On the August Calendar

image of auspicious dates in Chinese calendrical formatMuch of what’s on the Women’s Center’s calendar for the month of August has to do with the preliminary beginnings of the new school year. We are looking forward to Wednesday, August 10 and the Seminary’s annual Ice Cream Social, the traditional beginning of it all for incoming students, and of the new round of the academic calendar for everyone else. After that, Saturday, August 13 begins Transforming Seminary Education (TSE), an in-depth academic orientation for incoming seminarians. We are eager to meet the members of this year’s incoming class, and wish each of them well as they take their first steps in theological education here.

August brings us towards the end of some planning cycles and the beginning of others. There is still time to get in on the planning for the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture (Here’s more information about this event!) — the planning group will meet Wednesday, August 17 at 1:00 in the Women’s Center, over a light lunch. We’ll review the plans in place, check progress, and formulate steps for putting the finishing touches on the event plans.

August will also be the time to get in on the ground floor for planning for an encore Women’s Center production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. An initial organizational meeting is tentatively slated for Friday, August 19 at 1:00 in the Women’s Center. The production is planned for V-Week 2012, February 13-17. The Vagina Monologues expresses in dramatic form what is at stake for women, and for humanity, in the continuing epidemic of violence against women and girls, and presses for a re-orientation towards pleasure and away from pain.

The Women’s Center will be closed Monday, August 1 – Friday, August 5 for les vacances, and will re-open Tuesday, August 9 at 1:00.

Help fund the upcoming Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture and other Women’s Center programs during our Summer Donation Days!

You can go to OUR ONLINE DONATION SITE, the LPTS Online Donation Site (designate your gift to the Women’s Center), or send your check payable to LPTS – WOMEN’S CENTER FUND to The Women’s Center at Louisville Seminary, 1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY 40205.

Thank you!

New News News

drift of white crocus blossomsby Johanna Bos

Hard to believe that V-week is already more than a month behind us! We cleared around $2,500 in ticket sales for the two performances. Karina Barillas of Casa Latina was thrilled with the news that they are receiving more than $2,000. During the first week of March I visited a performance of the Monologues at Bellarmine University and was part of a panel responding to questions afterwards. It was entertaining and moving to see what other educational institutions do and I hope that we can work in some cooperation with Bellarmine next year or at least plan to visit each other’s events.

Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture in the Works
We have begun preliminary planning for the next BIG EVENT, the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture and conference A Woman’s Voice – Women Speaking With Authority in Religious Community. We are expecting three scholars from different faith contexts. Dr. Gay Byron from Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, New York, will be our Katie Geneva Cannon Lecturer; Dr. Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia will be our resource person for the Jewish context, and Ms.Suendam Birinci from Hartford Seminary in Connecticut will represent the Muslim community. We have begun a planning group on the campus, which we will seek to expand by inviting members from the different faith groups to meet with us occasionally.

SAVE THE DATE: SEPT.12 – 13, 2010. THERE IS A PAGE ON THE WOMEN’S CENTER FACEBOOK WHICH PROVIDES INFORMATION AND WHICH WILL HAVE UPDATES.

Cheers for Kate Davidson
Other good news is that our field-ed student, Kate Davidson, who is taking a leave from her studies at the Seminary, is continuing to work with us at least through May. Kate is keeping the Center open most afternoons. She is also helping to plan the Breakfast at the Women’s Center during the Festival of Theology and Reunion at the end of April. We are expecting upwards of 15 guests on Tuesday, April 27.

Rev. Cheryl Goodman Morris to be 2011 Artist-in-Residence
Conversation has begun with next year’s Artist-in-Residence, the Rev. Cheryl Goodman Morris, who is the Executive and Artistic Director of the Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory in Portola, CA. Cheryl is an alum of LPTS with impressive theatrical credentials. She wrote the script for “Puah’s Midwife Crisis,” and directed the musical, which was performed last summer here at Actor’s Theatre in connection with the Presbyterian Women’s Triennial Gathering. She will teach a course in January 2011 on the theology of theatre. We are naturally elated about the prospect of having Cheryl in our midst.

Good News!
The very good news of this month was that one of our alums announced to me that he plans to give $25,000 to the Women’s Center at the beginning of next calendar year, in honor of his wife. What a marvelous way to honor her memory and how lucky we are to have such a generous donor come our way, just at this time.

Most of the spring will be taken up with planning both for upcoming events and for our further financial development. We are gathering a wonderful group of dedicated people to help us shape materials for fundraising. Without such dedication we would not be here and we could not continue!

V-Week 2010

What a week we had! First, two snow-days in a row forced the cancellation of our opening worship service, “The Face of Silence.” We feared that the Venite Cafe also would have to be canceled but Megan Case, the main planner for this event, decided together with Kate Davidson and myself, to go ahead since most of the folk coming to this would be on-campus anyway. There was the usual display of talent, song, dance, reading and we had a great evening.

