On the April Calendar

Easter is on the April calendar

April 24, 2011 is Easter Sunday on the western liturgical calendar

This is what’s on the Women’s Center’s calendar for April:

April 8 we will join hands in prayer in solidarity with Join Hands for Congo, at noon in the Women’s Center. Anyone who can’t be with us in person is invited to pray with us where you are in solidarity with the women and men who will be joining hands around the US State Department to raise the call for US diplomacy to further the cause of peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are praying for a speedy end to the conflict and the sexual violence in DRC, for responsible and effective action by the United State government in aid of this cause, for the safety of the women and men who are taking part in this public action on April 8, and for clarity and compassion in our public life.

April 12 the Women’s Center will wear red, and calls on others to do the same, to celebrate Pay Equity Day. Pay Equity Day is the day that “women’s earnings catch up to men’s” — from the previous year. (In other words, if we started adding up earnings on January 1, 2010, then what US men made by December 31, 2010 is what US women will have made by April 12, 2011.) We will celebrate the day (and raise awareness of the persistence of gender inequity in paid work in the US) by wearing red; the Gender and Ministry Committee invites all members of the Semninary community to gather in the LPTS quadrangle at 11:30 a.m. to raise their voices in support of pay equity. Anyone who wishes can talk more over lunch in the Women’s Center.

Later that same day, we will hear Grawemeyer Award winner Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson lecture at 7:00 p.m. in Caldwell Chapel on his work on the early Christians (many of whom were women).

April 14 & 15 we will attend the Presidential Inauguration festivities, which will include participating in the Fan Fair at 10:00 a.m. April 15 in Winn Center. The Women’s Center will be there with information about our purpose, program, and prospects.

April 16 is the final Seminar in the series “Mending the World: The Margaret Hopper Taylor Seminars Challenging Domestic Violence.” JoAnn Rowan, a veteran of Louisville’s Center for Women and Families, leads this seminar, “It Happens in the Nicest Congregations: What Everyone Needs to Know About Domestic Violence.” Since it is not a question of whether but of how, precisely, domestic violence will affect the congregations in which LPTS graduates will serve, we encourage students to take advantage of the scholarships available to defray the $12 cost of the seminar, and to REGISTER ONLINE FOR THIS SEMINAR. Additional information is at our page on Mending the World.

April 17 is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. We are delighted to have been invited to the More Light at LPTS B-B-Q this afternoon in the residential commons area. We’re looking forward to the pitch-in celebration of community and are trying to think of something reasonably delicious we can contribute.

April 24 we will be celebrating Easter with Christians around the world, giving thanks for the good news that Mary Magdalene announced, and praising God for New Life!

April 28 the Women’s Center will serve as the venue for More Light Movie Night.

We will be missing our Faculty Liaison Dr. Johanna Bos from April 8 – April 18, as she attends a conference in Sweden, and will be praying for her pleasant and productive travel, and her safe return.

During April, the Women’s Center will also be looking for next year’s Student Coordinator. We are seeking someone who has a heart for gender issues and gender justice and who could see themselves spending 16 hours a week contributing their energy, intelligence, imagination, and love to the work of the Center — and getting Field Experience credit for doing so. If you or someone you know fits that description, please contact the Women’s Center right away for more information!

We continue to provide space for the meetings of Just Faith, which meets in the Center on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., and now also host the Board of the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which meets the fourth Sunday of each month. We are delighted to be able to make our space (WE LOVE IT!) available to others whose efforts further the ends the Women’s Center also seeks.


A Prayer for Dreamers

Being mindful of the women and men of our community who will be taking ordination examinations today and tomorrow, we share this prayer . . .

Gracious and Austere God,
Grant us, we pray, the will to declare ourselves,
and Dreamers,
of your life-giving word.

. . . by Frederica Harris Thompsett, Ph.D., from Women’s Uncommon Prayers, p. 365.

Lament and Prayer for Colleagues

candle-alightThe Women’s Center is sorrowing, along with the entire Louisville Seminary, over the loss of friends and colleagues who will no longer be with us after Friday, April 17, in the wake of the Seminary’s announcement of additional budget reductions that entail the elimination of 8 staff positions.

A worship service of lamentation, prayer, and expressions of thanks and blessing for the colleagues whose gifts and presence will soon be felt as absence and memory gathered many together in Caldwell Chapel this morning, and reminded us of many things.

