The other week Ben and I ran into an old friend from high school, Michelle, who just recently got married and moved into a cute little house on the other side of Falls Church. I got together with her for lunch a few times, and she invited me to come to a book group she was hosting at her house where they were discussing the book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. I didn't know anything about the book (but had read and loved the Secret Life of Bees), but gladly agreed to go to the book group. The book, for those of you who haven't read it, chronicles her journey from baptist church woman to liberated woman who celebrates the feminine aspects of God. It's a beautiful story, and one that re awoke that desire deep within my own being to recognize, name, and worship the feminine aspects of the divine.
Julie Clawson, who's awesome blog I just discovered yesterday, describes the necessity of naming the feminine characteristics of God like this:
"The call to speak of God rightly has awakened in many women the need to reclaim the feminine metaphors for God. God is of course neither male nor female, but in the image of God both male and female were created. God’s image is reflected in all of us. To use feminine metaphors for God is not a call to swing the pendulum to the other side and think of God as exclusively female, as much of the Divine Feminine and Goddess talk has recently called us to do. It is merely a call to balance our perceptions and rightly name God."Amen to that! This re imagining of God is accomplished through events like the art event at Emily's house where we created plates to describe our experience as women in the church, or events like Zosia's baptismal mass at our apartment, where the sacred feminine blessed us with her divine presence, or Sean and Rachel's wedding, where the fusion of God's feminine and masculine characteristics was so beautifully evident. As a woman, recognizing the feminine characteristics of God is the first step towards recognizing that I am created in the image of God and deeply beloved. It is essential to the female spiritual experience, and yet something that most major religions entirely neglect to address.
Reading this book and discussing it with a group of strong and intelligent women reminded me of this mission that we as women have in the contemporary church. Immediately, I realized that finding support is essential in this journey-- and that's certainly not something that I'm going to receive from the Catholic Church. As I started researching local churches and groups that would affirm this mission, I realized two things: there aren't a whole lot of them, and those that exist usually function under the auspices of organizations that are highly marginalized by modern society. Namely, there are several pagan groups that celebrate the feminine divine. Of course, as soon as Ben found out that I was researching paganism, he pulled out the full battery of witch jokes, suggesting that I search google for "kettle broom newts witches northern virginia." Jokes aside, joining a pagan group would certainly create some intra-family conflict, and I don't even know if I'm quite ready to make that leap (but if I attend a coven meeting, I'll fill you in on all the details).
I feel kind of alone, especially when I'm at a church that, for all of its amazing ministries and assets, is pretty male-centered. And yet I know that I stand together with women accross this country, in Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and almost certainly dozens of women in my own congregation, who are journeying towards the sacred feminine. And, as an amazing outgrowth of the book group, I'm going to be meeting with two women later this month for our first celebration of the sacred feminine. It feels like a babystep, but one that I'm very happy to be making.