2012 CFT Gathering: Sharing Our Stories, Healing Our Lives
Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.
Proverbs 12:18, Good News Bible
Christian Feminists from far and wide came together for the 2012 CFT Gathering held in Indianapolis, Indiana, from Thursday, June 21 through Sunday, June 24, 2012.
The conference was coordinated by a group of women: Becky Bender, Claire Beutler-Cruise, Barbara Crews, Jan Clark, Louise Davis, Sally Fenton, Jeanne Hanson, Nancy Hardesty (who sadly lost her life to cancer before the conference), Kendra Weddle, Wanda Lollar, Rita Voors, and Linda Williams
Sharon Bowes (EEWC-CFT Office Manager), Lē Weaver, and Letha Dawson Scanzoni (Christian Feminism Today website and magazine editor) provided assistance.
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2012 CFT Gathering Workshop and Plenary Presenters
Jann Aldredge-Clanton is an ordained minister, author, teacher, and chaplain. She currently serves as adjunct professor at both the Perkins School of Theology and Richland Community College in Dallas, Texas. A native of Louisiana, Jann received the B.A. degree from Louisiana Polytechnic University, the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Texas Christian University, and the M.Div. from Southwestern Theological Seminary.
A prolific author, Jann has written numerous books, hymnals, and articles. Her most recent books are Changing Church: Stories of Liberating Ministers (Cascade Books 2011) and Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice (Eakin Press, 2011). Her other books are Seeking Wisdom: Inclusive Blessings and Prayers for Public Occasions (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010); Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006); Breaking Free: The Story of a Feminist Baptist Minister (Eakin Press, 2002); In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians (Twenty-Third Publications, 1995; Eakin Press, 2004); Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God (Choristers Guild, 2004); In Whose Image? God and Gender (Crossroad, 1990, 2001); Praying with Christ-Sophia: Services for Healing and Renewal (Twenty-Third Publications, 1996; Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007); Counseling People with Cancer (Westminster John Knox, 1998); God, A Word for Girls and Boys (Glad River, 1993; Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007). Jann’s articles have been published in The Journal of Pastoral Care, The Christian Ministry, and elsewhere. Jann is a new member of the EEWC-CFT Council, representing the Southwest.
Jann presented “Sharing Our Stories, Healing Our Lives.”
Shawna R. B. Atteberry is an ordained minister, writer, storyteller, and theologian who empowers women to be the leaders Godde calls them to be at home, work and church by exploring the Divine Feminine and stories of the women in the Bible. She wrote and self-published What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School: Women Who Didn’t Shut Up & Sit Down, and she is working on her second book, Career Women of the Bible. She blogs at Shawna R. B. Atteberry, a safe haven for women to explore their callings and vocations without antiquated judgments about what a woman’s
role should be. Shawna is also an associate editor for The Christian Godde Project: Exploring the Divine Feminine Within the Christian Godde. The goal of The Christian Godde Project is to create a version of the New Testament using Divine Feminine names, images, and pronouns for Godde. Shawna lives in Chicago with her husband, Tracy, and their very spoiled cat, Victoria. She attends Chicago Grace Episcopal Church, where she is the Director of Adult Formation and a lay preacher. Shawna has an M. A. in Theological Studies from Nazarene Theological Seminary, over 10 years of pastoral experience, and 6 years of experience in the publishing industry.
Shawna presented the workshop, “Women in the Gospel of John: The Johannine Community’s Response to Christian Communities That Limited Women Leaders.”
Workshop Description: The New Testament is not monolithic about Christian belief and worship; there are competing early communities of Christianity within our canon. Two well-known groups are those who followed Peter—the Petrine church–and those who followed Paul—the Pauline church. Both of these traditions started limiting the role of women in the church toward the end of the 1st century. But a third group—the Johannine church following John—had a different response to women’s roles. Many scholars believe the Gospel of John was written to refute the Petrine and Pauline crackdown on women’s ministry in the church. Come meet the women in this gospel and find out how this community of Christians offered a different story of women’s place in the earliest church and its ministry.
