, M.Div. coordinates public programs for Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, a natural sanctuary guided by a Christian theology of earthkeeping. She is former English teacher and a freelance writer and editor.
Exploring and Experiencing the Practice of Meditation: Sitting in Silence
Merri Leffel, M.S.
Our busy, noisy lives often shut out the peaceful voice of God. This workshop offers concise instruction and enlightening discussion regarding the practice of meditation including an optional participation in a 20-minute session of sitting in silence.
Merri Leffel, M.S. has a Master’s degree in counseling and has a private practice in Zionsville, IN. She is a member of the World Community of Christian Meditation an organization committed to teaching meditation and restoring the contemplation dimension of Christian faith in the life of the church.
Writing Mindfully: Exploring the Sacred Ordinary with Creative Writing
In addition to her Saturday evening concert, Carrie Newcomer will present a workshop for songwriters, poetry and prose writers of all experience levels who are all welcome to explore writing with a spiritual current. This workshop will focus on the power, value and healing in telling our stories from our authentic voice and experience.
Musician and songwriter Carrie Newcomer has led workshops across the country. Coming from a rich and creative discipline, Carrie has released nine critically acclaimed recordings, performed throughout the United States and Europe, and earned a BA in fine art and education. Carrie has facilitated workshops and been artist-in-residence within the public schools, at various colleges and spiritual retreat centers. She is an activist and a Quaker.
Learning a New Language: Speech About Women and God
Beverly Jane Phillips
Discover the history of how and why feminine language for God was deemed inappropriate. Find out how the names we use for God are metaphors. We will learn a wide range of names for God that give value to women, children, and the environment – something that is denied when exclusively male language is used for God.
Beverly Jane Phillips is a retired Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She is a graduate of Hastings College and San Francisco Theological Seminary. She was ordained to the position of Hunger Action Enabler for the Presbytery of Chicago and later served as an organizer for Bread for the World. She is the author of Learning a New Language: Speech About Women and God.
Healing Ourselves to Heal the World
Nicole Sotelo, M. Div.
This revealing workshop will look at and heal the wounds we have received from abuse in order to become better healers/advocates for justice within our churches. We will learn the stages of healing through a faith and feminist lens. This workshop will also be helpful for those who minister to women healing from abuse.
Nicole Sotelo, M. Div. is a writer and speaker on the topic of faith and the healing journey. She holds a BA in Religion and Literature from Wellesley College and a M. Div. from Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of The Hidden Wars: Just War Theory and Domestic Violence and Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace.
What’s on the Table? Setting an Agenda for Women and the Future of “Church”
At this workshop, join one of our keynote speakers, Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson – who will also give the sermon at our Sunday worship – as we contemplate together what the next 20 to 40 years will be like in the world. How will this impact women who identify as Christian and who are part of the “church?” What will our future focus need to be?
Rev. Wilson was elected to the position of Moderator of MCC in 2005. Her published works include: Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus and the Bible, with Fr. Malcolm Boyd, and Amazing Grace. She is a popular preacher and speaker; has been honored with the first “Lazarus Award” from the Presbyterian Church.