Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Transforming the Desert

by Michelle Sukup Jackson

We have all faced different temptations just like Jesus did in the desert. Well, maybe not just like Jesus. Our temptations differ from Jesus’: we’re not being tempted to turn stones into bread, or to rule all the kingdoms of the world. We could go through all the major temptations, gluttony, pride, anger…

For me one of the biggest temptations is to look at the world’s problems, or even our local problems and get discouraged by their enormity and my lack of power. If you’ve been to a wedding, ever, you’ve heard the 1 Corinthians verse “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We’re called as brothers and sisters in Christ to love and care for each other, but in the midst of our busy lives of work, research, families, and friends, it’s tempting to look at the problems of the world and say ‘It’s too much’ and give up before we begin. The key though, is to do something, no matter how big or how small.

One of the traps I find myself falling into is wanting to ‘solve’ a problem, when that might not be how I may best be of service to others because sometimes the solution is bigger than me. Volunteering to build a house with Habitat for Humanity or by giving a sandwich or money to a person on the street won’t solve the national problem of homelessness and hunger, but it can help those individual people. I have to remind myself that while I can’t solve the big problems by myself, my contribution is still meaningful. To actually be a witness for the Kingdom of God, though, we must not act merely out of pity or guilt, but out of love.

We begin forming intentional relationships, not just with our family and friends, but also with people whom we may overlook due to distance in status, beliefs, or geography. In our zeal to reach out to people, we must take care not to pick and choose portions of the Bible to justify our actions without taking a critical look at the Bible as a whole. The overarching theme that has persevered through different authors and editors is the theme of love. God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love and support of each other as members of God’s church on earth.

In order to live out the commandment to love each other, we need to be in community with each other; we’re not supposed to be alone. We saw in Genesis that Adam needed a partner and found that partner in Eve. Unfortunately, people throughout history have used this creation story as justification for oppressing or discriminating against different groups of people. Recall what Adam says when God asks if he’s eaten from the tree…He blames the woman….And when God asks Eve about it, she blames the serpent.

This circle of blame is not the way we’re called into community with each other. When we love fully and completely, we don’t try to change others into versions that we can love, we love and affirm them for who they are: conservative or progressive, Greek or Jew, saint or sinner. We saw in the Psalm and Romans that we’re all forgiven and redeemed through the love and sacrifice of Jesus. In our agape-style love, we must work towards equality and justice for all people.
Presiding Bishop (or Super-Bishop) Jefferts Schori put this sentiment very eloquently in her book Gospel in the Global Village: ‎"The world is not reconciled as long as some live without—without food, good news, adequate housing, peace, clothing, education, or justice. The work of this church is to build a world of shalom that includes all those versions of God’s dream—adequate food, drink, housing, employment, health, education, equality, and the peace that comes only when true justice is present and available to all."

We know we have the moral and spiritual imperative to fight for justice, and as I said, small things may seem like a mere drop of water in the desert when you’re doing them. When everyone is giving a drop or a cup of water, soon we have an oasis of peace and agape and we can transform the desert into fertile land where the love of God can grow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The UNCSW- A Young Adult’s Perspective

by Brian Romero

“We must do even better in tapping into women’s strength, women’s industry, and women’s wisdom.” – Michelle Bachelet
So often young people hear the age old phrase from our Christian predecessors- “you are the church of tomorrow”. But from February 19th to the 26th I found myself among nine other young adults who like myself disagreed with that. We instead believe what The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church said to us, “we are the church of today”. This was never more evident to my new friends and I then during our visit to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, an annual conference held by the oldest commission of the Economic and Social Council of the UN. With delegates from the Dioceses of Minnesota, Northern California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Los Angeles and last but definitely not least Long Island (myself) the Episcopal Church was represented among many other non-governmental organizations that fight for gender equality.

During our time at the UN and the Episcopal Church Center (815) many of us learned a lot about the structure of our church and its various initiatives in social justice and human rights issues. Advocacy and theology combined in a new way of evangelism for some of us and for others we were educated on the many issues presented by the oppression of women. For the newcomers (myself included) we learned the effect that gender inequality had on the prolonged achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, women’s health and reproductive rights, international peace, education for women and girls, the competiveness of our nation etc. At the NGO orientation of Ecumenical Women, a network of NGO’s which support gender equality, Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and now Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the newly launched UN Women, spoke about the importance of universal gender equality and the many initiatives the new entity would engage in. 