Linda Bieze, Alena Amato Ruggerio, and Letha Dawson Scanzoni. Since 2003, Linda, Alena, and Letha have been meeting by long-distance phone every Friday night for personal sharing and Bible study. They represent three areas of the country (Midwest, West Coast, and East Coast) and three generations, each 20 years apart. Linda is an editor and writer, Alena is a professor of communication, and Letha is an author and editor of Christian Feminism Today and our EEWC-Christian Feminism Today website. Both Linda and Alena are past coordinators of our organization during service on the EEWC-CFT Council.
Linda, Alena and Letha presented the workshop, “Christian Feminists and Personal Finance, Redux.”
Workshop Description: This will be a reprise of a workshop given at the 2010 gathering. You are invited to join a dialogue on money matters spanning the generations from Depression-era to Baby Boomer to Generation X. Linda, Alena, and Letha will talk about their personal approaches to money management and why it is important for Christian women to be wise stewards and managers of their finances.
Long-time EEWC-CFT member and former Coordinator Claire Beutler-Cruise lives in Milwaukee with life partner and best friend, Howie, dog Lucy, and cat Cruiser. An ordained UCC minister, Claire serves as Life Celebrant for Krause Funeral Home providing services for people who have no religious affiliation, or choose an alternative to traditional funeral service. Claire and Howie share four adult children, three grandchildren, and four grand-dogs. You can get her to do almost anything for chocolate.
Claire is coordinating the memorial for Nancy Hardesty.
A Celebration Memorial Service for the life and works of Nancy Hardesty, co-founder of EEWC-CFT will be held Saturday evening. In this time together we will share memories and stories of Nancy’s life. We will laugh together and allow the tears to fall as they must giving thanks to Godde for the gift she was to us and to women and men the world over.
Claire presented the workshop, “Laughter Yoga.”
Workshop Description: Laughter Yoga is based on emerging science from gelatologists (researchers who study the effects of laughter on the human body) that proves the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter can boost immune systems; lower blood pressure; decrease the stress hormone, cortisol; increase seratonin, which elevates mood; increase dopamine, which relieves pain; and much more! And the best part is that we can do all this for free! In the workshop, we will learn where Laughter Yoga comes from and practice laughter exercises.
Jan Clark was born and raised Southern Baptist in Macon, Georgia, and along her career journey served as a Baptist Book Store manager for several years in Greensboro, North Carolina. A graduate of Furman University, she later studied at Duke Divinity School, completed a year-long residency in Clinical Pastoral Education at University of North Carolina Hospitals, was ordained as a Baptist minister, and became a hospice chaplain. She retired from the hospice ministry in January 2010. She has been a member of EEWC-CFT since attending the Norfolk, Virginia, conference in 1996 and is presently serving on the council, representing the Southeast. Jan lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
Jan presented “Music from Past Conferences” and coordinated the music for the Sunday morning worship service.
Anne Linstatter describes herself on her website as “a writer, mother, (somewhat) radical feminist, and born-again Christian who teaches Women & Religion at California State University, Northridge.” She is the editor of Abortion—My Choice, God’s Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories (New Paradigm Books, 1994). Her commentaries appear on Women’s eNews and in Christian Feminism Today, as well as in her blog Martha y Maria: Women’s Lives, Women’s Rights. Currently Anne is working on a memoir about her own feminist expectations in collision with the social realities of marriage, church, paid/volunteer work, and raising three daughters. Anne is one of the founding members of EEWC-CFT, has served as a Southwest representative on the EEWC-CFT Council, and is a frequent writer and book reviewer for Christian Feminism Today magazine.
Anne moderated the “Feminist Women of Faith” panel discussion.
Diana J. Ensign, J.D. has studied Buddhism, Tai Chi, Yoga, Hinduism, Unitarian Universalism, 12-Step programs, and Goddess Rituals. She has participated in Wisdom Circles, Sweat Lodges, and Native American ceremonies. Certified in Reiki III, Diana has completed Shaman workshops, dream workshops, and nonviolent communication workshops. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a degree in English and Wayne State University Law School, located in Detroit. Ensign grew up in Michigan and currently lives in Indianapolis. Her greatest teachers are nature and her two daughters. She lives with her husband, a biologist, who works for nature conservation. She celebrates life through music, long walks, and sunshine.
Diana participated in the “Feminist Women of Faith” panel discussion.