  • We are not alone — we are not the only people to be facing hardships and readjustments, and we are not facing the hardships and readjustments alone, but along with others, and along with a God who, even in adversity, travels with us, who suffers along with the suffering, and who snatches life back from its would-be destroyers. Even when it is difficult to feel the reality of this promise, we hold to it in confident hope.
  • We are not the first with occasions for lamentation, sorrow, fear, anger; we stand in a line that stretches back at least to the texts of our tradition. We doubt we will be the last; though we would rejoice if we were. As neither the first nor the last, we take our place in the midst of trying circumstances squarely in the midst of the story of the people of faith, the story of their struggles and of their seeing things through.
  • We have much to be thankful for — including the grace and privilege of time and tasks shared, friends and colleagues known and appreciated, goals achieved and gifts well beyond “the job” given.
  • We have much to hope for — including new possibilities for these friends and colleagues, and new-found strength in the face of challenges for those who remain and who will be stretching, picking up, examining priorities, making do or doing without in the days to come.
    Holy God, who made a way through water, a way across desert, a way out of death and despair, be for your people now a way through and a way forward; Holy God, of whose wisdom your word says “all her paths are peace,” be for your people peace on the way.

Worship in a Woman’s Voice

Still thinking about V is for Venite . . .


The events of V is for Venite included a significant element of worship — intentionally. The LPTS community, and wider community of faith of which it is a part, is a worshipping community. Worship within the community of faith is a central practice, one in which, in the course of honoring God — at least, so we hope, given that our narrow understandings of God and the words and ideas we bring into worship also always run the risk of dishonoring God — we bring before God our deep concerns, wounds, trials, failures, regrets, our fears and hopes, doubts and faith, frustrations and joys, our anger, love, need and desire, not least our desire for and delight in God, Godself. A week designed to focus this community’s attention on the problem of violence against women, and the need to mobilize theological and ecclesial resources to end it, had worship as a central element from the very beginning.

Worship on Wednesday, February 11, gave us the privilege of listening to the senior sermon of Clemette Haskins, in the context of a worship service that addressed the intersection of gender and race particularly, and that brought the words of the scriptural tradition to bear in reflecting on the role of women’s embodiment, erotic power and agency. Haskins’ text was Song of Songs 1:2-6, a text that provides an occasion for hearing “the Word of God” in the accents of a passionate woman, a woman “black and beautiful,” a woman who has been assigned the role of a spokes-model for The People or The Church by generations of commentators, a woman whose role as a prophet with the word of the Holy One in her mouth and on her lips and tongue has not been taken sufficiently seriously.

The need to take seriously and pay attention to the fluidity of the frankly erotic images of the Song of Songs, to the way the frankly gendered images of the Song alternate and respond to one another, merge into one another, and upset attempts to make them conform to rigidly allegorical one-to-one correspondences was one arresting message from this worship. The same is true for the imagery of color and race, as was underscored by the prayer composed for the occasion by Courtney J. Hoekstra, riffing on themes in Psalm 139 to overturn conventional uses of light and dark, white and black and bring the images of brightness – warmth – creativity – divinity – knowledge – God – blackness into alignment in the center of prayer for illumination. This honoring of God in prayer, praise, and proclamation reminded us that our categories contain more possibilities and promises than we normally explore, that we limit our understanding when we try to impose a single standard of perfection, aesthetic or otherwise, on the wealth of the riches and wisdom in the reality created by God.

And this was aesthetically rich worship, incorporating music led by Angela Smith-Peeples and Jeremy Franklin on piano, and also original art and its interpretation by the Preacher.

Cultural tradition, with its complex legacy of patriarchy, racism, colonialism, has made the image of a beautiful, passionate, erotic, assured woman, a black woman, a powerful woman, into an ambiguous one, and one we often don’t immediately associate with “God.” Our diffidence here is not supported by the text. It’s not The Book, but our imaginations and their limits, schooled as they have been by rigid racial and gender systems, that make “woman” and “black” predicates in which we all too often don’t envisage the image of God.

And it’s those limited imaginations that can make us dare, in our short-sightedness, to violate that image in the persons of those we too often fail to see as embodying the spirit and the power of the living God.

This rich and enriching worship service worked to liberate narrow imaginations from those limits. We are thankful to Clemette Haskins, Courtney Hoekstra, and others for making it part of the events of V is for Venite.

[site for the image: Wikimedia Commons – shin-dot]

[Please note: this entry was edited 3/11/09 to remove the beautiful image by Anna Ruth Henriques, “Song of Songs Verse III”, which we regrettably included here without the permission of the artist, or the owner of the work, the Art Museum of the Americas. We encourage Wimminwise readers to visit the Museum’s online exhibit, “New Possessions”, to view that work.]

Praying for Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church

Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church in the aftermath of Jan. 16 fire

Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church in the aftermath of Jan. 16 fire

Our hearts go out to the congregation of the Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church and its pastor, Rev. Willa Fae Williams, in the wake of the devastating fire that struck their historic church building yesterday morning.

Many sources have reported on the fire, and on the congregation’s response — loss, mixed with determination to trust God in the midst of every circumstance. (Here are links to several: Jerry Van Marter’s Presbyterian News Service report; Broken Sidewalk’s report and photo gallery; Wave 3 News coverage of the fire and more on congregational response; the Courier-Journal’s report)

Rev. Leah Ellison Bradley, in the Louisville Seminary’s Alum and Church Relations Office, shared with the community the large number of Seminary alums and students who have had connections with the Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church over its long history. Among those 17 pastors and 10 field education students is Rev. Jane Krauss-Jackson, (M.Div. ’74).