The Episcopal Young Adult Delegation (EYAD) was convened by Jason Sierra, Officer of Young Adult and Campus Ministries of the Episcopal Church Center and P’tricia Egbert. By attending parallel events, side events, caucus meetings, mission briefings and engaging in constant prayer and dialogue with fellow Christians from all kinds of denominations and parts of the world many of us left with similar messages. While we know the church is changing and that new innovative ways of spreading the word of God are being discussed, we must do all we can to continue to defend those who are treated unequally in our many societies and cultures. Women all over the world need to be granted equal rights in the workplace, encouraged to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), ceased from being victims of violence and put in higher positions of leadership and decision making in all social institutions. The Church must continue to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and young adults need to be involved in the interreligious and ecumenical dialogue if we are to continue it in the future. My sincere gratitude is extended to Bishop Provenzano for both his financial and spiritual aid during this very important life changing experience. 

The Episcopal Young Adult Delegation with The Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and Conveners Jason Sierra and P’tricia Egbert 

Monday, February 28, 2011


by Rachel M. Robinson, Diocese of Tennessee

I meant to do several blog posts while I was in New York, but somehow I didn't have the words to express all that I was taking in.  Now that I've had 48 hours to reflect and "come back to reality," I have so many things to say.  My mind is buzzing with information and possibilities.  First, I have to say how wonderful it was to be around our delegation and other young adults who attended the CSW.  The apathy that usually identifies our generation was nowhere to be found amongst these young adults.  The delegates, young and old, are genuinely concerned about social justice issues and work every day to make this world a more sustainable and peaceful community.  Not only was it inspiring, it fed my soul.  Second, we were continually asked how we would translate all that we've learned into our everyday life.  For me, I want to take the ideas of gender equality, advancement of women, and other advocacy issues, and find a way to incorporate them into my own community.  Being a southerner, I have my work cut out for me.  The south is still plagued by gender and ethnic inequality, poor education, extreme poverty, racism, and a myriad of other issues all of which should be addressed by the faith community.  Unfortunately, many faith communities in the south (and really, everywhere) have used religion to justify acts of hatred and intolerance against humanity.  In my hometown alone, we have several Christian churches where the only use women have is to teach Sunday school.  They aren't even allowed to pray out loud, leaving them with, quite literally, no voice simply because they are women.  I am not quite sure this is what Christ had in mind. Isn't the gospel about radical inclusion?  The poor, the sick, men, women, children, sinners... we all have a place in God's Kingdom because we all are created in His image.  God does not discriminate.  If we really want to live into our faith, we should continually strive to recognize each other as God's Creation, and therefore, we are all valuable.  We must speak out against injustice because when we deny one, we deny all, and we deny God.  The faith community has to lead this movement for radical inclusion.

I had a Jewish studies professor who used to often say, as though to remind us, "What we do or do not do, good or bad, will echo in this world and the next."

To my own community: How will we lead and how will that echo?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Next Steps

Today the Episcopal Young Adult Delegation packed their bags and headed home, flying to Tennessee, busing to Boston, and riding the subway to Queens. After 8 intense days of listening, advocating, fellowshipping and praying they are on their way to do the work of the church in the world, to be Christ's hands and feet. We pray for them as they step out into a new phase of their ministry, emboldened, strengthened and connected in their time here.

We invite you to continue to follow this blog as the delegates share their stories with their dioceses and home communities. Watch for resources, reflections and invitations to join us in this work over coming weeks and months.

A Rich History

by Grace King, Diocese of Connecticut

My original thought upon my arrival was “what am I doing here?” I knew a whole lot less about what was going on at the UN than everyone else. Everyone’s’ passion was so inspiring and I was left wondering what there was left for me or my community to do.  At the NGO Consultation Day, Eleanor Nwadinobi shared an African proverb, “When you see a dog barking at a lion, do not be fooled – there will be a hunter with a gun hiding nearby”. This thought keeps returning to me and I know see that we can all be the dog who barks at the lions of injustice in the hope of attracting the attention of the hunters.