Mary Ann D. Fadae has a B.A. in ancient history and archaeology from the American University of Beirut and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Arabic language and literature with aconcentration in Sufism and Islamic studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. She has taught courses on Islam and Sufism at local universities and is involved in interfaith work. A convert to Islam, Dr. Fadae is a member of the Jerrahi Order of America, whose spiritual center is in Istanbul, Turkey. Currently she is translating a 13th-century Sufi mystical treatise on the Unique Name of God for publication.
Mary Ann participated in the “Feminist Women of Faith” panel discussion.
Reta Halteman Finger, a long-time member of EEWC-CFT, retired in 2009 from teaching Bible (mostly New Testament) at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and since her retirement from Messiah College has been teaching part time at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in addition to other writing and speaking projects. Reta edited the Christian feminist magazine, Daughters of Sarah, for 15 years and is a frequent writer and reviewer for Christian Feminism Today. Using the search box on our EEWC-Christian Feminism Today website, you’ll be led to many of her online articles. A gifted teacher, Reta is uniquely skilled in relating the Bible to today’s issues and in getting others involved in discussions about the material she presents. She specializes in life in the early church and is the author of Roman House Churches for Today: A Practical Guide for Small Groups, and Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts. She is also co-editor with Kari Sandhaas of Wisdom of Daughers: Two Decades of the Voice of Christian Feminism (a book of selected articles from Daughters of Sarah magazine). Reta is a past Southeast representative on the EEWC-CFT Council.
Reta presented the workshop, “Is Paul a Healer? The Stories Behind First Corinthians.”
Workshop Description: The house churches in Corinth are falling apart. Factions vie for power and control. Both female and male slaves receive no honor, and the wealthy and better-educated pull rank over those socially beneath them. In this interactive workshop, we will examine selected portions of Paul’s letter to discern whether or not his words can help heal the schisms. Bring your copy of 1 Corinthians!
Reta participated in the “Feminist Women of Faith” panel discussion.
Dr. Laura M. Grimes is a feminist theologian, hymn writer, and liturgist as well as a wife and mother of four children. Laura completed her PhD in Historical and Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. She is the author of Wisdom’s Friends: Gertrud of Helfta’s Conversational Theology (VDM, 2009), Sophia’s Psalter, Sophia’s Rosary, and Sophia’s Book of Hours, Sophia’s Hymnal, and Advent Meditations. Along with Dr. Ann Marie Caron, she is presently translating Mechtild of Hackeborn’s Book of Special Grace for the Paulist Press Classics of Western Spirituality series. Laura completed her training in spiritual direction at Shalom Prayer Center in Mt. Angel, OR and her formation in Ignatian spirituality at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Detroit, MI. She leads retreats and groups on a variety of topics including “Discovering the Divine Feminine” and “Mother’s Comfort,” a unique prochoice/prolife friendly program for healing of pregnancy loss, termination, and stillbirth.
Dr. Grimes presented a workshop entitled, “Wisdom’s Healing Words: Divine Feminine Resources for Christian Spirituality and Liturgy.”
Workshop description: Join a sacred circle to experience and share resources, stories, and dreams of a new world where Christian prayer and worship honor Godde our Mother, Lover and Friend–and the full equality and dignity of women created in Her image. Feminist liturgist and hymnwriter Laura Grimes will create a safe space to experience and process divine feminine prayers, songs, art, and scriptures including texts from her Sophia prayer books and the Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament, for which she serves as co-general editor.
Kendra Weddle teaches religion at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. Before that she taught religious studies for six years at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. Kendra reports that she became a committed feminist in college, and her research interests have centered around Christianity in America, women in Christianity, and Methodism. Her first book, Preaching on the Plains: Methodist Women Preachers in Kansas, 1920-1956 (University Press of America), was published in 2007. Kendra is a member of the EEWC-CFT Council, representing the Southwest. She and Melanie Springer Mock co-write the blog, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images.
Kendra Weddle and Melaine Springer Mock co-presented the plenary, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images.”
Ellen McNutt has been teaching for over 20 years to adults, teenagers, and elementary students in Jewish education. Her studies have included the Holocaust, Jewish Identity, Values and Ethics, Jewish Life Cycle Events and Israel. She holds a BA in Elementary Education and an MSW from Indiana University with a non-formal Jewish education certificate from Brandeis University.
Ellen served as Executive Regional Director of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, presiding over Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio for over ten years. She did non-formal Jewish education in a camp setting as well as leading trips to Israel and Poland. At the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, Beth El Zedeck, she worked as Program Director, teaches religious school for grades 6-9, and serves on the Board.
