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🚺 Hearing Women's Voices

C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels
Greetings Friends,
Today, I’ve invited my good friend and collaborator Ashley Wilcox to share with you about some of the work she is doing around listening to women’s voices in the Bible.
Ashley is a Quaker minister, preaching instructor, church planter, and all around rad person who I think you all should meet. She and I have worked on numerous projects together and Ashley is among the inner circle of people I check in with when I am in need of inspiration and spiritual wisdom. I think you’ll find her story below about preaching as a woman and writing the work she is doing with women in the Bible inspiring.
Ashley, thank you for writing this for us.
Query for reflection:
  • Whose voices are going unheard in our communities today?
Feel free to respond to this email or jump into the telegram channel to discuss!

🚺 Reflection: Hearing Women's Voices
For many of us, our work is to build something we wish we’d had when we were younger. I know that is true for me. 
When I was a girl, I went to a church that never had women preach. To me, it looked like if a woman wanted to be in ministry, her options were to be a missionary, a teacher, or a pastor’s wife (in fact, I remember telling my pastor’s wife that I wanted to be a missionary teacher). 
I was bright and gifted, but there were no models of anyone who looked like me preaching. I could be up front leading music or in a play, but there was no room for women’s voices or women’s stories in the pulpit.
So much of my ministry has been in response to that lack of women preaching. I started a church where women preach called Church of Mary Magdalene. I spent the past few years writing a book called The Women’s Lectionary, a handbook for a year of preaching about women in the Bible and feminine images of God. And lately, I have been teaching and coaching women who feel called to preach.
A friend and I started Church of Mary Magdalene after I had a dream about preaching for women. In my dream, when I got up to preach, the women moved their chairs up to hear what I had to say. My co-pastor and I would trade off weeks preaching and find a guest preacher once a month. We prioritized guest preachers who were Black and queer, using the platform we had created to lift up the voices of those who don’t always get opportunities (and paying them for their time and work).
Church of Mary Magdalene was my first experience with weekly preaching, and I enjoyed the challenge. About a year in, I told my partner Troy that I was feeling torn between wanting to use the Revised Common Lectionary—with the community and resources that accompany it—and wanting to preach about women. Troy said, “Well, why don’t you write your own lectionary?”
This idea captured my imagination, and I spent the next several days putting together a draft of a lectionary based on women in the Bible and feminine images of God. I met with my preaching professor, Ted Smith, to discuss the idea, and he encouraged me to write commentaries for each of the passages. I used this lectionary for a year at Church of Mary Magdalene, exegeting the texts to preach on them and then turning the sermons into commentaries. 
In addition to preaching at Church of Mary Magdalene, I was preaching once a month at a local retirement community vespers. One evening after the service, a woman came up to thank me for my message. She said that she had never heard a sermon from Mary’s perspective before. “The women are there in the Bible,” she mused, “But no one ever talks about them!” 
After two years, we decided to lay down Church of Mary Magdalene, but I continued working on my book. I found that these stories about women in the Bible connected unexpectedly and discovered new ways to think about God and how God speaks to people. Incrementally, the project grew, and I finished my manuscript in December of last year. Now The Women’s Lectionary is available for preorder from Westminster John Knox Press.
At the same time, I was working as part of the teaching team for the Introduction to Preaching class at Candler School of Theology. This is a required class for seminary students, and it usually has about 50 students. As the teaching associate, I gave some lectures and led a small group of seven or eight students, listening to them preach and giving feedback on their sermons. 
I love this work. The students I connect with most tend to be women who come in saying, “I’m not sure if I want to preach.” Sometimes their denomination has told them there is no room for them, or they are afraid of public speaking. As a teacher, I watch them grow into preachers, gaining confidence as they get more experience.
These experiences in the classroom have led me to preaching coaching. Earlier this year, a seminary student asked if I would be willing to coach her in preaching. She applied for a grant and (fortunately, considering what has happened this year!) we planned to meet online. 
The structure of coaching is simple: we talk before she preaches, I watch a video of her sermon after she delivers it, and then we talk again afterward. It has been a joy to see her learn and grow over the course of our time together.
I began by saying that for many of us, our work is to build something we wish we’d had when we were younger. That has been true for me, but it’s more than that. Through all of these experiences, I have built things that I wish I’d had when I was younger, but they are also for me now. 
By writing about women in the Bible, inviting others to preach, and teaching young women who want to become better preachers, I get to hear so many women’s voices, and I get to add my own voice to the conversation.
Ashley M. Wilcox is a Quaker minister and a graduate of Candler School of Theology and Willamette University of Law. Originally from Anchorage, AK, she now lives in Atlanta with her partner and their orange cat.
Twitter: @ashleymwilcox
Preorder The Women’s Lectionary
The Women's Lectionary Paper - Ashley M. Wilcox : Westminster John Knox Press
❓Query for Personal Reflection
  • Whose voices are going unheard in our communities today?  What are those voices wanting to say?
  • What keeps us from listening? What are we afraid of hearing?
  • If you could build things you wish you had when you were younger what would that be?
🐦 Tweet Thread of the Week
c wess daniels (he/him) ✊🏼🔄
Met today in person (outside and with many precautions) for our Food and Faith class (I’m co-teaching with a colleague). This is a cross-listed religious studies and sustainable food systems class.

It was really great to see students again after 5 months.

/cc @GuilfordCollege
🔗 Dress Down Friday Links
The Banquet of Whiteness
Brooklyn Private School Vies To Bust Up Union They Claim Conflicts With "Quaker Values"
📆 Upcoming Events
Sunday August 30, 2020 6 PM EST - Freedom Church of the Poor. Check out last week’s FCOP on the topics of healthcare, Medical Apartheid, and the Good Samaritan. Live on Facebook.
💚🧠 Final Thought
I forgot how to pray
with the structured words
of my teachers
and preachers
and remembered how to dance
with the colors and moans
and songs of my ancestors
I light a candle to open the way
clear out the static and begin to
I dance around with cinnamon
and rosemary and make
magic in the kitchen
I listen with my mind relaxed like
a kitten in the sun
while the plants grow and breathe
out oxygen
to be present to this moment and not
want to skip ahead
to bloom when I bloom
to decay when I decay
to love with a heart full of roses
and a soul rooted with the slow grace
of trees, quiet and old
growing together with ferns at our feet
let me make magic
I say
—Juniper Klatt, from I was Raised in a House of Water (Fernwood Press, 2019)
Thank you Ashley for this great article this week! And thank you all for reading,
Wess Daniels
Greensboro, NC (Haw River Watershed)
☕️ Would you like to leave a tip? Visit my “Buy Me a Coffee” page for more info. (I will pass any tips onto Ashley this week). Thank you!
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C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels @cwdaniels

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