Over the past few days, I’ve been spending time at a church in Alexandria, Virginia conducting oral history interviews. I’m doing research for a project about the arts and the church that has me diving deep into the church’s congregants’ and leaders’ experiences. Yesterday’s conversations offered insight about many theological topics that interest me, but what was particularly encouraging was what I witnessed concerning women in ministry. That’s not what I was looking for, but it is what I needed to see.
Before beginning these interviews, I had already been thinking about the ways women’s authority and voice are often challenged. This past weekend, I attended a regional religion conference where I assumed a leadership position and my voice was sought out for advice and insight. I had great conversations with other women in academia about wellness and success while I was there. Attending the conference provoked fond memories of a similar conference many years ago, when I connected with many colleagues in this FAR community and we discussed the theme of “Women and Authority.” Those were positive experiences. But I had an unpleasant encounter, too, when I was on the receiving end of a male colleague’s condescending remarks. I was also made aware of a disturbing incident in which a woman of color was publicly disrespected while speaking at a university event and subsequently trolled. Those experiences triggered anger and deep sadness. To be honest, I also felt a sense of resignation and defeat. Patriarchy is just so persistent.
Continue reading “Exercising Women’s Religious Voice and Authority – Why is this Still an Issue? by Elise M. Edwards”
Happy Valentine’s Day! I know, I know… so many of us do not like this holiday. It’s too commercialized, we say. We don’t need card-makers or florists to tell us how or when to show affection. Some of us don’t like Valentine’s Day because it reminds us of loves we have lost or never found. I get it. This day can seem shallow, overhyped, and falsely sentimental. It can be lonely. And yet, I won’t let today pass without celebrating and honoring love. Love is too important to concede to commercial interests.
Love, in its many forms, keep us alive and able to endure. Love is powerful because it is expansive, growing in unexpected places and ways. We tend to separate our celebrations of romantic love, friendship, familial love, self-love, and religious devotion. We make distinctions between our valentines and “galentines.” Rarely do we shout for joy in ecstatic worship while also celebrating the passionate longings of our innermost desires. But occasionally, in my religious tradition, we let our disparate loves come together. We unite them on holy feast days, enjoying the sensual pleasures of good food and company to mark spiritual occasions. So that’s my inspiration. Today, I’m celebrating love by reflecting on various forms of love merged together and sharing insight from poets and mystics about the power and beauty experienced in love.
Continue reading “I Celebrate Love by Elise M. Edwards”
Over the summer, I’ve been writing more than I do during the traditional academic year when other tasks consume the bulk of my workday. I have spent more time experiencing the joy of creative discovery and production, but I’ve also had more time confronting the difficulties of creative work as I’ve wrestled with some of its unique challenges. One of those challenges has been to refine my academic writing voice. I’ve approaches the challenge of developing my voice as both a spiritual and feminist practice and this has helped me find confidence in my work.
Continue reading “Knowing my Voice through Writing by Elise M. Edwards”
Five years ago, I moved to Texas from California. In that time, my spiritual practice and my feminist and womanist worldview has grown through contemplative practices. It’s ironic. “Everything’s bigger in Texas!” the saying goes, but in the presence of big, sweeping landscapes and open skies, big storms, and big egos, I’ve found the sacred in the small things. I have deepened my connection to God through a small group of women who practice group spiritual direction.
This past Sunday evening, I gathered with these women at my church for our spiritual direction group. We sat comfortably in a circle, relaxing on a couch and chairs around a coffee table, as the evening sun streamed in from a large picture window and lit the room. As we read a passage from the Bible (Mark 3:34-35) in which Jesus looks at the people sitting around him and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” I saw my companions more clearly. Although my eyes were closed, I had a vision of these women sitting around me, halos made of sunbeams shimmering over their heads. I thought, “Here are my sisters!”
Continue reading “The Blessing of Spiritual Direction by Elise M. Edwards”
Have you been watching “Queen Sugar”? It is a thoughtful, compelling, and gorgeous TV show that evokes ecowomanist sensibilities.