Engaging youth in meaningful conversations on Jewish topics is her calling. She is married to Sandy McNutt and has two teenage children, Drew and Rachel.
Ellen participated in the “Feminist Women of Faith” panel discussion.
Melanie Springer Mock is a professor of English at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, where she was the winner of George Fox’s 2009 Faculty of the Year award. She earned her Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University in 1999 with a concentration in Composition and Rhetoric and Modern American Literature. Her most recent book, co-edited with Rebekah Scheneiter, is Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World (Barclay Press, 2011). She also wrote Writing Peace: The Unheard Voices of Great War Mennonite Objectors (Cascadia Publishing House, 2003). Her essays have appeared in Christian Feminism Today; Adoptive Families; Mennonite Weekly Review; the Chronicle of Higher Education; and Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; among other places. Melanie is not only a frequent contributor to Christian Feminism Today magazine but has also written Web-exclusive features for our EEWC-CFT website, including an essay titled “God’s Gift of Motherhood Comes in Different Ways.” Melanie represents the Northwest on the EEWC-CFT Council. She and Kendra Weddle co-write the blog, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images.
Melaine Springer Mock and Kendra Weddle co-presented the plenary, “Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images.”
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, a frequent speaker for EEWC-CFT events, is the author or coauthor of 13 books, including Women, Men, and the Bible; The Divine Feminine:The Biblical Imagery of God as Female; Sensuous Spirituality (recently revised and updated); Omnigender; and (with Letha Dawson Scanzoni) Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response. For more than three decades, she taught English at William Paterson University of New Jersey and is a recognized Milton scholar. She has published numerous essays on literary topics in various scholarly journals as well as articles for religious publications. Virginia has contributed many articles and reviews to Christian Feminism Today, a number of which are available on our website. On of our website, you can listen to two of her presentations: “Comprehending the Dimensions of God’s Love: What Is Our Contribution?” from our 2006 conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, and “Dutiful or Prodigal: God’s Promise Remains the Same” from our 2010 Gathering in Indianapolis. Virginia is one of the founding members of our organization.
Virginia presented a plenary presentation entitled, “The Transformational Stories of Jesus.”
Gail Ricciuti is associate professor of homiletics at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York, where she has taught for the past 13 years. Before that, she served as a Presbyterian pastor for 25 years. Her articles and reviews have been published in Christian Feminism Today, and she serves on the EEWC Council as Northeast representative.
Gail preached at the Sunday morning worship service.
Alena Amato Ruggerio is professor of communication at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, and also served for a time as interim coordinator of women’s studies there. She earned her Ph.D. at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. A prolific writer and frequent contributor to Christian Feminism Today, Alena’s work has also appeared in the Christian Century, The Other Side, Feminist Media Studies, Oregon Humanities, and Eerdman’s Encyclopedia of Religion. Her teaching specialties include courses in Women Transforming Language (feminist rhetorical theories), Texts of Truth (rhetorical approaches to interpreting sacred texts), and persuasion. Currently, she is also the assistant to the editor of Christian Feminism Today and has been guest editor or co-editor for several issues of that publication. Her article on third wave feminism was the first on the topic that Christian Feminism Today published. Her article,”Slaying the Public Speaking Mastodon: How to Vanquish Your Fears of Public Speaking” is a web-only feature on our website. You can listen to her 2008 EEWC-CFT conference speech on the audio section of our website. Alena serves on the EEWC-CFT Council as Northwest representative.
Alena presented a plenary entitled, “In the Presence of the Holy Word,” and co-presented the workshop, “Christian Feminists and Personal Finance, Redux” with Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Linda Bieze.
Linda Williams is a retired literature editor who worked for 23 years in educational publishing. Before that she conducted continuing education courses in poetry for 12 years, and she also taught English at a small college. In recent years, she has tutored international students in English as well as engaging in various editing projects. Linda has led retreats using poetry and has presented workshops on poetry at several EEWC conferences. For a preview of how she makes poetry come alive, see her review essay on Mary Cartledgehayes’s book of poetry, “Sweetness and Light in the Winter, 2008 issue of Christian Feminism Today magazine. She also wrote the web-exclusive book review of Poets on the Psalms by Lynn Domina. Linda’s appreciation of visual art matches her interest in poetry, as is seen in her comments about two remarkable paintings of the Supper at Emmaus, one of the most popular essays on Christian Feminism Today.
