Worship Tomorrow Bears Witness

The Clothesline Project logo

Worship on Friday will bear witness to the wrong of Violence Against Women

We are especially looking forward to chapel tomorrow, after receiving this word from the planners:

Dear community,

the Chapel Ministers and the Worship Resource Center invite you all to worship with us this Friday, October 15, 2010 at 11:30 a.m., when we will hear the Word proclaimed by Dr. Elizabeth Walker.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and during this Eucharistic worship service we will give honor and memory to those who have suffered violence. You, dear community, are invited to bring shirts to represent yourself, your own loved ones and friends, or the worldwide community that have suffered violence in any form. We will incorporate into our liturgy The Clothesline Project, which bears witness to violence against women, and during this time, you will have the opportunity to hang your shirts side-by-side with others.

We hope you will join us in worship, and if you cannot be with us, may you be in prayer for all those who have suffered violence, wherever you may be.

We hope many members of our community will attend, take the message to heart, and continue to pray and work for the realization of God’s realm of justice and peace. The vision of that realm includes “no violence against women.”


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
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

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
(for ticket information and availability, contact jbos@lpts.edu, kdavidson@lpts.edu, womenscenter@lpts.edu, mcase@lpts.edu)

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.

Thanks for the 2009 Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture

We are celebrating the 2009 Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture!

We are celebrating the 2009 Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture!

The Women’s Center owes many thanks to the 2009 Katie Geneva Cannon lecturer, Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, and to the 2009 alumna preacher, Rev. Dr. F. Camille Williams-Neal, for making the 2009 Katie Geneva Cannon lecture and events a profound, moving, and enlightening experience for us and for our community.

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas

Dr. Douglas’ lecture, “A Blues Slant: God Talk/Sex Talk for the Black Church,” addressed both the sources of refusal to engage the realities of the body and sexuality within the Black Church tradition, and some of the consequences of that refusal. Beyond that, she explored the potential for the discourse of the blues to constitute a discourse of resistance and reclamation that opens up new possibilities. Dr. Douglas offered an expansive definition of “sexuality,” using this term to refer to all those embodied ways people are drawn into and seek relationship and communion with others, rather than the more restricted, reductive use of sexuality to involve genital intimacy. With this more inclusive meaning in mind, and also mindful of the theological legacy of the God of a created physical universe, and of the incarnation, she proceeded to lay out a view of sexuality as intrinsic and necessary to the life of the spirit and the human relationship with God. Conversely, alienation from sexuality, whether through prohibitions or culturally-imposed distortions and corruptions, damages people’s relationships with themselves, others, and God. We will be pondering the implications of this fresh, provocative, and persuasive theological perspective for some time.

Rev. Dr. Camille Williams-Neal

Rev. Dr. Camille Williams-Neal

Rev. Dr. Camille Williams-Neal’s sermon, “An Unparalyzed Vision,” developed the theme of the body, and its intrinsic relation to the spirit, in a profound meditation on Mark 2:1-12. Williams-Neal first led the congregation through a simple, and powerful, physical exercise of representation and movement that created a context for considering this text in which Jesus heals the body and life of a paralyzed man. She then proceeded to compare vision to jello — and I suspect that those who heard this sermon will never again be able to think about vision without recalling that a developing vision takes some boiling, hot circumstances, and then the cooling air currents of God’s grace; that it needs stirring; that it comes in many flavors, like the flavor of “healing” or “forgiveness;” that “there’s always room for” . . . you know . . . even when we have had too much of others’ debilitating visions of who or what we are and can be. Ultimately, Williams-Neal drew the congregation into a transformative vision of an embodied, transfiguring God who draws an embodied people towards new life.

We need to mention the remarkable offerings of music at this worship service, as well, including an original composition by Mary Beth McCandless and Jeremy Franklin which we hope they will make more widely known.

The events of the Katie Geneva Cannon lecture concluded with lunch, followed by worship, in the Women’s Center Monday afternoon. The brief service further incorporated the themes of the body and its liberation, using art as a vehicle for channeling movement into the creation of work that captures the moment and points towards the future.

So, we thank these extraordinary scholars, prophets, and leaders for their gifts, and for their willingness to bless our community with them during these past two days of the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture and Consultation. We hope we will honor their gifts in the days and months to come by embodying the flavor of vision called “learned something,” and “putting it into practice.”

Reveling in the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture!

katie_cannon_09_bannerWe’ve been reveling in the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture and events already, Women’s Center style. That is: we’ve been working feverishly to set up all the bright and beautiful items for the Spring Silent Auction in the reception rooms at Gardencourt, and enjoying the company and conversation of Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas and Rev. Dr. F. Camille Williams-Neal and other faculty and students and friends of the Women’s Center during the reception, and then delighting in the words of a lecture that gave us an analysis of sexuality and its relationship to community and connection and God, by way of a close reading of The Street by Ann Petry and a consideration of the blues as a tradition of sacred discourse — wow! We have been having a wonderful time, and hope you were here!!

