My friend and our non-resident theologian, Dr. Monica A. Coleman, recently visited a feminist church at a conference at which she presented. She then posted an idea on facebook inviting all feminist churches to hook up. I snickered and posted back, "What, all two of us?"
There may be more but we are so far apart and disconnected that it is hard to find one another. On some level we may not believe that the other exists. And then there is the question of what makes a spiritual community feminist.
First of all, there are a lot of understandings about what it means to be feminist (among feminists as well as outside the feminist community). After lengthy discussion Circle of Grace distilled our understanding down to a short paragraph:
Circle of Grace is a feminist Christian worshipping community. We are non-doctrinal and seek to re- imagine understandings of language and stories, symbols and metaphors. Our commitment is to inclusivity. We honor each one’s truth and each one’s journey and feel called into community as a way of faithful response. We understand feminism to be a critique of power.
Spelled out it means:
1-we don't all have to (nor do we) believe the same things. Nothing is written in stone. For us the journey of the spirit requires a certain fluidity (uncomfortable at times). Theologically, members of our community range the gamut of understandings. Biblical authority, atonement, - you name it. This hooks up with the last sentence in our statement: we honor each one's truth and each one's journey. As in, I can't tell you what your experience of the Sacred is, nor will I try to dissuade you of it. Need I say that making room for many truths is a challenge? But we are committed to this endeavor because It is central to feminist thought.
2- Our images, stories, symbols and metaphors are not limited to the images, stories, symbols and metaphors available in the biblical text, though we do 're-imagine' those in ways that, we hope, opens us to new understandings of Godde. As feminists, we find any symbol that becomes rigid and/or absolute to be unhelpful and sometimes harmful to the journey of the spirit. It is one thing to say Godde is like a father (or mother or eagle or bridegroom, etc.) and quite another to say Godde is father,etc.
3- We feel called to community as a way of faithful response. All of us at Circle of Grace come together because we believe or intuit that sharing spiritual community both grounds and grows us. It is the challenge of being (or trying to be) who Godde calls us to be in the world and with one another that draws us together in worship, prayer, meals, time, relationship... It is faithful (and feminist) to build community that is radically inclusive. It is faithful (and feminist) to live our one's journey of spirit informed by those who are not like us but offer new wisdom, insight, challenge and hope. For me, at least, and others I believe, the call to community is the call to kin-dom living, the call to embody the kin-dom in real time as a beacon of hope for the world. Each week at Eucharist we say something like this to one another as we pass the wine, "Drink in and become the promises of Godde."
4- We understand feminism to be a critique of power. We also understand the Way of Jesus to be a critique of power. They go hand in hand. As feminist Christians we speak a critique of the power of the institutional church.
So for Circle of Grace being spiritual feminist community is about opening understandings of the Divine to include many images, it's about making room for all kinds of differences and it's about living out our understandings (and our struggles to understand and our inability to make sense) together. It means that we get comfortable with not having all the answers. It means that we make room for one another. It means we critique power used and misused in both the culture (patriarchy) and the institutional church (with love...).
So here's a shout out to all the other feminist spiritual communities/churches out there (they are there, right, Monica?) - "what does it mean to you?"
And isn't it great that it can mean so many different things?