This week has really opened my eyes to the connection between Faith and Advocacy. I have really come to understand that our faith calls on us to advocate for others, especially those whose voices are often lost. And really that faith without advocacy is like peanut butter without the jelly, you don’t have a complete sandwich. All of this has of course reminded me that women’s groups and especially women’s faith groups have been behind many of the major human rights movements in the US. There were many women involved in the abolition movement and in the underground railroad, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union achieved prohibition, women earned their own right to vote, and fought to end child labor. American women have a rich history of fighting for human rights. I was also deeply moved by Margaret Rose’s comment that outreach is really pastoral care to a broken world. This describes yet another way that we can see the intersection of faith and advocacy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seeing the City

Madeline, Shannon and Sarah at Times Square

A Room Full of People

by Shannon Preston, Diocese of Minnesota

Much of the advocacy work here ultimately seems to challenge the patriarchal paradigm. Today Maddy and I attended a Beijing Circle workshop. In it we spoke in small groups about how to make our communities safe for women and girls. After several minutes we rotated groups and focused on how we can include men and boys in making safe communities for men and women. In our opinion it seems that challenging the patriarchal paradigm not only liberates women from oppression but could also liberate men. The vision of many NGO’s is for full equality of men and women, unity in diversity. It seems that so often men are not able to express what they feel, to have a true “heart to heart.” What if men and women could share and listen what is on their heart with one another. That was the vision we left with on these circles. We thought of possible solutions. Our group found writing and personal invitation to be a possible way to reach out to men and women to create safe spaces. The idea of these circles is that those involved will bring what they have learned with them and it will ripple out. (A purpose of these circles is to bring a 5th World Conference of Women to the UN schedule.)

In the morning I had a wonderful conversation about some work being done in the Anglican Communion. There are people dedicated to changing the perception of religion as something that is corrupt and ignorant. She is doing research to provide statistics people can use to see that faith does make a difference (this case specifically is how faith is helping people in Africa). A talking point of Ecumenical Women is to add faith groups into an NGO. In the increasingly secular world faith communities are looked down upon and there are so many here who show what amazing things people of faith (and thus faith communities) have to offer.

We had a dinner with Ecumenical Women. It began with a short service and then dinner. It is wonderful to be grounded with prayer to ground us in this heavy work. At services we gather together and find hope, strength, and support. The dinner was beautiful. Here was a room full of people advocating for justice with and because of God. A room full of people who were smiling and enjoying one another despite having a weight of seeing all kinds of injustice, a room where light shines through darkness.

Amazing Women

by Brian Romero, Diocese of Long Island

It has been said that behind every great man is a great woman. But I would like to argue that beside every great man is an amazing woman. All of my life I have owed my great experiences and opportunities to the strong support of my mother and other maternal figures and positive role models (who are women). During my week here at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women I have witnessed many testimonies, learned a lot about the United Nations, global policy in relation to women’s rights and the Episcopal Church. Through the participation in parallel events, state mission briefings, caucus meetings, UN sessions and side events various subjects have been related to the important social issue that is gender equality. Some of these subjects have been mobile technology and maternal mortality, access to science and technology (and the education of them) for the increase of women’s opportunities, the relation to education and training for women to obtain “decent work” etc. It was clear that our time in New York City was a time of learning about things that we had not learned about in many other settings. The several events have also been facilitated, paneled and presented by women who are Non-governmental organization administrators, clergy, scholars in all types of fields, scientists, community leaders, public health officials etc. 
Women also showed up to the UNCSW from all kinds of walks of life and with different histories and experiences to share with others. One way this occurred was in a dinner and conversation with Episcopal young women superstars: Sarah Eagleheart, Officer of Native American & Indigenous Ministries at the Episcopal Church, Mary Getz, Grassroots and Communications Coordinator of the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) and Nicole Sieferth, in the Communications office of Trinity Church on Wall Street, NYC. In the delegation’s conversation with the young women we heard stories of perseverance, discernment, deep Christian faith, formation and success. It was perhaps during these conversations that the most inspiring of voices touched us, showing us that like our arrival to the UNCSW we would have many other places to visit and callings to follow in our futures. Throughout our time this week there has also been a consensus that we didn’t know our multinational, multiethnic and multiracial Church did so much for social and economic justice in the world. Offices we had never heard of took us by surprise and initiatives the Church took part or created pulled us in to learn more and want to be involved in many more ways. 

