Thoughts on the Emerging Women’s ReGathering
I recently spent a weekend in a barn outside of Indianapolis. The occasion was the Emergent Women’s Roundbarn ReGathering which was held in an old converted roundbarn (which explains the barn part). A group of about 25 women of various ages came together to encourage one another, tell our stories, and discuss what it means to be a women involved in the emerging conversation.
Going into this gathering, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to trust it because it had the Emergent label, but I also was afraid it would just be a typical women’s retreat. To put it bluntly – I didn’t want to spend my time or money listening to devotional talks that have about as much substance as a Hallmark card. I am a woman interested in the emerging church conversation – I like to think and didn’t want to be denied that opportunity just because I was a women. I didn’t want to withdraw with the women to merely discuss emotions or go shopping and leave the men to figure out the important parts of church, theology, and life. Needless to say, I shouldn’t have been worried. The weekend was a good mix of stories, metaphors, pragmatics, worship, debate and laughter with at least a sprinkling of theology thrown in. While it was touchy-feely and emotional at times, it was not surfacy or shallow. It also addressed real issues about how we do church and theology and what is the role of women in those things.
Through exploring the metaphor of “jeans that fit,” we were able to share and hear stories of how women have struggled to find their fit in the church. I heard stories of blessing and creativity, but more frequently of hurt and pain. The common theme of the group seemed to be ways the church (or individuals in the church) have hurt, manipulated, crushed, and destroyed the women who are just trying to serve God. And these are churches and people who on paper will often say that they support the concept of women in ministry. Even Emergent. I personally greatly value Emergent and clung onto my faith because of the hope I found in the emerging church conversation. I found ideas that made sense, was affirmed in my questions, and encouraged by witnessing a God who was bigger than any of the boxes I had previously seen him confined to. Yet as a woman I still feel excluded from the conversation. I barely hear women’s voices at the conventions or on the booklists. At our local emergent cohort the men literally drowned out the women’s voices. From leaders I have been affirmed in the concept of women having a voice and leadership roles, but in the same breath been told that it isn’t an issue worth fighting for – women aren’t important enough; there are bigger battles to fight right now. Those messages hurt and the women at the ReGathering found a safe place to share their stories and their pain.
But the weekend didn’t merely dwell
on the pain; it explored the paths of healing that many of the women had
pursued. We encouraged one another, gave practical suggestions for growth, and
brainstormed concrete ways to gain a voice. We don’t desire to be a group of
women who separate ourselves off and exist on the fringes. We want to gather
together to strengthen our collective voice, to fight for our place at the
table, to bring balance to the conversation. The time at the ReGathering was
refreshing, but we also realized that dialog needs to continue and more
connections need to be made. Our hope is to continue gathering in national and
regional groups, to publish our thoughts, and to be a presence in larger
emerging circles. As we discover how to accomplish those goals, we are
connecting, teaching, and encouraging through the Emerging Women blog (http://emergingwomen.blogspot