“Queen Sugar” is a television drama in its second season on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s network. It was created by celebrated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who is also the show’s executive producer. The show has an all-female directing team and an inclusive crew. Like many of the original series on OWN, “Queen Sugar” features a predominately African-American cast, and like many other programs on the network, it delivers content intended to stir the viewer’s soul. But notably, “Queen Sugar”’s soulful messages are not mediated by the cadre of life coaches and inspirational leaders often seen on Oprah’s network. Instead, it is the fictional Bordelon family who invites us to reflect on their world and ours. The series’ three main characters, Nova, Charley, and Ralph Angel, are siblings who take over their father’s sugar cane farm in Louisiana after his death. Their narrative and the lush cinematography that captures it offers viewers the opportunity to consider the complexity, joy, and hardship of African-American characters who are rarely depicted on screen. The show’s themes and aesthetics are expressive of ecowomanist spirituality.
Continue reading ““Queen Sugar:” Must-See Ecowomanist TV by Elise M. Edwards”
As I post this, May 10, a full moon, known as the “Bright Moon” or “Flower Moon” is in the sky. This full moon occurs during a season of transition when living thing things renew and bloom. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s spring, but another transition is already underway. For many of us, spring is nearing close to summer in temperatures; in plant, animal, and insect life; and in our schedules. I am concluding a long, demanding spring semester and yearning for summer. Even though I welcome the transition, I know that like all change, it holds both opportunity and challenge. The full moon prompts me to look at the upcoming summer with clear, examining eyes
As I post this, May 10, a full moon, known as the “Bright Moon” or “Flower Moon” is in the sky. This full moon occurs during a season of transition when living thing things renew and bloom. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s spring, but another transition is already underway. For many of us, spring is nearing close to summer in temperatures; in plant, animal, and insect life; and in our schedules. I am concluding a long, demanding spring semester and yearning for summer. Even though I welcome the transition, I know that like all change, it holds both opportunity and challenge. The full moon prompts me to look at the upcoming summer with clear, examining eyes.
It’s strange–perhaps downright heretical–for a Christian to talk about the power of the moon. Continue reading “Moonlight Reflections by Elise M. Edwards”
Last week, I listened to an episode of Krista Tippett’s series On Being that featured an interview with poet Marilyn Nelson. I am not very knowledgeable about the world of modern poetry, but I am familiar with Nelson’s work. A couple years ago, I wrote about Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem, Nelson’s poetic composition about Fortune, an enslaved man whose owner rendered his body into a skeleton for medical training. Fortune’s identity and history had been erased across centuries as his remains were displayed. Community concerns eventually led to a multi-disciplinary academic, artistic, and community effort to honor the man and, in 2013, put his bones to rest. Isaye M. Barnwell, a musician formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock, developed a cantata and choral work for Fortune’s Bones. These developed into a series of artistic performances and community events that demonstrate the power of art to speak through and for those who are marginalized—even in death. Disparate communities joined together to ponder Fortune’s life, and it was powerful.
In the On Being interview, Nelson spoke about “communal pondering,” and I’ve been repeating this phrase to myself since then. It identifies a form of creative activity and a spiritual way of being that I am deeply committed to, and have not been able to name. Communal pondering occurs when a group of people are listening together and are opening up new paths for discourse and action by the engaged reflection that takes place within that listening.
Continue reading “The Nature of Communal Pondering by Elise M. Edwards”
“I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell, and I don’t have time
To go ’round and ’round and ’round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is
You think I should”
(Dixie Chicks, 2009)
The quote listed above is the lyrical reaction of the music group the Dixie Chicks in response to the backlash of lead singer Natalie Maines public criticism of then US president George Bush and US military involvement in the Middle East during a music concert in the UK. Because the concert was televised, her criticism reached millions of people. As a result of her words, the band experienced extreme repercussion which included death threats and all of their songs being banned from the major radio networks in the US for an extended period of time. These song lyrics are a prime example of art being used as political activism and its effectiveness to make the point using peaceful means. Women have learned that if they are not allowed to enter through the same door, the front door, as the one intended for men they will find another way. Continue reading “Coming in the Back Door by Jessica Bowman”