Great words have been spoken here at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, partnerships have been made, friends have been introduced and the word of the Gospel has been shared. Things that can’t be taught in books and emotions that can’t be fully expressed in words have touched us all. Two great lessons have especially popped up for me: follow your heart (mission) and don’t take yourself too seriously or be hard on yourself. Those morals could not have been arrived at without new friends. I am speaking of course specifically about the 9 other delegates in the Episcopal Young Adult Delegation. Thank you Grace, Michelle, Sarah, Shannon, Maddie, Gregory, Carrie, Rachel and Pauline.  I am also thankful to the Conveners of the delegation, Jason Sierra and Patricia Egebert. How this week has shaped us all will be for the future to tell in the many missions we will follow to love and serve the Lord.


by Sarah Markus, Diocese of Northern California

Today was a day learning about action.  So much of what we are hearing about are heartbreaking stories of inequality and all forms of violence (including but not limited to physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and apathetical).  Hearing these stories are moving and thought provoking, but I have been hard pressed to find where the action is taking place.  I was wondering if perhaps talks of action would be more prevalent next week, and if this first week of session was going to be mostly identifying the issues.  I am happy to say that today I was able to hear about some of the actions that are taking place.  Today I was able to hear analysis of various groups that were supposedly doing work to decrease violence against women with HIV, both good and bad.  I was also able to hear from high-ranking women judges from Zambia, Bosnia, and the Philipines about what laws and programs were being instituted in their countries to deal with offenders of sextortion.  It was incredible to hear the people who have done the research in these areas and who have helped to put into action these laws and see concrete effects. 

During the first parallel event I attended today, a young woman in the audience raised the concern that none of the women presenting on violence against women (specifically young women) with HIV were under the age of 25 or openly HIV positive.  As a young woman who was HIV positive, this concerned her, as she felt that these other women were attempting to speak for her.  I think this was a really valid concern.  I have heard on multiple occasions over this week the phrase “we are the voice for the voiceless”.  I think we need to restructure our ways of thinking- no one is voiceless.  Yes, there are people who may not realize they have a voice, or who’s voice we may not have yet heard, but I don’t think any of us should ever presume to be able to speak for someone else.  No two stories are the same, and even something as simple as inflection or choice of words used by each person effects the ways in which stories are told as well as the ways we receive them.  I am grateful that this young woman stood up and reminded us of this.

For the rest of the week, I look forward to hearing more stories, learning more about changes, and enjoying many more conversations with my fellow delegates as we all continue on this wonderful journey. 

Beautifully full, Beautifully Rich

by Shannon Preston, Diocese of Minnesota

Today was beautifully full and beautifully rich of things to learn and people acting against injustice.

I attended the last half of the viewing of Pink Smoke Over the Vatican. I had seen the film a few weeks ago in St. Cloud and got there in time to see the last part again as well as the panel. The panel included the filmmaker, two Roman Catholic woman priests, a Lutheran pastor who is ordained in a synod that does not ordain women, a Roman Catholic lay woman who supports women’s ordination, and a woman who has left the RC church to pursue her call.

The panel was, I am not sure I have a word to describe it. The panel started with several young women (high school) who brought up arguments of why women should not be priests: women are not in persona Christae, Aquinas wasn’t actually against women priests, and inviting the priests to leave the Church. The panel answered with such respect, groundedness, “no resentment,” and care. They answered that God is genderless and Christ had to be a man by historic necessity.  The women explained that once God calls God does not stop and this call is something they cannot ignore. In response to leaving the Church they explain that the Church does not belong to the hierarchy it belongs to the body of Christ, the body of believers. They explain that the Church call for primacy of conscience.  A young Anglican priest from New Zealand gave her support and a beautiful explanation that Jesus was anti-institution. I asked a question about how what hope I can take to my friends who are disenchanted with the church. The response I heard was that we need to be where God wants us to be, we need to listen to ourselves and must search for a place where we feel at peace. The RC Women Priests do not only ordain women but also men, gays, and transgender people. As a note: they welcome all people to their services.

It was amazing to see such support in the room countered with such contention. It is an injustice that God is engrained as a man, a major advocacy point of Ecumenical women is to challenge patriarchal paradigms and to change the patriarchal nature of the God children are introduced to is a challenge indeed. Yet the response to that by the women priests was it takes time and that must act in love and realize we all have our own way to a God that is mystery, love, and greater than all we know.

P.S. The morning sessions were great and dinner with some of the young women leaders in the Episcopal Church was inspirational. Also, New York has good pizza and chocolate milk, there is water behind the UN building, our group is wonderful, and the leaders are magnificent.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