On Wednesday, we began our chapel services for the week with visible reminders of violence that affects women across the world, and with song and imposition of ashes/oil to mark the beginning of the season of Lent. At the lunch hour Drs. Riffat Hassan and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty were joined by Rabbi Laura Metzger to discuss major issues of discrimination against women in religious contexts. Dr. Hassan spoke from the Muslim context about the importance of the Qur’an as a text that supports the full humanity of women, while Rabbi Metzger addressed similar views present in the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Hinson-Hasty, representing the Christian communities, spoke of the positive ways in which women have made progress in some main-line denominations in the last decades and also pointed to gains that still need to be made. A sizable group of students and faculty learned much in the presence of these learned women.

On Thursday morning senior student Kerri Allen preached a powerful sermon on Psalm 22 and the importance of staying with the voice of lament. That night our performances opened with a full dress-rehearsal for which an audience had been invited. Aaron Guldenschuh and Martin Bos had labored mightily to make the stage setting especially attractive and the first performance was a rousing success. Approximately 125 persons attended.

On Friday morning we celebrated the Eucharist with Johanna Bos preaching on Habakkuk 1:1-2:4, a meditation entitled “The Vision Thing.” During that service we were treated to music from the Deanna Witkowski Trio, which greatly enhanced our worship.

And then . . . the BIG NIGHT!! It is hard to describe how impressed I was once again with the display of talent and passion that was poured out by the students in the performance of the Vagina Monologues! People laughed and cried, and at the end treated the cast and its director, Katrina Pekich-Bundy, to a standing ovation. This piece should be performed over and over again and should be seen multiple times to receive it in all its richness. It is an education for cast and audience alike. What an immersion in the pain and pleasure of women’s bodies.

We have not yet counted our revenue but are quite sure that we exceeded $1,000, with Spalding University donating directly to Casa Latina for the value of 36 tickets.

V-week and the Vagina Monologues

by Johanna Bos
V-week is around the corner. A team of students has been working diligently to put it all together and everything now seems to be rolling along!

Worship
There will be services every day except Tuesday, beginning on Monday evening at 7. All other worship will be at the regular chapel time which now is 11:30. In worship the theme for the week is the silencing of women’s voices in naming the violence that rages against them across the world and the breaking of this silence. Preventing women from speaking their pleasure is another facet of this problem. Both issues are strongly present in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

From Refreshment to Reflection
The Venite Cafe will take place on Tuesday evening in the Winn Center Lounge with the appropriate festivities (open mike, entertainment and refreshment).
Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – returns us to the more somber side of the deep issues of V-Week. This year we welcome Dr. Riffat Hassan, Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, and Rabbi Laura Metzger to the campus for an interfaith discussion on the way different religious traditions foster and perpetuate violence against women. The panel discussion is set for 12:30 p.m. in the Winn Center Lounge.

Performance — Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues
Thursday evening, 8 p.m., a full dress-rehearsal of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues will take place which students will be able to attend for half-price. On Friday during worship we will celebrate communion and look forward to the presence of the Deanne Witkowski Trio from New York City. Finally, the week will culminate in the performance on Friday evening. Performances will be held in Hundley Hall, Gardencourt on the Seminary campus. Regular tickets cost $12. The proceeds of all performances go to La Casita, a part of Casa Latina, a local organization that benefits Hispanic women and their families.

The Women’s Center is once again sponsoring V Week and everything that goes with it. For the Women’s Center these constitute the major events of the spring. While other activities will take place in the Center this semester, there are no other programs planned for this semester of such magnitude. Looking ahead, the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture will take place on September 12. Also, we look forward to our Artist-in-Residence program in January 2011. More about these plans in another entry!

V-Week Schedule of Events

Monday, February 15
Opening Worship
7:00 p.m.
Caldwell Chapel

Tuesday, February 16
Video “Until the Violence Stops”
12:30 p.m.
Schlegel Basement
Bring your own lunch

Venite Cafe
8:00 p.m.
Winn Center Lounge
open mike, entertainment

Wednesday, February 17
Ash Wednesday Service
11:30 a.m.
Caldwell Chapel

Interfaith Panel
12:30 p.m.
Winn Center Lounge
Dr. Riffatt Hassan, Rabbi Laura Metzger, and Dr. Elizabeth Hinson Hasty discuss the role of religion in perpetuating violence against women

Thursday, February 18
Worship
11:30 a.m.
Caldwell Chapel
Kerri Allen preaches on Psalm 22

Dress Rehearsal Performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues
8:00 p.m.
Hundley Hall, Gardencourt
Student tickets $6
BUY YOUR TICKET IN ADVANCE

Friday, February 19
Worship with Communion
11:30 a.m.
Caldwell Chapel
Rev. Dr. Johanna Bos preaches “A vision born in a cry of violence” (text: Habakkuk 1:1-2, 4); Deanna Witkowski Trio performing

Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues
8:00 p.m.
Hundley Hall, Gardencourt
Tickets $12
BUY YOUR TICKET IN ADVANCE
(for ticket information and availability, contact jbos@lpts.edu, kdavidson@lpts.edu, womenscenter@lpts.edu, mcase@lpts.edu)

A Brief Response

Still thinking about V is for Venite . . .

