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Heali ng Jairus' Daughter
Roberta Nobleman (center) and Linda Telesco (lying) portray healing of Jairus’ daughter.

Healing Gender Issues

“Today we face a crisis of imagination and creativity with regard to women’s reality in our Church” said Sr. Mary Whited, introducing the well attended Women in Church Leadership: Healing Gender Issues pre-conference workshop at the November national Call to Action conference in Milwaukee. “I believe that re-imagining these relationships is key to healing the pain that results from current destructive patterns of relating.” A turning point for Whited came after being denied entrance to the Holy Sepulcher because of her gender even though she was leading the pilgrimage: “... I wept. I held in my person all women, from every culture and any era, who have been excluded from entrance into holy space simply because they were women.”

FutureChurch’s Sr. Christine Schenk spoke about the biblical witness of mutuality between women and men: “My goal today is to provide a small taste of the important healing work being done by contemporary female (and not a few male) biblical scholars. For the first time, women are uncovering our place in sacred history and discovering our responsibility ...to become part of, interpret and make sacred history...”
Schenk reviewed Phyllis Trible’s revolutionary Genesis interpretation in God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality. The word “Adam” (or h’adam), contrary to popular belief, is not a proper name for the first male human but is more correctly translated as “earth creature.” Biblically, the first human represented all humanity, not just male humans. Differentiation into male (is) and female (issa) came later.

closing prayer
Sr. Mary Whited (left) and Roberta Nobleman give closing prayer. Sr. Mary wears mulicolored “mantle of God’s care.”

Schenk then turned to Exodus: “Most of us think of Exodus as Charlton Heston and Yul Bryner duking it out. We never hear about the Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah, but if it weren’t for them, Moses never would have seen the light of day.” Because the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh's edict to kill baby Hebrew boys, the nation, even though enslaved, grew strong and prospered.

“We see Miriam creatively figuring out a way to help Moses thrive at his own mother’s breast.” Schenk said. “She is helped by someone who isn’t even Hebrew, the Pharaoh’s daughter. So we see a community of women valuing the life of the people and being very creative. They ask how can we sustain life...continue life...choose life...not only for women, but for men?”

The afternoon’s special performance piece Midwifery! throws new and touching light on Jesus’ special valuing of women and their creative birthing energy. Developed by writer and actress Roberta Nobleman, who was ably aided by dancer, Linda Telesco, the play contains three vignettes from the Christian scriptures. These are told through the eyes of Peter’s wife, “Sarah,” a midwife who is now in Rome helping “to birth the new Church.” Prominently featured props included a real birthing stool “a red tent,” and two brightly colored hand made cloaks illustrating Sophia-God’s all encompassing care.

“Sarah” asks: “what are you laboring with today?” and recruits willing helpers to tell the story of Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother in law, the woman with the issue of blood (aptly named “Flo”) and the bent over woman. The performance was interspersed with reflective music and dance inviting both song and movement from the audience.

A special ritual of healing concluded the day. Participants came forward to touch the birthing stool or one of the multicolored mantles of God’s care. They could either stand silently or voice some situation in need of healing. “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace,” they are told before closing with a full hearted rendition of Bernadette Farrell’s Every Day God.

Participants celebrate healing and connectedness with colorful streamers and song.


Fall 2003



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