L'Apanage et le privilège

by Gregory Stark, Dioceses of Idaho and Ohio

Considérez, frères, qui vous êtes, vous que Dieu a appelés : il y a parmi vous, du point de vue humain, peu de sages, peu de puissants, peu de gens de noble origine. Au contraire, Dieu a choisi ce qui est folie aux yeux du monde pour couvrir de honte les sages ; il a choisi ce qui est faiblesse aux yeux du monde pour couvrir de honte les forts ; il a choisi ce qui est bas, méprisable ou ne vaut rien aux yeux du monde, pour détruire ce que celui-ci estime important. Ainsi, aucun être humain ne peut se vanter devant Dieu. Mais Dieu vous a unis à Jésus-Christ et il a fait du Christ notre sagesse : c'est le Christ qui nous rend justes devant Dieu, qui nous permet de vivre pour Dieu et qui nous délivre du péché. Par conséquent, comme le déclare l'Écriture : « Si quelqu'un veut se vanter, qu'il se vante de ce que le Seigneur a fait  . »

"They think they are the ones who have power, but we know that we are the ones who really have the power," said Marta Benavides to the gathered group of Ecumenical Women. I started off this reflection with a passage of scripture in French to articulate the issues of access, privilege and power. My reflection focuses on the first two days of this delegation to the UN-CSW, two days of orientation. The above verse is I Corinthians 1:26-31 (le Français Courant), and if you look up the English version, you will find Paul arguing against the wisdom of the world. This verse came up recently in my New Testament class at Kenyon College, and this Pauline theme has been particularly relevant in sermons at Harcourt Parish Episcopal Church. How does it relate to advocacy? It's not only about the knowledge of Jesus, but about the power that comes with our relationship with Christ. Our living into the gospel means that we will find ourselves, even in our advocacy, being the fools according to the powers that be. The verse says that God will choose those who are not, those who are contemptible in the eyes of the world, to destroy that which the world views as most important, oppressive social paradigms. The foolishness of the Gospel is that God can be a child, the foolishness of the Gospel is that Christ suffered and suffers for and with us, the foolishness of the gospel in the eyes of the world.

But we know, and beyond that knowledge, we are called to act, to do justice. On Monday, I had the opportunity to use my position of privilege as an educated, (almost) bilingual college student to help a woman from the Central African Republic tell her story in a break out session on violence against the girl child. I emphasize that I was not being a voice for the voiceless. She had a voice (a strong and very helpful one, at that), but her voice could not be heard. Often when we speak of advocacy we use that phrase, "voice for the voiceless", but that begs the question: why are they voiceless? It ignores the fact that everyone has a voice, and that if someone is "voiceless" it is that they have had their voice taken from them. In my case, the woman had her voice taken mostly out of convenience (how do you communicate a broad message in english, while providing for a few in other languages?), but it was still taken from her. I relate this to privilege because the first step in dismantling the patriarchal paradigm is recognizing, or naming, our own positions of privilege. I didn't speak "for" her. She very much spoke for herself. I poured out my "privilege", using it to empower her. 

Finally, I want to talk about privilege as a concept in its own right. Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where language has forced us to discuss global issues with a single word. Privilege carries many meanings in english, from a position of honor to the systems of oppression and abuse. My title was "l'apanage et le privilège", "privilege and privilege". However, the two have different meanings in the french. The first refers to those systems of oppression, abuse, and power struggles. It captures exactly what we speak of when discussing privilege and power in patriarchal paradigms. The latter is the positive, the positions of honor and advantage, positions that should be open to all regardless of who they are or where they come from. It can be discouraging to constantly have to check ourselves as we speak. It is a challenge to be aware of how our language creates barriers between us and the ways in which it strengthens dominant paradigms. However, I am given hope in my faith, that God will use whomever God wills to speak truth to power, to be the holy fools for justice. I know that my hope is not fruitless, but that the Kingdom of God will come, and that every tongue will confess. Access is not limited to any group of people, but is available to all humanity, through Christ our Liberator (see Romans 5:1-5). I end with a prayer for social justice from the Book of Common Prayer:

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 823)

Finding Hope

by Carrie Diaz-Littauer, Diocese of New Jersey

It feels like I have been here for much more than three days. Hearing women’s stories from Thailand, to North Carolina, to Haiti and Bahrain, I feel surrounded by the needs, hurts, and continued perseverance of women worldwide. While the obstacles and statistics feel insurmountable at times, the presence and honesty of those here this week continue to empower me to hope for change.

Yesterday our delegation had the incredible opportunity to meet with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and we sought answers and advice on the status of women from a leading faith perspective. She stressed to us the importance of viewing and meeting others “incarnationally”. What would the world be like if we could view our neighbors, our enemies, or the oppressed not as such, but as blessings? As gifts? As fellow human beings that can teach, enrich, and bless our own existence?

