The Center for Leadership Excellence, in partnership with COSROW, is pleased to lift up the voices of women in ministry encouraging fellow women in ministry. Please enjoy this month’s Encouragement from Shannon Marie Berry, Pastor of Fremont UMC, and feel free to forward it to a friend. Anyone can sign up to receive these monthly emails here.
On her final day as our Resident Bishop, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward shared with Bishop LaTrelle Easterling in a conversation about their work together regarding race reconciliation and the Cabinet of Bishop’s Anti-Racism Task Force. Two groups of clergywomen hosted this conversation, Clergywomen of Color and White Women Doing the Work (WWDTW) of Antiracism. The invitation for this conversation was open to all clergy women, and a few men joined us as well.
Bishops Ward and Easterling talked about the relationship they had developed with each other, and the trust they shared. They focused most of their conversation around the “Four Pillars to Change the World” of Bryan Stevenson’s work:
- Stay proximate to pain.
- Tell stories that are true.
- Expect resistance.
- Protect our hopefulness.
While we had almost 100 people at one point join us for this conversation, only four of those people were clergywomen of color. Walking away from the conversation, I found myself asking the question, “So when are we (white clergywomen) supposed to engage with the clergywomen of color?” I found that the answer was sooner than I imagined. Within a few weeks, the design team of WWDTW had a conversation with two brilliant and vulnerable clergywomen of color.
Read: Ruth 1:16-17, NRSV
But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there I will be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”
Reflect: These words were not written as a wedding vow, though they make good ones… However, they were said by a woman who desired to stay with and support another woman. They were said in a moment when all the world seemed to be crumbling down. And they were not said in front of a crowd, but in an intimate setting, in the midst of grief, and because of a relationship the two had developed with one another.
My Sisters, in an intimate conversation between four clergywomen, stories were shared, hurt was expressed, lamentation was made. From that conversation, the name of WWDTW was changed to “Women Taking a Stand Against Racism.” We were reminded that change comes from personal relationships, not because the world says we should exist in a particular box, but because we have a true desire to go where you go, stay where you stay.
Take Action: I encourage each of you to begin a relationship with someone different than you. I encourage you, white clergywomen, to use your voice to amplify the voice of our BIPOC sisters. Do not speak for them, but help them be heard. Peace be with you.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women