The Women’s Center-sponsored performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues that capped the week’s (February 9-13) events, and which raised approximately $1,800 for the Center for Women and Families and for the V-Day organization’s 2009 spotlight campaign, received a number of favorable comments from members of the 200-person audience. It also drew a bit of criticism, in the form of a March 3 article in the Presbyterian Layman online.

The article, as I read it, invites dismay at the Louisville Seminary’s association with the performance. In light of that, it seems worth pointing out that The Women’s Center at LPTS, which sponsored the week of events and the performance of Ensler’s work, does not receive ongoing support from the denomination (PCUSA). The Center does receive in-kind support from the Seminary, like our space — WE LOVE IT! — and the benefits of some (gratefully appreciated!) Seminary services. The Center, in turn, apprises the administration of the Seminary about its activities, which we believe are beneficial to and supportive of the overall educational mission of the Seminary. However, the Seminary is not responsible for, and does not necessarily endorse, the program of the Women’s Center.

Leaving aside a couple of other points, I’ll admit I was a little sad that some of my own remarks about the church in relation to events taking place on the campus on Thursday, February 12 failed to appear in the Layman article; the full remarks are available in Toya Richards Hill’s article “Acknowledging the church’s hurtful depictions of women is focus of worship and panel discussion”. That article reports on the events of one day during the week, which focused particular attention on the church’s role in the problem of violence against women.

While I’m reasonably sure that there are a number of matters on which the Presbyterian Layman and the Women’s Center at LPTS are unlikely to see eye to eye, I’m also reasonably sure that readers of the Layman would agree that

. . . the church also stands in a tradition of Scripture, story, and relationship with God, who is known as liberator, doer of justice, savior of the oppressed, comforter, compassionate one, and we could go on. The tradition of the community of faith, precisely for this reason, is also what can empower people to call for an end to violence. It is the church that can encourage survival after violence, bind up and heal wounds, proclaim the injustice of violence, and work for a world in which violence is no more.

Why a Venite Café?

Still thinking about V is for Venite . . .

Lis Valle at the Venite Café

Lis Valle at the Venite Café

Wednesday night, February 11, saw the Winn Center dining rooms turned into an almost magical Venite Café, complete with cozy lounge furniture, soft lighting and other appropriate decor (art decoration provided by the ever-resourceful Marie McCanless), as well as instrumentals and stage, refreshments provided by Ted Burke’s Dining Services, and a special feature centerpiece cake detailed by Gail Monsma and Johanna Bos. The talented seminary performers who took advantage of the open mike format, too numerous to mention by name for fear of slighting any!, outdid themselves, aided and abetted by emcees Brennan Pearson and Megan Case.

So, some readers may ask, why? What is the purpose of a . . . we might be tempted to call it . . . festivity in the middle of a week of events focused on a serious subject like violence against women and girls?

A part of the answer is that the Venite Café was not simply a “festivity”, but featured serious offerings of talent as well: from song to poetry to personal monologues, the subject matter of the evening continued to touch on the subject matter of the week: the presence and persistence of violence against women. The content highlighted the connections of this violence to perceptions of women as sexual objects rather than sexual subjects, as part of the environment of things rather than as members of the world of human beings.

A part of the answer is that the Venite Café provided a venue for the creative energies of a wider group than the cast of the Women’s Center’s production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. This was, indeed, one of the initial purposes of the event. “Some people will want to write their own monologues!” “Some people will want to share their own stories!” Since that sharing isn’t something that can be accommodated within the frame of the registered performance, we created a venue in which it could be accommodated, and could provide an occasion for building community and enjoying each other’s talents and gifts.

But after being there, listening to the many talented and thoughtful and ribald and personable seminary performers, sharing the evening with all of these folks, many of whom are preparing to minister to the church, all of whom play some role in their various communities of faith, at least one other reason suggests itself.

V-Day contains a significant subtext having to do with women’s embodied lives and the role of physical pleasure in the context of those lives. That is a complex subject — historically, women’s allegedly insatiable sexual appetites provided a rationale for the exclusion of women from positions of responsibility and the imputation of inferiority to women. From approximately the Victorian period on, however, women’s alleged sexual reserve, innocence, even disinterest provided a rationale for the confinement of women to domestic environments in which they could — so the ideology went — be protected from harsh external pressures and could devote themselves to maternal and domestic occupations suited to their temperaments and gentle desires. (There is a distinct flavor of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” to this story.) On the whole, however, women themselves have had little opportunity and less language to give accounts of their own experiences, describe their own preferences, and affirm the importance of pleasure in the context of their lives.

It is not a coincidence that people whose pleasure is a matter of no importance are also people whose pain is, still too often, a matter of no concern.

Part of the meaning of violence against women and girls is given, made intelligible, by the possibilities for creativity, enjoyment, celebration, and conviviality that flourish in places and spaces where violence is, even temporarily, banished. Part of the meaning of violence against women and girls is given by the song, laughter, exuberance, delight, joy that we witness in places and spaces like the Venite Café, all of which is missing from the scenes of violence against women, the faces and lives of those it touches.

Joy may be one of the fruits of the Spirit — available in a context of love and peace — but it’s realized in the body: in the human body, and — ideally — in the body of the community that is called to make cultivating that fruit, and that context, its mission in the world.