This week I have only begun to explore the lamentable realities in societies that have ceased to view and hope in humanity in this way. When societies stop valuing what a young girl might add to the conversation, stop hoping in their potential, or stop searching for the blessings they can offer to the wider society, we find ourselves in the situations of today; where girls do not have access to basic math education, to science and technology, because they are deemed “not worth it”; where children are forced into sex-trafficking and exploitation; where, even in the U.S., young kids are working on farms completely unprotected by law. I grieve for a world which does not value our children enough to give them access to basic rights.

Yet even amidst the difficult statistics and experiences being thrown our way this week, I find hope in the mobilization of faith leaders, activists, women and men, young and old fighting for change. Whether it means distributing plastic whistles in Haiti, telling stories with Thai puppets, meeting in caucuses or for coffee, small waves of change are rippling throughout the world. While I continue to struggle to find my place amongst this change, I am hopeful, grateful, and motivated to be a part of it this week. I continue to be amazed by the blessings in others around me, and continue to ponder the words of the Bishop as they pertain to the status of women and girls.

Dialogue and Compassion: We are All Equal

 by Sarah Markus, Diocese of Northern California

Today was an AMAZING day.  The last two days were all about orientation.  It was information overload and all I could do to just keep my mind open to take it all in.   It was exhausting and exciting as everything was leading up to the day when the UNCSW started session and the “real” excitement was to begin.  The day started early as the various young adult ministries came together to lead morning worship.  It was full of energy and vitality and really set the tone for what was to come later in the day for me.  Our first big event was meeting Cannon Robertson, followed by a wonderful dialogue with the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.  I was impressed by the questions my fellow delegates were asking, and amazed at Bishop Katherine’s responses.  The way that she was so present with us in the conversation was very humbling and inspiring.  Being here at the UNCSW, I can’t help but to think that she is a living example of the theme this year.  In the afternoon, we split up to attend different parallel events.  I went to two events today, both of which were very enlightening.  Before the events began though, I was able to take a tour of the Episcopal Church Center and meet a lot of people working there.  The first couple of days here were very technical and I was hoping to understand more about the role of the Episcopal Church specifically.  Meeting people that worked in many of what I would deem the social-service roles within the church was exhilarating.  Everyone we spoke with was not only excited to meet us, but it was obvious they were passionate about the work they do, and how important it was to be able to do it in the context of Christ. 

After the tour, I was able to attend two different parallel events.  The first was on promoting positive masculinity.  It was wonderful to hear so many people willing to engage in conversations about masculinity in ways that was not putting it down.  Being at an event that is here to promote women, I think it is very easy for people to get caught up in the moment and try to encourage women and girls while pointing the finger of blame at men.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to discuss ways to move forward in promoting the positive images we were discussing, and until we move the conversation into action, I fear that we are all just spinning circles.  While I left feeling a little saddened by this thought, I also felt empowered- I am here at the UNCSW!  If I cannot take these conversations and find ways to put them into action in some form or another, I feel that my time here has been wasted.  Yes, it may be enlightening to me, but if I do not share these thoughts, then the advocacy stops and no change will happen.  So much talk of advocacy and being around these women (and men!) who are so impassioned with these causes is giving me much hope. 

The second workshop I attended was called “Follow The Yellow Brick Road : Lessons in Honesty, Empathy, and Self Care.”  I was initially not very excited for this workshop.  Having a degree in psychology and working at a crisis line, I feel as though I understand these items and expected the workshop to be fairly redundant.  What I found instead was a WONDERFULLY engaging presentation about being honest with yourself and your feelings, and how to connect that with other persons.  The presentation was lead by Marion Little and she did such a wonderful job of generating an atmosphere of creativity and engagement.  The examples she used were almost as if she were speaking directly to me- goosebumps were definitely present.  I am very interested in the social services and in the first couple days, I was worried that those would not be addressed as much due to the focus on technology.  The workshop fulfilled that need in me and fed me both in mind and spirit.  The event started with a quote that was really moving.  In summary, it said that Compassion is being able to dethrone yourself from the center of your own world and put someone else there instead.  I think that is a really powerful idea.  Even if we try to help others, if we are unable to tear ourselves away from the self, we cannot fully be present with another person.  I feel as though it relates to the idea of being created in God’s image.  Until we are able to fully recognize Christ in others, we will be unable to forge relationships and create true dialogue with others. 

