Posted October 17, 2015
A Guest Post by Kendra Weddle Irons
The 2015 Parliament of World Religions held in Salt Lake City, Utah, convened this week; a beautiful panoply of people and colors, rich in diversity. Outside of the Salt Palace, the convention center in Salt Lake, tepees welcome visitors from near and far while aromas of a Sikh Langar filled the entrance, a palpable sign of interfaith hospitality.
A sense of excitement fills the air; people are eagerly looking for inspiration and connection. Smiles abound even as people quickly dart here and there, scanning their phones for the latest updates and meeting spaces. EEWC-Christian Feminism Today is here, too, through the presence of Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Karen Kidd, Judith Liro, and Kendra Weddle Irons.
While there is much we could share with you, I want to highlight some of the ways the Divine Feminine is at work.
Jann Aldredge-Clanton applied several months ago to the Parliament to have a session, one dedicated to reclaiming the Divine Feminine based upon her book, She Lives!: Wisdom Works in the World published by Skylight Paths Publishing. In this book (a wonderful witness of the Divine Feminine!), Jann distills from a wide-range of people, how Sophia is present in the world. After waiting for several months, Jann was informed the Parliament had rejected her proposal. Never daunted, she simply organized her panel presentation to correspond with the Parliament but to be held at a nearby Episcopal Church. The event generated enough interest, through women networking, that two weeks prior to the Parliament convening, Jann was offered time and space to present She Lives!
I was fortunate enough to be one of those Jann invited to participate.
On the day of our presentation—the Inaugural Women’s Assembly—we discovered our room had been designated as the Women’s Sacred Space, and a wreath of beautiful red and white flowers sent from the Red Tent Temple Movement welcomed us, setting an expectant tone.
What followed is difficult, of course, to describe but why wouldn’t it be, given the way in which Sophia worked to bring about the Parliament presentation itself?!
We set up the room in a circle, one row of chairs placed around the walls. However, it soon became evident there were too few chairs and we added several more. Despite the session starting, people continued to filter in, quickly filling all of the additional seating. Many took up space on the floor, shuffling to make room for more to enter.
Eight of us (Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Rev. Dr. Susan Newman Moore, Rev. Stacy Boorn, Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo, Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung, Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan, Ann Landaas Smith, and Kendra Weddle Irons) shared something of our experience of the Divine Feminine and we sang some well-known hymns Jann has creatively restored to us with her new lyrics: “Celebrate the Works of Wisdom,” “Wisdom, Sophia Joins in Our Labor,” “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb,” and “Sound Forth The News That Wisdom Comes.”
We participated in a liturgy of liberation and prayed the Our Mother Prayer written by Miriam Therese Winter.
The only way to describe the experience is to acknowledge it was holy ground. People lingered afterward, reticent to leave the sacred space we had shared.
Following our session, a few of us made our way to the final plenary event of the Women’s Assembly where, much to our disappointment, masculine language and images of God were employed—by women. Too, as the Women’s Assembly closed, and the Parliament “officially” opened we quickly felt the depths of absence: only one woman was involved in the first plenary of the Parliament.
Justice, liberation, peace. These ideals reverberate through the Parliament, even as the absence of the foundation of such lofty goals is understood.
Without a fundamental shift in how we conceive of God, we will continue to be a people of oppression, bondage, war. And yet there is a failure in our faith traditions to see that oppression, bondage, and violence are by-products of masculine portrayals of God; of patriarchy baptized by religion. If we fail to recognize the interconnection between our theology of God and how we treat others, we cannot work for justice, liberation, or peace.
Still, if you ask any of us representing you at the 2015 Parliament, I think you will find we are hopeful. Hopeful because with each session where She is acknowledged and celebrated, there are women connecting with each other, creating deeper bonds of friendship. We are sharing our stories; our music; our worship; our deepest selves.
There is no doubt that Sophia lives and this is good news that cannot be silenced.
Kendra Weddle Irons 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’s commitment to feminism began in earnest during college, although she says her feminist impulse emerged much earlier when she asked her father to teach her how to drive a tractor! And although she has lived most of her adult life in urban areas of the United States, she continues to maintain a fond interest in all things rural. Her most recent book, coauthored with Melanie Springer Mock, is If Eve Only Knew: Freeing Yourself from Biblical Womanhood and Becoming All God Means for You to Be.