The only “chocolate” was a platter of brownies next to the churros and fruit on the dessert table. There was no gimmickry of a spa- or scrapbook- or coffee-shop day for the lil’ ladies, no pastel-and-lace floral table coverings, no synth-y “special music” for the occasion, no excruciating ice-breaker games, and no motivational speaker whose purpose was to ambush our sentiments instead of feeding our minds and stretching our souls.
Instead of kvetching too much about the old paradigm, I’d like to tell you about a respectful step in a new direction away from some of those tired images of women’s ministry. Yesterday at Trinity International University, I attended the school’s first-ever women’s theology conference.
Let me state here that I’m not writing as an unbiased sideline observer. I came alongside the planning team in a support role, helping to shape the marketing and communications for the event. I had the privilege of watching up close as God worked through this educated and spiritually-devoted team of women to create a day of interactive learning and engagement for women designed to bridge the gap between academy and community.
The day’s four speakers addressed the day’s theme of identity from four different perspectives:
- Identity In The Image Of God: Dust And Divinity
- Identity In Relationships: Advocacy And Representation
- Identity In A World Of Expectations: Beauty For Ashes
- There’s More To You Than You Know: A Theology of Dignity
The format of the day gave the 140 women in attendance – students from TIU, alumni, and women from local churches – the opportunity to engage the material through reflection and conversation in a number of different ways throughout the event.
Though each speaker and table conversation left me with new areas of conviction or encouragement, I am pondering today the questions that came out of Esther Theonugraha’s discussion of advocacy and representation. A deeper understanding of who I am and who I am becoming is one side of the coin; the other side is knowing the strengths and limitations of what it means to truly affirm the value and voice of another. Her talk and the table conversation following it gave me a new way to consider what it means to better love God, love myself and love my neighbor.
And really – isn’t that what women’s ministry is meant to do?
Have you been to a women’s event or conference that has stretched or challenged you in some way? I’d love to hear more about it!
If you attended yesterday’s TIU conference and you’re reading this, what is still echoing in your soul today?