Perhaps one of the best, and also a bit unexpected aspects of today and this entire experience thus far, is the way that the different generations are coming together in dialogue.  I was at my diocesan convention 2 years ago and I remember a conversation where an older woman told me that she was tired of fighting for equality and it was now my turn to start.  That idea was both exciting and terrifying, as I felt like she was throwing the baton to me and walking off the track.  Here, seeing the intergenerational dialogue taking place, it feels as though other generations are passing the baton, but staying with us to show us the way and it is very encouraging.  I look forward to the rest of the week with optimism as I begin to find ways to take this information back to my community in a concrete way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Called to Serve

by Brian Romero, Diocese of Long Island

Yesterday during the Ecumenical Women’s orientation at the United Nations Church Center a youth from the Presbyterian Church of USA stood up to share her reflection on the day so far and hosting the session was Rev. Kathleen Stone, Chaplain of the UN church center. Their dialogue was a little something like this: Youth: “I’m afraid I’m going to say something stupid-”, Rev. Kathleen “You will”, Youth: “or offend someone-”, Rev: “You will”, Youth: “I feel guilty of the privilege I have”, Rev: “Good!” These fears of saying something stupid, offending others and the feeling of guilt (along with various other reasons) are what have given birth to our call to serve women all over the globe. Before attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women I was aware of my privilege as a man in society (despite my disadvantage as a gay man) but it was not until I was surrounded by these women who have many stories and experiences that I realized I now have this guilt as well. But stronger than the guilt of my privilege as man is my sense of duty to spread the good news of Christ on Earth and the feeling of duty I have to my sisters to speak with (not for) them to promote more opportunities and the advancement of women internationally. During a panel discussion Itang Young, a representative of Church Women United Inc. reminded the audience that Jesus in the Book of Matthew said “I am here to heal the sick”. She then spoke about “the sick” as a metaphor for biologically, psychologically and socially marginalized people which includes women and said that as Christians of many denominations (Episcopal, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist etc.) we are called to participate in the healing of oppressed people worldwide. In the next couple of days we will be attending UNCSW caucus meetings, parallel events and briefings to continue to contribute to the dialogue of this work. The work of continuing this advocacy in the future will be up to us (and we have big shoes to fill) so here we are, 10 young adults forming the Episcopal Young Adult Delegation to the UNCSW. We have been called to serve and help in the healing of the oppressed and so far we’re doing a pretty good job.

Monday, February 21, 2011


by Shannon Preston, Diocese of Minnesota

New York didn’t seem like such a big city until it was time to sleep yesterday and there were people and traffic on the streets late into the night (maybe into the morning?).

We spent today at the Orientation for Ecumenical Women, the NGO we will be participating with throughout the week. We arrived to a large room full of women and a few men of multiple generations from all over the world. We began the day with a service which included a beautiful liturgical dance. The morning was broken into three sessions: language, advocacy, and a final reflection on oneness, power, and diversity. In the second part one of the panelists spoke about dialogue not as a methodology but rather an attitude. True dialogue cannot go on if we see ourselves at different levels, as Christians, we cannot share the good news if we think we have power over another.

For the third part I was in a small group with two women from Sierra Leone and another from England.  I learned a lot from our discussion on what histories we do and do not know. The women from Sierra Leone knew very well how their country was related to England and the fact that the Queen may not be coming for Sierra Leone’s upcoming Independence Day. The woman from England wondered why a country once colonized by the English would want to see the Queen and they responded they would like her to be there so she can see the improvements they have made as a country. It was beautiful to be a part of and witness a new understanding through dialogue.  Also, from that conversation and sharing in the large group we discussed how notions on singular identities limit who we truly are and deny our complete and whole humanity.

We had a delicious lunch both in taste and conversation. Every person I have met is so excited, energized, and ready to empower other through sharing and hearing stories. Following lunch we talked more depth about advocacy. This year’s theme at the UNCSW is access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. We broke into small groups and looked at different sections in the agreed conclusions that will result from the CSW. We are looking at language and ideas that need to stay or may be missing. The group I was in looked at making science and technology responsive to women’s needs. We went through the six subsections and added a few words and tried to clarify meanings. The intention being we will pass this information on to our member state consultant (I don’t know if that is their real title) which would show up in the final version of the agreed conclusions of the 55th Commission on the Status of Women.

The orientation ended with an energized service in the Church Center’s chapel complete with tambourines and shakers.

