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.
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