A 2018 Gathering Reflection by Melanie Springer Mock
On the first full day of the 2018 CFT Gathering, I took a long walk with two friends. For July, the Midwest air was surprisingly pleasant, with low humidity and a cool breeze. But even hot weather doesn’t deter us; we’ve been taking these walks every time Christian Feminism Today meets, dating back to my first gathering in 2012, when high humidity and warm air was no deterrent for Lourene or Kendra.
Both friends are deeply invested in CFT: Lourene is a feminist foremother, a member of CFT for several decades; Kendra introduced me to CFT and was, for a time, its coordinator. But when we walk, we don’t necessarily talk about organizational matters, nor (really) about Christian feminism. Instead, we share parts of our lives that have unfolded since the last gathering, events that have been heartbreaking and joyful, overwhelming and celebratory. By the walk’s end, I feel deep gratitude for the work each woman is doing in the world, and grateful to call each woman a friend.
These every-other-year walks are an apt metaphor for what happens at CFT Gatherings. I only see CFT members at our gatherings, and yet I feel deeply invested in the lives of the people in this organization—and know they are deeply invested in my life, as well. The plenary sessions and workshops at the gathering offer me new insight in how I am to navigate the world as a Christian feminist, but I am equally transformed by the friendships that are nurtured through these gatherings, by the wisdom offered me from my feminist foremothers, by the encouragement extended to me by the younger women who are coming to gatherings in increasingly impressive numbers.
While each plenary and workshop session at the 2018 CFT Gathering sounded the theme of “Standing Up and Speaking Up” in such a time as this, I will remember best the personal relationships that seemed foundational to the speakers’ worldviews. For example, the plenary session by Kendra Weddle and Jann Aldredge-Clanton, exploring the important work of feminist foremother Letha Scanzoni, was fundamentally about the ways Letha has nurtured and mentored countless others in their own spiritual journeys.
Alicia Crosby’s plenary challenged us to consider spaces of privilege in our lives, and pushed us to consider how privilege prevents us from right relationships. Other sessions on social justice, including excellent presentations about immigration and about constitutional law and LGBTQ rights, compelled me to think about how change can be effected when one person, acting out of love for another, provides sanctuary, or resources, or access to services (and also, how I might be that one person who effects change). In session after session, and workshop after workshop, I felt more connected to others at the gathering, and also ready to go build relationships in my community, especially in the (many) places where power and privilege reign.
And still, if someone were to ask me to distill 3.5 days of the gathering into a few major highlights of events, I could easily comply, despite the amazing richness of each plenary and workshop I attended. The first would be the every-morning yoga session with Mama Lisa (DeWeese), an amazing instructor whose chill vibe and soft voice allowed me to center myself and prepare myself for the day’s activities. The second would be the final worship service, where a meaningful sermon by Leslie Harrison and the beautiful communion experience was almost as memorable as the extended “passing of the peace,” which in itself is a celebration of the relationships fostered via CFT, and the love I feel for so many in the organization.
But the most significant highlight of the gathering—as is true of every gathering—was the walk I had with Lourene and Kendra, and the opportunity to share life with friends I see so rarely. And then another walk Kendra and I took, late into one night, circling neighborhoods near the hotel neither of us recognized. In both those instances, I felt keenly what it means to be known and loved by others, and to have my life matter in significant ways.
Once Kendra and I found our way back to the hotel on that warm night, we found other circles of women from the conference, sharing drinks at the hotel bar, no doubt catching up on two years’ worth of news, just as Kendra and Lourene and I had done. This kind of siblinghood is ultimately what keeps me coming back to The Gathering, and I can’t wait for 2020, for what I will learn—but also for the walks I will definitely take—when we get back together again.