Following some of us in the EYAD went to Time Square to rush tickets for the evening. The holiday weekend sent us another direction but as we walked around Time Square I was not sure if I had ever seen so many beautiful people in one day, all the people at the day’s orientation and so many people in Time Square. I am used to looking at trees, sky, and water but instead was looking at all the different people that were in NYC at that moment.  We ended up going out to dinner and thought I knew my etiquette but froze up a little (as in about one second as the company is quite an enjoyable and non-judgmental bunch, including Michelle who I was so excited to here has hosted a Harry Potter murder mystery party) when I may have sent my knife back too early (this mistake I can only blame myself for), but after having the s’more bread pudding I did not have too many concerns about anything! I hope that we all dream sweetly after that.


by P'tricia Egbert, Diocese of Kentucky

Even though we have only been together for 24 hours, I am filled with ideas about what to discuss about my time with the Episcopal Young Adult Delegation. Today, the EYAD went to the Ecumenical Woman's orientation and our time was filled with discussion, prayer and planning. During our morning liturgy, we discussed the question, who determines advancement? And despite mental time given to this question I am still without an answer...

At the Commission on the Status of Women, it is easy to drown in language. But in my mind, this should have been an easy question. I know the term 'advancement', I know what it means and how to use it. However, despite this knowledge, I can not connect it back to how social advancement is determined. In my mind, it would be a social advancement if all major cities provided easy, accessible and affordable public transit, but I am sure there are people that would disagree with me. 

So while I ponder this question, I invite other to ponder with me. To take a moment and analyze who in our society determines our advancement. Is it people who set public policy? Is it advertisers who tell us that we all need the newest phone to compete with our friends? Who? 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Giving Birth to God

By Shannon Preston, Diocese of Minnesota

The EYAD is now almost here in full force. We arrived from near and far throughout the day. For some this is their first time in NYC while others frequent and even live in the city. We have biologists, teachers, youth ministers, students, but we also all seem to be very excited about being here and getting started at the CSW. It’s only been a day but community is forming quickly.

Our first activity was dinner with the other young adult delegations that will participate with Ecumenical Women. There were young adults from all over the world and we introduced ourselves, had dinner, and then began reflections on the scripture passage we will keep close to us this week: Romans 5:1-6. We discussed its history, theology and how it can be applied to our time at the CSW. It also prompted discussion about self and other, access, and what we boast about as Christians. The passage talks about how faith is our access from suffering to endurance to character to hope. We discussed privilege, and erasing a sense of otherness. My small group talked about our access to bring hope to suffering through our faith and grace from God and hospitality.

Jason asked the last reflection question what we boast can boast about as Christians. On the flight from Minneapolis I sat next to a woman who had a book about the Divine Feminine. We talked about the Divine Feminine and as I looked in her book there was a line from Meister Eckhart, “I must become Mary and give birth to God.” I responded to the group that Christianity can give birth to God. We thought that is something that could/should be boasted about. We discussed how Christianity can often be viewed as negative in communities we may be a part of and how we can bring hope to that as well.

The EYAD reconvened for a closing at our hotel then many of us got subway tickets for the week. Later that evening, a few of us gathered around a table in the Seafarer’s and got to know each other a little, talked about the church and why people don’t attend, what could attract people. There is a wealth of knowledge within our delegation and I look forward to see what our group will learn and respond to the rest of the week. We have a great gift and all bring such beautiful gifts, interests, and stories. We start early tomorrow for an all day orientation with the Ecumenical Women and rest seems like a good thing to try and stay caught up with (it may be easier said than done).

2011 Delegates Arrive

Today the 2011 Episcopal Young Adult Delegation arrives in New York City to participate in the 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Gathered from the dioceses of Connecticut, Idaho, Long Island, Louisiana, Minnesota, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Northern California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Los Angeles, these delegates bring with them a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and aspirations. They are students and teachers, church workers and secular professionals, newly minted Episcopalians and life long church-goers, and they are all between the ages of 20 and 26.

Their journey to New York is one of hope and adventure. Many of them have never been to New York, most have only limited exposure to the work of the United Nations and the Episcopal Church's commitment and participation in that work. Our hope here is to walk with them in exploring the relationship between their faith and justice on a personal, denominational, and international scale. They will interact with delegates and women of faith from around the world as well as leaders from our own church including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Canon Chuck Robertson, Co-director of Mission at the Episcopal Church Center Margaret Rose and other Episcopal Church Center staff.

Through exposure, reflection and action these young adults will witness first hand the work being done and the work yet to be done by and behalf of women around the globe. From maternal health to women in the workforce, from domestic violence to the rights of sexual minorities, the course of their New York journeys will depend on their interests and the movement of the Holy Spirit. We invite you to follow along and share this journey with them over the next week. Keep them in your prayers and please post your own thoughts and questions so that we can share this incredible journery as one body.