I finally found my people

Kristin Wood Hasselblad is a life-long nature and animal lover. Following that love, she earned degrees in Wildlife Biology (Bachelor of Science) and Raptor Biology (Master of Science). She decided to check out her local Mennonite church after reading a creation care book published by Mennonites, and has been attending there for the last 13 years. She currently lives with her husband on a small sustainable farm in the Rocky Mountains, where she homeschools her two girl-fairie animal lovers, bringing them up in as much peace and kindness as she can muster, as she nurtures their natural love for the earth and God. This is the third in a series of posts featuring reflections from participants in the recent Women Doing Theology conference, I’ve got the power! 

Twelve years ago I had an awakening. You might say I was in spiritual growth spurt (read: crisis) in my life.

After being Christian my entire life, I started feeling like I just couldn’t relate to Christianity much anymore, largely because biblical language is so patriarchal, and in places seems to discourage women’s rights. I just didn’t feel there was much for me there anymore, as a woman.

During that time, I did a lot of reading and found and devoured Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I was taken captive by her words and the concept of the feminine divine that is older than any religion, and continues to breathe life into lifeless places, whispering in the souls of so many disaffected women. She is found in the Bible, although in a more hidden way than the male images for God that are found easily there. She goes by names such as Sophia, Hochma, and Holy Spirit. This was an awakening to me. I fell in love with this feminine divine, Sophia who, “as a feminine image of divinity, interrogates the patriarchal demands of hierarchy, binaries, and oppression, liberating the church to amplify its prophetic voice and move toward d justice.”[1]

At the time, I kept most of those ideas to myself. I didn’t know anyone who might be interested in sharing this experience with me, and frankly I was scared of being labeled as a heretic. For ten years I stayed fairly silent on the topic even though it stayed in my heart. I did share my experience with my pastor and she was understanding, but within our context it felt difficult to create space for those like us whose images of God were expanding to include images outside of traditional patriarchal models. We continued to meet occasionally which was helpful and encouraging, but I longed for more.

Ten years later, I was reading Kidd’s book again. And on our church’s annual afternoon river trip and potluck, I got to talking with my friend Pam. We hadn’t really talked much about patriarchy before, but this particular afternoon, we ended up sharing with each other some of our personal struggles with living in a patriarchal world. We shared about how in different ways patriarchy has affected us and even influenced our faith, and I suggested that she might enjoy Kidd’s book.

When Pam read it, she was as moved and enthralled as I had been. Together, with the blessing of our pastor, and help from some on the worship team, we planned a church service in honor of the Goddess we’d found in the Bible. We gave a sermon together on the topic, and all of the worship songs that day referred to God as She. It was marvelous! Many in the congregation expressed their appreciation of the service.I was delighted to encounter openness to different ways of seeing and experiencing God from others within the congregation.

But collective change is hard, and takes time. Transitioning from traditional patriarchal language for God and people to more inclusive language within the context of worship is a slow process, as with changing any long-held habit or custom. And this left us feeling a bit stuck as to what to do next.

We wondered what sort of Christian or Mennonite resources might be available to us to help us continue this journey.

As we did more research, we came across the notes from the 2014 Women Doing Theology (WDT) conference. It seemed rather distant to us since the majority of Mennonites are on the East Coast, and we are far from there. For me personally, I have never met or known any Mennonites outside of our rather isolated, small church community. But when we read about the 2014 WDT conference, we knew we had found our people! A group of Mennonites not afraid to acknowledge there is a female side to the Biblical God, and give praise to Her accordingly, with words, out loud, together. And then, we saw notices for I’ve Got the Power!, we knew we had to be there.

At the conference, I met one fascinating sister after another. I really hadn’t known what to expect. I met so many young women, queer women, women of color, older women too. Women with (what was, in my day, called) “punk-styled” and brightly colored hair. People who did not meet the stereotypical Mennonite physical description. And there were pastors there that met all of these descriptors too. It blew my mind, and made me so very happy. We got to hear a talk on Sophia, participate in body prayer (think yoga-like moves with prayer), singing about God as She without feeling strange or like we were doing something wrong. I listened to powerful women of color speak out about their experiences, in life and in the church. I learned a lot about sexual assault, what it actually is, and how the Mennonite church is dealing with the assault occurring inside its borders. I learned that some of my own experiences, experiences I have carried with me for years, fall under the category of assault. No wonder they weigh so heavily on me.

We headed home on our cross-country flight on election day. Arriving home to my couch at 10 p.m., I was slapped in the face with the national election results. It felt so heartbreaking and ironic to have had this uplifting, diversity-embracing, female-friendly, loving experience, only to come home to find that our country had elected an executive branch that seems to be rather blatantly fighting these very values. It turned everything upside down. After a night and day of deep grieving, I realized I needed to stand up and get to work. As moms especially, we just have to keep going. We don’t get the luxury of wallowing in our sadness for very long.

I’m not gonna lie, grief and despair assail me regularly, but I also feel more brave and empowered than ever.

The timing of this conference could not have been better. By seeing and hearing what these women did, and continue to do, I know I am not alone. There is something inside me — a mix of ridiculous hope, anger and humility — that is driving me forward to work for the causes of the downtrodden and to speak out like never before.

Up until now, I was still afraid to really speak my mind about many things. But I realize in this moment, it is needed more than ever. The world needs to know our truths, women’s truths, my truth. I have finally found a faith I can call my own, and for the first time feel like I can proudly call myself a Mennonite. Thank you sisters!!

______________________

[1] “Sophia at the Crossroads: Dismantling Patriarchy through the Wisdom of the Biblical Goddess” Chris Hoover Seidel, presented at I’ve got the power! Naming and reclaiming power as a force for good, November 2016

Official comments policy for users of Mennonite Church USA’s websites and other social networking tools. We reserve the right to remove any comment that violates this policy.

  • The purpose of comments is to engage in constructive dialogue.
  • Please provide your own full name.
  • Be respectful. If you’re offering criticism, focus on others’ ideas — not their motives, person, character or faith. Consider the log in your own eye before pressing ‘Enter.’

Comments are moderated. Comments with any content that is deemed obscene, libelous, defamatory or hateful toward an individual or group will not be approved. Comments will remain open for 10 days.


5 thoughts on “I finally found my people

  1. Lovely post. Thank you for showing me that the Mennonite church can be open to embracing different understandings of God.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story and making the long trek to the east to find your sisters. Now you can plan a similar conference in the west.

Comments are closed.