By now, some may have forgotten that the late Jane Krauss-Jackson was the first woman ordained by the Presbytery of Louisville. She was installed as pastor of the Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church on November 24, 1974. (Source: John E. Kleber, The Encyclopedia of Louisville (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), p. 726)

(The Women’s Center has been building a fund to support an award, The Jane Krauss-Jackson Award for Collaborative Ministry, in recognition of Rev. Jane Krauss-Jackson’s achievements in that area, and of the impact of this beloved pastor and colleague on the many with whom she worked. Plans to make the first of what will, we hope, be an annual award are still being developed.)

The Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church has announced plans to worship in space offered by Our Lady’s Catholic Church, 3525 Rudd Avenue, Louisville 40212. Worship begins at 10:45 a.m. Sunday.

We hope and pray that the people of Portland Avenue Presbyterian Church will experience very strongly, at this time, the power of the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Prayer for Travelers

The Journey to Bethlehem, Church of the Holy Savior at Chora

The Journey to Bethlehem, Church of the Holy Savior at Chora

For Travelers
The world is yours, Magnanimous God,
and all people live by your grace.
Shelter and aid those who are traveling,
who walk or drive or fly,
who hasten towards or flee from.
May they be careful, but not afraid,
safely reach their destinations,
and find room and welcome there.
Wherever we wander in your spacious world,
remind us that we never journey beyond your loving care,
revealed in the road you made through the sea
for the children of Israel,
and in the traveling companion you sent
in Jesus.

[Adapted from Prayer for Travelers, Book of Common Worship for Daily Prayer, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky;
Image from The Monastery of the Holy Savior in Chora]

Holiday Prayers

Cooking for Thanksgiving

Cooking for Thanksgiving

In the cultural milieu in which many women travel, at least part of the time — the one governed by school schedules, shopping, preparation for family events, and the need to drive places — “the holidays” have already begun.

Our local grocery store was busy last night (well, we were there, too) with people stocking supplies for a day or more of familial feeding and lodging. When family members from out of town stay over, as will be happening in many households in the next few days, albeit fewer this year due to the economic situation, there’s more than a single on-stage meal involved, as many people know. There are the all other meals. Along with the dishes. The laundry ahead of time, and afterwards. The cleaning, dusting, vaccuming, straightening up in preparation. The cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and straightening up afterwards, in recuperation.

“The holidays” strikes me as a complex phenomenon.

In the dominant American “imaginary” — I think of the pictures we see on television, especially in commercials, as a guide to the contents of the mental images here — Thanksgiving is a rosy warm time, of family togetherness, counting our blessings, enjoying Mom’s perennial favorite dishes, and basking in the glow of domestic tranquility.

For some, that picture will be fulfilled, or nearly enough to feel approximately accurate. Enough to make it realistic to name Thanksgiving as “the most wonderful time of the year.” And as much as this picture has “gender” written all over it — from the assumption (often accurate) that a woman or women will be doing all that shopping and cooking and cleaning and entertaining and stage-managing and family-maintaining, to the assumption (often accurate) that whatever men are involved in the scenario will be doing other manly things, like making last-minute trips to the grocery store or watching football on television, but in any event avoiding the “woman’s work”, to the imaginary shape of that “ordinary family” — despite all that, the alluring glow of that holiday ideal affects me.

[And why not? It is, after all, an image of peace, abundance, joy, and the realization of hopes and dreams. It contains a kernel of that eschatological expectation that makes all such images possible metaphors for the entire satisfaction towards which we all presumably hope, and pray, and work, and wait. Who doesn’t want peace, abundance, joy, and the realization of hopes and dreams?]

The imaginary picture excludes lots of people, though. Not everyone has a domestic space. For others, there is space, but no family. For others, there is family, but it is far from peaceful or pleasant. For others, Thanksgiving itself is more a time of mourning than of celebration, whether public or private. And maybe that is just another way to say that real life does not yet measure up to the ideal — whether or not the imaginary American Thanksgiving is even the ideal one wants to pursue.

So as it brings to mind both ideals and our distance from them, the beginning of “the holidays” seems, most accurately, a time for prayer . . .

for travelers, safety on the way, and welcome upon arrival;
for those in need, the meeting of those needs;
for those with abundance, memory and generosity in sharing;
for those who mourn, comfort;
for those who suffer, relief;
for those held captive, in whatever way, release;
for those who have much to be thankful for, gratitude;
for all, the grace and power to imagine peace, abundance, joy, and the realization of hope,
and the faith to continue to pray for it, and to work in light of it.

[Image source: Syracuse metro voices 2007]