The Women’s Center at LPTS presents . . .

. . . The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler!  There are two opportunities to see the show!

Dress Rehearsal (open to students):  $5,  Thursday, February 16, 8:00 p.m., Hundley Hall, Gardencourt, LPTS campus.

Performance:  $10, Friday, February 17, 8:30 p.m., Hundley Hall, Gardencourt, LPTS campus.

Proceeds will benefit La Casita Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and Eve Ensler’s 2012 V-Day spotlight campaign.

Tickets will be available for sale at at the Box Office (Gardencourt lobby) thirty minutes before each show opens.  Or, click on the link below to purchase tickets online (before February 15):


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!

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!

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.

Worship in the Words of the Tradition

Still thinking about V is for Venite . . .

Thursday, February 12, turned out to be a day of examining the ambiguous legacy and role of the church in relation to violence against women.

The V-Week Planning Group had planned from its earliest meetings to include a lunch-hour faculty panel on this day, and had early identified “The Role of the Church in Violence Against Women” as the desired topic. The idea was to find a way to consider the positive contributions of the Christian tradition alongside its complicity in patterns of violence against women. We wanted to celebrate the way themes of, e.g., human worth and dignity, equality before God, love and belovedness, healing, “setting the captives free,” empower women who have been touched by violence, remind them that this violence is wrong and is not the last word on them and their lives, and give them the strength and healing to persevere, survive, overcome, experience resurrection. At the same time, we wanted to be especially cognizant of the undeniable negative contributions of the Christian tradition, especially in its historic role as western cultural hegemon. (Sometimes difficult to remember in these post-Constantinian, post-Protestant-consensus, post-etc. times is that Christianity was an integral part of the dominant cultural paradigm in Europe for 14 or 15 centuries — at least, according to the last western civ text I checked). We wanted to hold those two legacies in tension, consider what that dual legacy might mean for members of the church today, what we might need to be critical of or re-evaluate, what we need or might need to repent of, what action it might call us to, and so on.

With this in mind, it was a short step to a decision to plan an opening worship service for the day that made this ambiguous legacy explicit, and that called attention to some of the connections between what we say we worship, how we say it, what we counsel members of the church, what we require of women and men within the body of the church . . . and the violence that women suffer in many forms all around the world.

Sad fact: It didn’t take long to bring together texts from scripture that have historically been used against women, statements from the Church Fathers that reinforced attitudes that women ought to submit to, and may well deserve, violent treatment on the part of husbands and other authorities, and militant or self-sacrificial metaphors that contribute to a normalization and acceptance of violence. (Here is a draft of the order of service.)

What we had not anticipated was the way this worship service would make people feel. As liturgists Brianne Jurs, Marie McCanless and Christine Coy-Fohr read, and as the congregation responded in song — led by Mary Beth McCandless — the sense of shock and speechlessness was almost palpable. As Mary Beth remarked after the service ended, “it makes you realize how much translating you’ve been doing all along.” Usually these messages — a constantly available strand of the tradition — are diffused in the context of other worship. In this service, brought together as they were, there was little opportunity to ignore or deny the insistent message of the unwholesomeness of women, and the acceptability of violence in the right cause.

One clear conclusion from that painful experience is that many of the church’s habitual tropes, images, and slogans deserve considerably more thought and qualification than we usually give them, and that some — if they survive scrutiny at all — call for frankly critical analysis and far more judicious deployment in the life of the worshipping community.

As the service progressed, members of the congregation wrote down some of the things we’ve learned about women and girls from our participation in this tradition and posted them around the worship space, an action that concretized this day’s worship and prepared for that of the next. The deep pink cards constituted visible reminders that the space in which we worship is not empty. It always already contains — for us, and our neighbors — many echoing voices, words, messages, many indelible images, unforgettable experiences. Not all of those invite, welcome, affirm . . .

Sometimes, indeed, as we saw and felt on this morning, it takes courage and determination simply to enter a worship space and to pursue what is vital and nourishing there, while fending off and blocking out what is poisonous.

It should take less. Remembering and speaking the words of the tradition that make worship hospitable to women is one of the concrete things the church and its members can do in the effort to end violence against women.

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.

V is for Venite Images

Some beautiful and atmospheric photos of the cast and performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues in Hundley Hall on Friday, February 13 are available at

Thank you, Michael, for taking these and making them more widely available!