30 December 2013

January 8 Teleconference "Talking Taboo" Part One

WATER's Feminist Conversations in Religion Series Presents
"Talking Taboo"
Part One
An hour-long teleconference with
Robyn Henderson Espinoza
Erin Lane
Enuma C. Okoro
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
1 pm - 2 pm EST

     The book, Talking Taboo, edited by Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro, is creating lots of conversation. WATER is excited to feature two teleconferences to start 2014 by looking at the issues many people consider taboo. Join editors Erin Lane and Enuma C. Okoro, and author Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, and let's "talk taboo."
      Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (una Tejana y queermeztiz@) is currently finishing a PhD in philosophical ethics. She identifies as a Christian Agnostic. Robyn’s research interests reside in interrogating the Mestizaje Body, particularly its materiality. Robyn uses Critical Spatiality, Queer Theories, and the Thought & Theories of Gloria Anzaldúa to conceive of a much more robust notion of bodies. Robyn's website is and she blogs
     Erin Lane, MTS, is a communication strategist for faith-based authors and organizations. She provides marketing consultation and program development for clergy and congregational leaders in her work with the Center for Courage & Renewal. She is an active board member of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. She blogs about the intersection of her faith and feminism at
     Enuma Okoro is an award-winning writer. Raised on three continents Okoro's diverse background is central to how she understands her work as a writer, speaker, and educator. She focuses on issues of spirituality, culture and women's narratives, and race and identity. Her work has been featured on ABC's Good Morning America, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, CNN and NPR. Her website can be found at
     A recommended resource is the book Talking Taboo, in particular the following chapters:
- "Naughty by Nature, Hopeful by Grace," by Enuma C. Okoro, pp. 13-18
- "Married without Children," by Erin Lane, pp. 27-34
- "Tattooing My Faith," by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, pp. 158-162
     Email "Register Me Teleconference" to in order to receive dial-in information.
"Talking Taboo" Part Two with Grace Biskie, Gina Messina-Dysert, Tara Woodard-Lehman, and Katey Zeh will be on February 5th at 1:00PM EST.

27 December 2013

New Year Blessing From WATER

We wish you abundant blessings as you celebrate the new year.
We thank you for the many ways you work for justice, especially your support for WATER.
We assure you that you are well accompanied by many committed colleagues.
We embrace you in the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual.
We extend to you a greeting of peace.
With best wishes,
            Mary Signature 2011                     Diann Signature 2011                    Cathy
Mary E. Hunt     Diann L. Neu     Cathy Jaskey

19 December 2013

December Ritual: Winter Solstice by Diann L. Neu

December Ritual: 
Winter Solstice
by Diann L. Neu
Celebrating the Winter Solstice
December 21, the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, is the longest night and shortest day of the year. Darkness and light realign to call the sun from the womb of night.
The word “solstice” derives from the Latin sol meaning “sun” and statum meaning “to stand still.” It reflects what we see at dawn on the first days of winter when the sun seems to pause for several minutes in its passage across the sky.
Virtually all cultures have their own ways of marking the Winter Solstice using the imagery of light: lighting candles on a menorah, placing candles or lights on a Christmas tree, burning a Yule log, decorating houses with extra lights. Each effort beseeches the sun to return again.
This is a time to honor the sweet darkness, to praise the new light, and to gaze at the full moon. It is a season to see the stark trees and barren lands, to hear the quiet and silence, to smell fires burning, feel the blustery wind, enjoy the snow, and drink hot cider to warm us inside. This is a time to lie fallow and discover the mysteries that lie in darkness, including our own.
Winter invites a long journey inward to draw on natural resources and strengths. The starkness of the environment can bring inner clarity. The structure of the tree and the shape of the land are revealed as they are freed from vegetation. So too, we see our souls in stark outline.
We participate with Earth in this sacred cycle: death preparing for rebirth, emptying to make space for the new, light receding and returning. We rest and hibernate. We ponder and dream as darkness turns into new life.
Savor darkness for a few minutes. Turn out the lights. Sit in the quiet of darkness, and listen reflectively for two minutes.
Lighting Winter Solstice Candles
Light four candles to welcome women’s light into the world.
Light the first candle to honor young women who challenge us to new awarenesses.
Light the second candle in solidarity with middle-aged friends who work for peace and justice, especially gender equality.
Light the third candle to remember the elders who share their joy and pass on their resources.
Light the fourth candle for those who have died this year.
Inviting Our Light to Shine
When you celebrate the winter solstice,
May your light shine.
When you share love,
May your light shine.
When you work for peace,
May your light shine.
When you teach a child about justice,
May your light shine.
When you comfort someone who is ill,
May your light shine.
When you grieve the loss of a loved one,
May your light shine.
When you are challenged to change,
May your light shine.
When you (add your own intention here),
May your light shine.
Bless yourself with the light.
Your light will shine.

