Summer rhythms of life find me less connected to social media. I consciously choose to escape the virtual world as my family and I ground ourselves in the elements: sunshine and earth, ocean and sand. I spent a surprising amount of time observing shore birds and seabirds. Noticing the way that brown pelicans, with their seven-foot wing span, hang for just a moment before dive bombing head first into the ocean. Or anhingas dry their water-logged wings in stillness, and black skimmers skim the tide pool’s surface when catching fish. Or the way that white egrets curiously turn their crooked necks to the side when about to strike the water. At home, in between my work schedule, we biked, hiked, enjoyed in our backyard, gathered with friends. It’s been a good summer.
Being less virtually connected, I had missed most of our current roundtable series, “Why I Write for WIT.” So, I took some time this week to read back through the posts. To anyone else similarly disconnected this summer, I urge you to do so, also. Reading this collection of posts reminds me of why I write for WIT.
When I began writing for WIT, I was nearing the end of six years of at-home parenting in West Virginia. Motherhood and theology have coexisted in my life for several years; I was eight-months pregnant with my second child when I finished my MA in Theology. My daughters inspire in me deep theological reflection and are a source of grace, but I was yearning to be part of theological conversation.
There’s a line tucked in a Ted Leo song from a dozen years ago: “I’ve got to sing just to exist / and to resist.” I could say a similar thing for why I do theology: exist / resist.
I write to exist in community and to resist the isolation that doing theology from a feminist perspective can bring, particularly in male-dominated settings. I value the sense of belonging in this space that I do not feel in other spaces. I thrive, not in isolation, but in a healthy community that speaks with honesty, asks questions, pushes limits of accepted beliefs and practices in order to bring faith into deeper understanding. I find strength in this community, and the discipline to write in our common pursuit of creating space for women to do public theology, elevating and highlighting the role of women in ministry.
I write to show my existence in public space and to resist the temptation to remain hidden. I take this as a sense of responsibility. I am theologically trained, and I have the gifts of writing, analysis and synthesis.
This sense of responsibility feels intergenerational to me. I am the first woman in my direct lineage to complete college, and of all possibilities available to me, I chose theology. In fact, two theological degrees. And I am about to embark on further seminary studies. I feel an inherited responsibility to take up public space in ways that were not available to previous generations.
But I also write as a responsibility to my daughters and the younger generation of women whose voice we need to hear. My daughter recently looked at the wall of photos of (mostly white) clergymen in our church’s copy room and asked, “Where are the girls, mom?”
Here I am. Here we are.
I write to resist my inner doubts that would have me remain hidden and not assume this responsibility. Doubt that my voice matters, or that I have anything of consequence to say. Doubt that it makes any difference, presuming that nothing will change in church or society. These are burdensome doubts present every. single. time. that I write.
I also write to resist the doubts of others who struggle to recognize the authority of women, implicitly and explicitly. I write to form people’s religious imagination, to stand at the border of the holy and to reveal to others the gifts of women in ministry and the gift of my unique ministry. Over and over again.
This is a vulnerable act. I recently shared with someone that I am in the ordination process, and their reserved reaction reminded me that many cannot see women in an ordained capacity or authoritative roles. I’m not sure how I forgot this, coming from the Roman Catholic tradition several years ago, but I wanted to run back into hiding.
Consequently, my writing is a courageous act – taking my place as vocal and visible, asserting myself, being less hesitant and cautious. It’s a grace, really.
My current spiritual director and my previous spiritual director, living in different states and separated by five years, each listened to me and then recommended Nan Merrill’s prayerful reinterpretation of Psalm 110. In it she writes, “‘As companions of the Most High, / come! Claim your home in the / Universal Heart!’ / You, O Divine Breath, dwell within / our hearts; / with strong love, You assuage / our fears. / You call us to holiness, to justice, / and integrity, / to free those bound by oppression, / to bring light where ignorance dwells.”
I think my spiritual directors are on to something. This is a psalm for me.
I am grateful for the space that WIT holds for communal theology. And as I write and claim my place in the conversation, I hope to write with more courage and depth, and be brought to greater holiness and wholeness, resisting narratives that would obscure my and others’ rightful place.
Exist / resist.