Linda presented the workshop, “Finding Healing Through Reading Poetry.”
Workshop Description: We will look at women’s poems from the 17th century through our own century to see how these poets gave voice to their experiences of suffering and loss and how they did or did not come to a place of healing. Engaging with the poems can bring insight into our own stories and struggles.
2012 CFT Gathering Recap
by Anne Linstatter
It was supposed to be just a gathering, a reunion of friends who have worked for biblical feminism for twenty or thirty years—and in the case of some, even forty years.
But the 2012 CFT Gathering in Indianapolis turned out to be a power-packed conference with speakers and workshops to rival any of our past landmarks in Pasadena, Seattle, Norfolk, Saratoga Springs, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Jann Aldredge-Clanton, a newcomer from Dallas, gave the keynote address, “Sharing Our Stories, Healing Our Lives.” The author of ten books, she holds a doctorate from Texas Christian University and an M.Div. from Southwestern Theological Seminary.
Her story as a biblical feminist began when her husband gave her a copy of Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty’s All We’re Meant To Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation in 1976.
“I had never heard of The Feminine Mystique,” she recalled. “The call to gender justice could reach me only through the Bible.”
Kendra Weddle and Melanie Springer Mock started out the weekend with a hilarious-but-awful catalogue of current evangelical messages to women: breast augmentation is good for Christian marriage; yoga is evil; pole-dancing to Christian music is good; feminists hate both motherhood and stay-at-home mothers.
“How can we change the face of feminism among evangelicals?” they challenged us, putting us in groups to grapple with how to deconstruct the messages we got in our youth, how to speak to young evangelical women today, and how to change the way people interpret Scripture.
Their blog, Ain’t I a Woman: De/Constructing Christian Images, reflects these issues, and they invite women to share personal stories on these subjects. See also FemFaith, their intergenerational blog with Letha about connecting faith and feminism (on the EEWC-CFT website).
In her plenary talk, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott tackled the parables of Jesus, starting with their reputation as “bewildering, irritating, confusing” and with a reprise of the parable of “Pansy, the profligate daughter, and Denise, her elder sister” from her Sunday sermon at the 2010 gathering.
That parable is all about learning to cease judging others, she said. “Can we see our opponents as brothers and sisters? …I must let Christ be my vision if I’m going to live peacefully and joyfully. I must look through them with the conviction that ultimately love will triumph.”
This year Virginia chose three parables about workers and payment as most problematic: Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 16: 1-12, and Matthew 20: 1-16. She researched just about every commentary on them, including the Jewish Annotated New Testament and German scholar Luise Schottroff’s The Parables of Jesus. Virginia’s main conclusion was that these three parables confuse us because we don’t know about “the economic system then that was so horrible.”
In the Matthew 25, she reads the third slave who doesn’t invest the money as a whistle blower, noting that usury is cited as a sin in Torah. Like that slave, we should not oppress others by serving the interests of the 1%. If we read only on a literal level, however, we have a God who is harsh. On a metaphoric level, “Those who trust, invest; those who are afraid, bury their abilities and as a result their lives are full of darkness, misery, and the feeling of being deprived.” Those who bury talents can also be seen as those who fail to act with compassion.
Luke 16 is all about economic solidarity, Virginia reported. In a system of exploitation, we must “use whatever resources we can to reach out to others.” The estate manager decides to remove excessive interest charges—his own cut—to gain support in case he loses his job. Metaphorically, God’s grace extends to everybody, “so we do our part of the covenant by extending compassion.”
In Matthew 20, Virginia warned us against equating God with the wealthy landowner who disappoints the all-day workers by paying them the same as the late-comers. Of course we react against “this cruel trick on needy day laborers” being paid barely enough to survive, Virginia said. At a literal level, we are being warned to be unlike this owner. For this owner to view the land as “mine” and behave unjustly is to defy Torah, which says that God owns all land. On the level of the denarius as grace, however, “We should give thanks to God that we were invited into the vineyard in the first place.”
