A Day With Sarah Bessey
This weekend my husband and I attended Church On Morgan’s Conference “Jesus Feminist: A Day With Sarah Bessey”.
Sarah is a hero of mine. Her book ‘Jesus Feminist’ has been a breath of freedom and comfort in my faith journey and ‘Out Of Sorts’ has given language to my time of questioning and wondering. I have underlined words and sentences on nearly every page of her books, rereading the most thought provoking portions.
Raleigh, NC is the closest Sarah has been to where I live so Will and I got up early on Saturday morning and made the drive. When we walked into the church the first things that caught my attention were: the coolness of the space (art is obviously viewed as a worship form here), the number of men gathered and what looked like a sea of pixie hair cuts on women as young as 20 to beyond 70 years old. I guessed I had assumed my new haircut was a unique… not so much. On the upside I think I’ve found my “tribe”.
We had a time of worship, and then Sarah got up to speak about her book ‘Jesus Feminist’. There is a seamlessness between her writing, speaking and face to face conversing. She is the same person online, on pages and standing right beside you. No airs. No celebrity vibes or haughtiness. “You all have so much to teach me”, she began her talk. It was this same heart of humility that was present all the way through the weekend.
Sarah spoke about why she calls her self a Jesus feminist and on bringing the way of the Kingdom here on earth. Then she closed by speaking the benediction from her first book over all of us. Reading the benediction is moving but hearing it spoken was powerful.
At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people too.
One needn’t identify as a feminist to participate in the redemptive movement of God for women in the world. The gospel is more than enough. …But as long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as along as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion and abandonment and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.
Sarah mediated a thought provoking panel discussion with four women from Church On Morgan on the topic of Christian feminism. I enjoyed the diversity of experience on the panel including the varied ages and ethnicities. There was a woman who was a nonprofit founder, another who was a retired OBGYN doctor, a life coach and a humanitarian worker. The women spoke about their experiences, faith, hopes, dreams and the work for equality in each of these fields.
After the panel discussion we got in line for the book signing. Meeting Sarah made me a bit nervous, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. I pretty much ended up choking out a teary-eyed “thank you” for the influence she has had on me and my faith journey. She gave me a hug and spoke some kind words. She is one of those people that you walk away from feeling heard, cared for and understood. Talking with her makes you feel as if you've met a new friend instead of a globe traveling author and speaker.
Sarah had been asked to preach during Church On Morgan’s Sunday worship service the following day so Will and I stayed in town to hear her. She was very honest about her faith journey, the questions, the fears, the pain, the feeling of losing Jesus and then finding a closer relationship with Him. It’s not every day you hear a sermon about uncertainty and not knowing. I could identify closely with her experience of having it all fall apart and realizing Jesus was still right there with me loving me through the questions.
Will and I greatly enjoyed the service at Church On Morgan. The authenticity was striking. The line between the staff pastors and the congregants seemed so thin that it was almost nonexistent. Their welcoming spirit and hospitality was strong and that was shown in their weekly communion table. It was deeply moving for me to see floods of little children (and later adults) streaming to the front of the contemporary room accepting the the elements with ancient words, “Christ’s body broken for you”, “Christ’s blood shed for you”.
I was thankful to experience the entire weekend. I was thankful to see both men and women celebrated in full equality. I was thankful to see male pastors sporting Jesus Feminist pins. I was thankful to see male congregants being anything but intimidated as they listened to a female speaker and preacher. I was thankful for my own empowering husband who sat beside me, smiling and taking in the weekend. I was thankful to see the unity between believers from differing faith traditions. I was thankful to see the Holy Spirit moving through both feminine and masculine bodies. I was thankful for to hear the words spoken over and over again, “you are loved and you are free”.