But, we have more to come, because this morning will be worship, and a seminar (“The Meaning of a Blues God”), and — of course — a continuation of the sale from the silent auction, and the last chance to buy raffle tickets for the gorgeous quilt, and then we will have lunch in the Women’s Center and more conversation, and I think yet another opportunity to recognize what this work is all about — connection, learning, transformation — and we hope at least some of our readers will be able to take part!

Worship in the Words of the Tradition II

The tradition has many words. As we noted here yesterday, and in Caldwell Chapel on Thursday, February 12, some of those words are beloved of many, sanctified by long use in the church, and at the same time words that make Christian worship damaging.

This is about language. Language that is, perhaps, easy to use. Language that, perhaps, most of us barely even notice, barely even think about. Language that, if we do think about it — if it is, for instance, brought to our attention by someone’s complaint or lament — we might barely be able to take seriously. (“Oh, that? But that’s just . . .” or “Seriously, it’s no big deal!”) Language that comes to our minds and mouths quickly, almost without having to think about it, because we have used this language so long, and have thought the thoughts that travel with this language so long.

Words (and thoughts) like:

Kyrie eleison

    (“Oh, come on! It’s just THE KYRIE, for Jesus Christ’s — or Pete’s — sake. You can’t seriously have a problem with that. Try not to think of it as “Lord,” as if it had all kinds of hierarchical, kyriarchical, patriarchal baggage, just think of it as “God”. Don’t make a big deal out of this.)

. . . All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
in His presence daily live.

    (It’s just a song. Lots of people love this song. It’s about surrender — what, you don’t want to surrender everything to Jesus? Nobody means self-esteem, desire for freedom, the dignity owing to a human being that someone in an abusive relationship might be trying to convince you to deny you even have a right to. Surrender bad things, selfish things . . . bad selfish things . . . OK, it says “Him”, but it doesn’t mean your husband or your father, it means Jesus, just try not think of Jesus in the same way as that husbandfatherpastor . . . Jesus is different, Jesus is better than that . . . you can do it! Don’t make a big deal out of this!)

. . . our Lord Jesus Christ . . .

    (Yes, “Lord” is male language, master of slaves, leader of armies, “husband” — in olden days — but look, here it’s just a formula, it doesn’t mean that, no one means anything by it, it’s just language, you have to call Jesus something, come on, don’t make a big deal out of this!)

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise . . .

    (Down, girl! Whoever put this liturgy together probably couldn’t find a copy of the current Presbyterian Hymnal, where this allegedly ‘generic’ use of ‘man’ to designate ‘humanity’, obscuring or perhaps even denying the presence of women in that humanity, has been changed to the inclusive “vain, empty praise”. Why can’t you just cut him — or her! — some slack? What ever happened to forgiveness? Grace? This is such a little thing — don’t make a big deal out of it . . .)

. . . my sister death . . .
how not hear her wise advice?

    (See, there’s some feminine language in here, too. Yes, “death,” but in context this is positive, see, wise . . . plus, it’s from a traditional prayer. By St. Francis. Saint Francis. You don’t seriously have a problem with Saint Francis, do you? It’s not really linking women with death, deadliness, bringing death into the world . . . Eve . . . cut it out, don’t make a big deal out of this.)

“Turn to the Lord your God again.” . . .
Turn to us, Lord God, . . .

    (Almost done now. You know the drill. Swallow, suck it up, say “amen,” just, you know, what were you thinking, you know, you did basically ask for it, coming to church, and on Ash Wednesday, of all days, what were you expecting . . . you can’t really make a big deal out of this, you know that, right? Because you are SO missing the big picture, the main point, and all the GOOD PARTS of the service, why don’t you pay attention to that, why do you have to be so negative, why do you have to get so angry, what is wrong with you?)

So how many “no big deals” does it take to make a big deal?

Using inclusive language for humanity is an official policy of Caldwell Chapel worship for a reason.

We have the conversations we’ve had with people about avoiding “Lord Lord” language for a reason, too. Some of those we’ve even had here. (Here’s one. Here’s another.)

Yes, this is about language. This is about language because, protestations to the contrary, language means something. And if it really doesn’t mean anything, then why use it in the first place?

During this Lent, maybe we could all actually surrender the practice of calling Jesus Lord, as if the very best, the greatest, the most honorific and the only thing we can think of to call Jesus is Master of slaves, Owner of property, Leader of feudal armies, Husband, Sir, Big Man.

Jesus. The Word and Wisdom and Lamb of God, the Bread of Heaven, the Living Water, the Christ, Savior, Redeemer, Teacher, Mediator, Alpha and Omega, Lily of the Valley, Rose of Sharon, Morning Star, Author and Finisher of our faith, . . .

Even though all of that, too, is only, you know, language.

[The Order of Service for Caldwell Chapel Worship, Wednesday, February 25, 2009]

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.