Alena Amato Ruggerio’s plenary, “In the Presence of the Holy Word,” compared Bible reading to “digital telepresence,” in which our viewing of films and computer screens creates the illusion of a firsthand experience. Just as we often forget about the layers of mediation in our digital world, a plain reading of the Bible also obscures the many inevitable layers of interpretation. Alena reminded us that as Christians, we should not be afraid to acknowledge those layers, or the variety of different biblical interpretations they create.
Also valuable was the “Feminist Women of Faith” panel. Rebecca Bender of Indianapolis found three fascinating women from other faiths who live nearby and were willing to share with us: Ellen Silverman McNutt, Mary Ann Fadae, and Diana Ensign, joined by Reta Halteman Finger representing Christianity. Ellen is a Reconstructionist Jew, Mary Ann is a convert to Islam after a complex interfaith childhood, and Diana is a Buddhist also participating in a Goddess Circle.
After sharing their faith journeys, the panel addressed issues such as current conflicts among people of faith and how we each can work for peace and understanding.
Memorial Service for Nancy Hardesty
The emotional high point of the weekend was Saturday night’s memorial service for our co-founder Nancy Hardesty, who died of pancreatic cancer last year. It brought tears to many with beautiful anecdotes from Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Linda Davis, and others, as well as a photo/musical tribute edited by Marg Herder.
Most moving were excerpts from a videotaped interview with Nancy on January 26, 2011, two months before her death, when she was quizzed by clinical pastoral education residents and medical personnel engaged in palliative care, who were seeking to understand the dying process. Asked about her support system, Nancy cited the nationwide EEWC network; her coauthor and friend of forty years, Letha; her friend Liz, a ten-year survivor of brain cancer; and her partner, Evelyn.
Letha, Nancy, and others in EEWC had prayed for Liz to recover, but Nancy mentioned that Liz had found that she could not pray for a cure for Nancy: “I kept getting the message back from the Spirit, ‘That’s not my plan for Nancy.’”
“Our times are in God’s hands. I’ve always had a sense that I’m in God’s plan,” Nancy affirmed.
Before Nancy had given her talk to the medical and pastoral education audience where the video had been filmed , she had sent them her article, “Some Thoughts on Living and Dying,” that she had written for Christian Feminism Today, prompting some of the questions she was asked.
To those who asked how she could have this trust of being in God’s hands yet have a less personal view of God, she answered that her concept of God had become less anthropomorphic… more “in whom we live and move and have our being,” yet still very intimate.
“I’m a fan of the mystics; I taught a seminar in the spiritual classics. To me, that [connectedness] is very personal—[but] not personal as in science fiction. Does that help?”
I had to smile: “Yes, Nancy, your words on the threshold of this last journey help us all.”
Designed by Claire Beutler-Cruise, a Certified Life Celebrant, ordained UCC minister, and longtime member of EEWC-CFT, the service concluded: “We give her body to the earth, and we release her life energy to the Divine Mystery.”
Music and Worship
Afterward Jan Clark, an ordained Baptist minister, led us in a musical retrospective singing beloved hymns and songs from our past conferences. That alone was worth the price of travel to Indiana—and by the way, among the 68 attending were 11 women from California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Hawaii.
Worship together on Sunday morning was fun because we discovered why Gail Ricciuti earns her living teaching seminary students how to preach. Based on the parables of the lost coin and the woman adding yeast to her dough (Luke 15:8-10 and Luke 13:20-21), her message was humorous, personal, moving, and centered on Jesus.
“Just as Jesus hallowed our bodies [being born of Mary], so he has hallowed the work of women’s hands,” Gail said. “God seeks the lost and uses the least to infuse the world with rising bread.”
“Baking bread is always a subversive act,” she declared. Three measure of flour are nine gallons—“it could feed a hundred people,” and it was “not status-quo bread—it was justice bread bringing joy.”
In the liturgy, planned by Janet Lundblad, we called out names of members who have passed on: David Abbott, Ruth Schmidt, Katherine Neufeld, David Scholer, Margo Goldsmith, Beth Suber, and others. “Presente!” we affirmed—because these biblical feminists are close to our hearts and continue to support us from God’s fuller presence.
This year’s workshops were outstanding. Reta Halteman Finger led us into the political and cultural life reflected in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: the patronage system, the poverty, the factions. Divided into four role-playing groups (slaves, rich, poor, ethnically Jewish), we argued over how to handle problems with the agape supper in Chloe’s house in Corinth. (Reta’s workshop didn’t end with the gathering but continues through her 1 Corinthian Bible study series on our EEWC-CFT website.)
