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FutureChurch Director Chris Schenk and Roberta Nobleman team up for presentation about Women’s roles and history in the Church.

Healing Gender Issues in the Church : Precious Blood Community Leads the Way

Adapted from an article written by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.P.P.S. for the Precious Blood Newsletter: The Wine Cellar

In early October 2001 and March 2002, approximately 160 women and men from several Precious Blood communities in the United States gathered at Marie Stein Ohio and O’Fallon, MO respectively for conferences on “Women in the Church: a Journey in Mutuality: Building on the Unity that is Ours in God.” The events culminated three years of cooperation, collaboration and celebration by the men and women of the Precious Blood Communities commemorating the Jubilee.

Christine Schenk, CSJ from Cleveland FutureChurch gave examples of mutuality identified by contemporary biblical scholars in passages from Genesis, Exodus and the Gospels. She pointed to collaboration among the Hebrew midwives Shiprah and Puah, Moses’ mother, his sister Miriam, and Pharaoh’s daughter in bringing Moses to life and health in a time of persecution. She delighted in telling the story of Mary, Martha’s sister, who was able to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his wisdom as any male student of the Torah would. This “better part” is a significant sign of the counter cultural actions of Jesus during a time when women were not permitted to study Torah.

Roberta Nobleman used masks and dramatic skill to convey in image and play what Christine had done in word and thought. Using four images of Virgin, Mother, Wife, and Mistress she powerfully portrayed women’s experience in the church through history.
Jim Franck, CPPS and Joyce Lehman, CPPS reflected on their lived experience of collaboration in giving missions and retreats. They identified tensions and struggles that emerge as different people with different approaches try to collaborate. They also shared the respect and admiration that grows from pursuing a common endeavor.

An important part of collaboration requires learning to identify the locus of power and how it is used. The one who tends to be more “powerful” based on gender, size, ethnicity, education, position or finances, needs to listen carefully to others in the project. Everyone at the table has significant gifts for advancing the mission.

On Saturday afternoon, facilitator Mary Whited recounted an experience of being excluded because of her gender that was life changing for her. This led to graduate theological studies and her insightful and moving presentation on “Re-imagining Relationships in Our Church.”

A powerful reconciliation service was held on Saturday evening. Participants approached a cross, draped with a stole and tassels simulating the tassels of Jesus’ cloak touched by the woman healed of the issue of blood. Participants held a tassel and named personal and communal sins against mutuality and collaboration. Many women asked forgiveness for failing to speak when they knew they were being treated unjustly or when an issue needed their truth. Men asked forgiveness for failing to speak up when they saw a woman being treated unjustly. As each person named their fault, the assembled community prayed forgiveness and peace for them. Sunday’s liturgy reflected the experience of the man or woman born blind who comes to a fuller and newer sight in Jesus.

Participants in the conference were full of praise for the experience and the efforts of the Precious Blood Leadership Conference to highlight these issues. Elizabeth Weiman, CPPS of O’Fallon reported that the meeting was “fantastic, stretching and forward looking.” Her group committed themselves to confront their fear around this issue and move beyond it. They recommended continued efforts at networking and responding to justice issues.

Mary Wendeln, CPPS of Dayton appreciated the conference for its process of social analysis. She stated that the conference had “a lot of energy and a lot of hope. There was time for information, process and moving toward the covenants that can be made.” Maria Hughes, ASC remarked that “there is so much that is possible; we need to drop our fears and risk what is possible.”

Christine Schenk, CSJ who gave the keynote and remained for much of the conference praised the Precious Blood community for their work in this area and expressed a hope that other communities might also take up the work of reflecting on their experience around collaboration and mutuality in mission.

Fall 2002



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