A 2018 Gathering Reflection by Janene Cates Putman
So there I was in the women’s restroom (isn’t this the start of many fabulous stories?), minding my own business, when I met Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton. As we introduced ourselves and peered into each other’s name tags (that’s not awkward at all, looking at people’s chests all weekend), we realized we shared a name; “Jann” is her nickname for “Jeanine.” During my next trip to the loo, I overheard a conversation Jann was having in which she mentioned teaching at DBU. I asked if that could be Dallas Baptist University, where I started college at age 17. Not only had she been a professor there, her best friend (Dr. Raynal Barber) had been my favorite professor. By this time, both of us had a tingling suspicion that Christ-Sophia was up to something with our connection.
As we spent time together over the weekend, Jann and I discovered more commonalities. We both grew up as PKs (preacher’s kids) in the Southern Baptist tradition. Our parents encouraged us to develop our minds and to think for ourselves. We both enjoyed our PK childhoods while each of our sisters did not. Both of us carry our deep Southern drawls as sources of pride. As if all that weren’t enough, at dinner together we both ordered a salad with salmon on top!
By the end of the weekend, I knew that Christ-Sophia had orchestrated an irresistible alliance between the two of us. I proudly and loudly sang Jann’s powerful hymn, “Time’s Up! We Shout,” while standing next to her. I sat enthralled while she and Dr. Kendra Weddle discussed their book on the life of Letha Dawson Scanzoni (Building Bridges). I was amazed and thrilled when she generously encouraged my writing and ministry.
I had many divinely arranged connections in St. Louis:
- I met Linda who, with her fellow minister Rhondda, came to the Gathering from Canada to see for herself that all Americans aren’t like the ones she sees on the news (I’m proud to say she was not disappointed). We not only connected over shared political horror; we enjoyed Mexican food with a big Fuzzy’s margarita.
- I met Susan, who I had followed on Facebook through her Freed Hearts page. Her dynamic ministry and passion are energizing.
- I met Chandra, who lives in the same city as my son and his family, and we made plans for my raiding her closet (her wardrobe is fab, y’all) the next time I’m in town.
- I met Sherry, whom emphasized self-care as we continue our work for justice and equality and who generously offered to the “Links and Resources” section of her movement’s website. She also joined us for the aforementioned Mexican food.
- I met Erica, a fabulously thoughtful Wake Forest Divinity School student who attends church with some of my dearest friends and who fearlessly educated us on the theology of justice for trans people.
- I met Florence, who has got to be the most bad-ass preacher’s wife I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across. As a young wife she let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that she was her own person and would not conform to any expectations but her own. She negotiated a six-month sabbatical for herself to seek out women-led ministries.
Marianne Williamson said, “… as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” By being in the presence of these spectacular women living out their freedom in Christ, I was inspired to “Stand Up and Speak Out” even more. As feminist pioneers like Jann and Letha shared their stories and struggles, I was motivated to share my own gifts and experiences to motivate women to live in the fullness of who Godde created them to be.
The life-affirming magic of like-minded women gathered together in one place cannot be overstated. That magic goes soul-deep when it’s paired with shared faith — faith in God, faith in each other, faith that there is a better way, faith that we can and we will affect change TOGETHER.
In the age of #Metoo and #Timesup, heart connections between women have become ever more vital. We need each other; we are created to crave connection. “In Such a Time as This,” let’s continue our Christian feminist collaboration to create the change we want to see in our world.
It doesn’t take attending a conference to step up and speak out; each of these women I’ve mentioned was met with challenges and decided to step forward. In the comments below, please share what YOU will do today!