Streams Run Uphill: Highlighting Other Voices

Streams Run Uphill: Highlighting Other Voices


This week Jim Kast-Keat of Thirty Seconds or Less will be hosting the writers’ voices of Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Clergywomen of Color .

“Where streams run uphill, there a woman rules.” -Ethiopian proverb

After Making Paper Cranes I found myself desperate to uncover the meaningful and pertinent experiences of the rare but growing number of other clergywomen. I needed to know that I wasn’t totally alone in this journey. I needed to hear from the ones that looked like me. Those that are other in that they are non-Anglo. Those seen as exotic, foreign, and mysterious.

Some have accents. Some look and sound “American.” Some look incredibly young. Some are bilingual. Some are quiet. Some are vociferous. Some are incredible preachers. Some have a healing pastoral presence. Some are mothers. Some are single. Some are gay. Some are recent immigrants. Some are second or third generation. They serve in Asian American, African American, and Spanish-speaking congregations, or, like me, they serve congregations that look nothing like them. I hungered for the life-giving words that came from our unique calling and the acknowledgment of the distinct challenges we faced from the moment we decided to say, “Lord, here I am. Send me.”

Because there are times I question whether or not my call is as real as others around me – those who seem to have the unwavering support of their congregations and communities, those who seem to have little struggle beyond the “usual” in ministry, those who look so comfortable in their robes and in the pulpit.

All of us – the writers – felt it behooved us to share a little glimpse of the struggle – that perhaps this would be an encouragement for women of color pursuing the call to ministry, but also women of color in any leadership type position in whatever context, and even the congregations who are led by women of color. I grow increasingly convinced that women of color voices need to be centered in the kingdom of God, and that the way to a deeper faithfulness by the church is to position themselves towards these lives and perspectives.

Thank you again to Jim Kast-Keat who provided the space and inspiration for these voices this week:

Larissa Kwong Abazia
Yana Pagan
Laura Cheifetz
LeQuita Hopgood Porter
Cheni Khonje

Any Day A Beautiful Change: Book Review

I have a habit of starting many books at once, and usually taking more than a year to finish them. I’d recently started reading Mary Karr’s Lit, Anne Lamott’s Some Assembly Required, Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works, Marian Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project and have a long way to go in most of them. This can’t be blamed on pregnancy or mom-brain. It’s always been this way.

But, when I ordered Katherine Willis Pershey’s debut book Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family on Kindle a couple days ago I couldn’t put it down. Like how I eat these days because of the twins – I inhaled it. I shovelled, gorged, and stuffed my face with it.

There are a number of precious nuggets in this, and the ones that spoke to me the most were the ways being clergy, mother, wife, and woman overlapped in meaningful ways. Nursing was a challenge in the beginning for me – namely enduring the pain without cursing anything and everything out.

That her blessing pained me for a time … well, yes. That’s how it works. Long after I first wrestled with those doctrines in classrooms and chapels, I’ve finally learned that there’s no way for the bread to be broken and the wine to be spilled without someone’s body and blood taking a hit. It isn’t that the pain is redemptive. The pain is redeemed.

I, too, have reflected often this year on the theme of communion in motherhood, and remember conversations with friend and fellow-clerywoman Erica telling me her first reflections on the words “take and eat” in conjunction with nursing Emma almost 7 (8?) years ago. Katherine says this perfectly for me.

Likewise, the season of Advent, and the thought of Mary as Theotokos, and being saved by/through childbearing is poignant:

I am one woman who has been saved – at least in part – by childbearing. Not just the childbearing that Mary undertook to bring the newborn Christ into the world, but the childbearing I did to bring the newborn Juliette into the world. Her birth opened something in me, and while that opening is a magnet for fear – and oh, what a risk it is to love so completely – it is also an invitation to greater faith, love, and holiness. But salvation will never cause me to be silent, not redemption of my soul by Jesus or the rescuing of my spirit by Juliette.

Something about this resonates so deeply, I think the way it embraces the birth imagery, which is undeniably a part of our faith, not only from creation and the “birth” of the world, and the birth of Christ, but re-birth in baptism, and birth in resurrection. It calls me to also courageously embrace this language for my own faith.

Finally, the theme of enjoying this life in a new way:

Practice resurrection (Wendell Berry). For me, this means forcing myself to be brave enough to enjoy simple pleasures with my family…I breathe…I invite the real God, the God of love, to banish my fear…

All of this came together for me in those words: practice resurrection. Practice overcoming. Practice struggling through hell and heaven. Practice fear conquering love. Practice a love so tangible the grave couldn’t drown it.

Please get this book! Whether you are clergy or not, woman or not, married or not, it is incredibly beautiful. And will be useful for your own reflection on being open to those beautiful changes in your life that happen any day.

Katherine Willis Pershey is the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family and blogs here

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