So my church hosted a biennial event this weekend known as The Gathering. I attended this event 2 years ago when their keynote speaker was Glennon Melton of Momastery fame. I loved the event and the church, and in fact, my attendance there is what led us to visit and commit to St. Michael’s this year when we switched churches.
The Gathering is a women’s conference, Friday night and Saturday, and it is wonderful. Friday night there were some men present – as waiters during our reception! On Saturday, the only guy there was the organist/music director, who led us in an old fashioned hymn sing. It was thrilling to hear only women’s voices singing those beautiful hymns. At the end of the Gathering, there was a healing Eucharist service, and again it was beautiful to hear over a hundred women’s voices raised together in prayer.
I loved this service. It was a full liturgical service, with communion, and it was entirely done by women, ordained and lay leaders. We were blessed to have the suffragan bishop for North Carolina there, also a woman, as well as several rectors from other parishes. The crucifers and acolytes were women, as were the readers. This service was not only beautiful, it was enormously healing for me.
As a woman who has been involved in the nondenominational and emergent church movement for the last 10 or so years, one thing I’ve learned is that sexism is alive and thriving in that culture. Women who are feminists are viewed with suspicion. Viewing women as equal to men is not guaranteed. In fact, the last time I preached in that environment, my sermon was criticized because I chose to share the stories of 2 women. They were women in my community, women who perfectly illustrated my point, but because I didn’t use any men as examples, I was criticized. That criticism deeply wounded me. Seeing a service run entirely by women, without even any comment on it, was balm to my soul.
In addition, the very first prayer was to our heavenly Mother. It was right there, in print in the bulletin! God as Mother! I’ve been told for the last 10 years, “well, yes, of course it’s acceptable to use feminine language to talk about God, but don’t do it because it will distract from your message or cause people to stumble.” And now here it is, in print, in the service of a mainstream denominational church. I felt vindicated. I felt validated and healed.
And that is the thing about feminism. It’s not about displacing men. It’s about validating women. For centuries, we have been blamed and held responsible for our genitalia. Our vaginas and breasts cause men to stumble. Our clothing can make a man sin. Our bodies force men to rape us. Our ability to create life in the womb has made us to blame for every female baby. The very word hysterical derives from the Greek word for uterus: to be female is to be irrational. Healthy feminism does not seek to demote or degrade men. Healthy feminism does not try to impose the second class status on men that has been imposed on women. It seeks to validate women.
This is why I am a self-proclaimed feminist. And this is why I’m raising my daughter to be a feminist as well.