8.09.2007

College of [Women] Preachers

I'm in Washington DC, cloistered on the grounds of the National Cathedral, living and eating and worshiping with about 40 women, mostly young clergywomen. Even the not-so-young clergywomen are young. There are a handful of bloggers I've "known" for a couple years now, and it has been fascinating to translate pixelated relationships into fully dimensional ones. I usually get superlatively shy at conferences like this, even less sure of who I am when I'm in a group of people presumably like me. But not this time. Everyone is bright and funny and prophetic and welcoming. The food is delectable, the dormitory serene (though also unbearably hot at times).

I miss Ben and Atticus. It's odd to me that we Persheys are separated by halves this week - the baby's with me.

The subject of the week is preaching, specifically preaching-as-testimony. But not the "I was really bad but then I got saved" version of testimony, the kind where you bear witness to what you have seen and confess what you believe about it. Parts of it really resonate with me, other parts, not so much. Along with the bashfulness reflex I also have a pretty strong contrarian impulse. When someone disses, for instance, lined paper, and sings praises of the liberating blankness of unlined paper, I get all internally defensive. I like the faint blue college rule. I crave the structure. I'm not afraid to color outside the lines if need be, but I still want the option of a framework for my words. Still, I'm not quite quite contrary this week. Just a little contrary.

The method at hand encourages play first, study last. Don't go reading commentaries until you've played with the text on your own. I'm an old-fashioned girl, I guess, because I do a heck of a lot of reading - exegetical articles, commentaries, sermons - before I start carving out my own interpretation. My imagination doesn't wake up until I've listened in on how others imagine the text. It's kind of like how you absolutely must read poetry if you're going to write poetry; it is sacrilege to ignore the pens of other writers. But during the discussion time, I shared my experience, and it was heard and received with understanding.

Speaking of poetry, we've read some phenomenal poetry this week. The prof is a firm believer in the similarity between poetics and homiletics, a comparison that makes sense to me in a hundred different ways.

This afternoon we preach sermons that were hastily written within the last twenty-four hours. By far my favorite part of the conference is the opportunity to listen to other preacher girls do their thing.

And now the chimes have sounded for lunch. Will there be more homemade cobbler?

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