Another newcomer, Shawna R. B. Atteberry, presented a workshop on “Women in the Gospel of John: The Johannine Community’s Response to Christian Communities that Limited Women Leaders.” Shawna is a younger feminist who emerged from the Church of the Nazarene and now attends Chicago Grace Episcopal Church. She blogs, tweets, and self-publishes; her first book is What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School: Women Who Didn’t Shut Up & Sit Down.
Shawna explained that the Gospel of John was written in Ephesus in opposition to groups
of Christians elsewhere that were accommodating to Greco-Roman standards for women. (Views of these groups are represented in 1 & 2 Timothy, 1 Peter, and other places.)
Using PowerPoint, she outlined passages in John that contrast with the synoptic gospels: Jesus’ revelations to the Samaritan woman (but not to Nicodemus), Martha as the first confessor of faith (not Peter), Mary of Bethany as a prophet, Jesus choosing to appear to Mary Magdalene but not to Peter and John.
I never learned in Sunday school about this dialogue within the gospels and letters that make up the New Testament. The dialogue continues today, she noted: “The Church of the Nazarene has been ordaining women since 1903, yet people kept asking me if I was going to seminary to become a pastor’s wife.”
Another rising star, new to us, was Laura Grimes, a feminist theologian and spiritual director in Dayton, Ohio. Your average Ph.D. in systematic theology at the University of Notre Dame is not likely to be the mother of four children. Laura, however, does have this experience, which she brings to her theology.
In fact, she leads a retreat program for women who seek healing from various pregnancy-related crises: termination, miscarriage, and stillbirth. This time for healing and retreat is unique in that it is friendly to both prochoice women and prolife women.
Laura’s workshop was titled “Wisdom’s Healing Words: Divine Feminine Resources for Christian Spirituality and Liturgy.”
Linda Bieze, Alena Ruggerio, and Letha Scanzoni gave a workshop on personal finance, sharing the ups and downs of their own journeys as well as their current approaches to money management as an important part of their Christian feminist outlook.
Linda Williams has gifted us often with workshops on poetry, and this year her subject was “Finding Healing through Reading Poetry.” She selected women’s poems from the 17th century. to now and showed us how these poets gave voice to their experiences of suffering, loss, and healing.
My favorite workshop was “Laughter Yoga” led by Claire Beutler-Cruise. After explaining the physiological benefits of laughing, Claire led us in various silly exercises with wigs and other props. Our homework is to laugh ten minutes a day—Claire does it while driving to work!
Shout-Outs and Laughter
All this laughter infected the rest of the conference, even the business meeting, with shouts of “Very good, very good! Yay!” Claire had trained us to extend both arms upward and back down with each phrase of this acclaim whenever something good happened, causing (of course) more laughter.
We also enjoyed two mother-daughter pairs—Alena Amato Ruggerio with her mom, Deborah Amato, and Betsy Baker-Smith with her daughter, Christy, who is working toward a doctorate in Education and Social Policy at New York University (both Betsy and Christy were first-time attendees).
Two husbands integrated the group gender-wise throughout the gathering: Howie Beutler-Cruise (husband of Claire) and Michael Campbell (husband of Susan Garrison), who showed off his splendid collection of t-shirts from past conferences (each with two additional conference t-shirts sewn on the back). Phil Coons, (husband of Liz Bowman), had been away on a mission for his church and joined us for worship on Sunday. All three men are members of EEWC-CFT themselves—very good, very good! Yay!
The loudest shouts of ‘Very good!” go to the planning committee who worked for two years to organize this memorable gathering: Becky Bender, Claire Beutler-Cruise, Barbara Crews, Jan Clark, Louise Davis, Sally Fenton, Jeanne Hanson, Kendra Weddle, Wanda Lollar, Rita Voors and Linda Williams. A big thank you to each of you and to the Indiana Chapter as a whole for hosting their fourth conference in 10 years: 2002, 2008, 2010, and 2012.
Yes, there was sadness in remembering those who are no longer with us, but there was also much laughter.
Photographs by Jeanne Hanson, Anne Linstatter and Lē Isaac Weaver