Taking Action
. Honor the solstice with an hour of intentional silence.
. Offer seeds to winter birds.
. Watch the sunrise o
r sunset and give thanks for the darkness and the light.
. Bring back the light by volunteering in your community.
. Read a book you have set aside, or see a film you missed when it first came out.
. Donate to a charity to help others find the light.
. Share something from your closet with those who need it.
. Add a place at your table and invite a friend to join you for a festive meal.
Sharing the Light
The light always returns. Of this we can be sure.
Happy Winter Solstice!
© Diann L. Neu, co-founder and co-directior of WATER,
Winter Solstice Ritual 2013

Notes from December Teleconference with Keri Day, "Is Moral Economy Possible?"

Notes on WATER Teleconference with Dr. Keri Day
"Is Moral Economy Possible?" Wednesday, December 18, 2013

            WATER is grateful to Dr. Keri Day for her time and talent in discussion questions of economics and religion. Her book, Unfinished Business: Black Women, the Black Church, and the Struggle to Thrive in America (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012), is a good starting point for understanding her powerful perspective. The following notes are meant to augment the audio version. They are not a verbatim transcript.

            Dr. Day began by outlining the background and debates transpiring in Christian ethics and economics. The question is whether economics and Christian ethics can talk, that is, do they have meaningful overlap in vocabulary and goals? Many economists see economic theory as neutral with a self-regulating market and no ethical control. Irrational, non-economic variables are not seen as affecting economic exchange. Economists act as if cash is enough to motivate people.

Theologians/ethicists say people are always dealing with norms and values. Catholic social teaching and Protestant social ethics deal with values. From that perspective, work is not reduced to economic exchange but seen as vocation, related to God. So religious studies challenge economic understandings on what it means to be human.

            The question “Is Moral Economy Possible? is not so much a theological but an  economic/anthropological question. For example, food prices are a moral issue. In her new work, Dr. Day is looking at four social movements of women of color, two Protestant and two Catholic.

1. Sister Song in Atlanta, Georgia focused on reproductive justice for women of color

2.  The Circle for Concerned African Women founded by Mercy Oduyoye in Ghana to develop liberative African feminist literature for greater gender justice

3. Madres y Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina to oppose the 1976 dictatorship and find the children/grandchildren kidnapped by the military

4. The Greenbelt Movement in Kenya that works on reforesting as part of the process of development

These women and organizations enable us to “dream dangerously” that a moral economy is possible. Poor women of color confront market values with new visions and commitments. They respond to distorted values with new, inclusive, justice-seeking ones. They offer clues about how to think about the beloved community, and how to think about participatory economics vs. the free market.

Discussion followed.
1. One questioner asked if Dr. Day had had a chance to raise her concerns at a recent White House consultation to which she had been invited.  

Keri replied that she did not. It was mostly a listening session on economics and religious freedom abroad. She would have wanted to have more time spent on the kinds of questions she is raising. Women of color are too often rendered invisible and inaudible. No spaces exist to have this kind of conversation. Both in the current administration and in the Black Church she notes the same dynamic: needs related to basic survival go unaddressed. There is rhetoric in support of the safety and well being of Black women, but when it comes to practice or spaces where women can be heard there is very little. Dr. Day left the White House meeting with a new understanding of the seriousness of her own work. There is also a need to do it in community as mujerista theological scholars like the late Ada Maria Isasi Diaz proved.

2. Another participant asked about theological identity and message of the groups that Dr. Day is researching. Where does God show up in social movements when looking for a preferable future through social activism?

Dr. Day talked about her new project, tentatively entitled Cooperative Virtues: Global Feminist Approaches to Moral Economy. All four movements have cooperative virtues. This is not cooperation in the sociological sense of a means to an end. Rather, cooperation is seen as a vocation, something that was part of earliest church communities. Cooperation is a moral end in itself; it is participation in the life of God.

3.  The moderator inquired about cooperatives. Are they important for women of color in their organizing?
Dr. Day affirmed them with the proviso that there is still much thinking on a structural level that needs to happen. She emphasized that cooperatives might not address larger structural questions on how wealth is unequally created and distributed.  These larger structural questions need to be pursued alongside cooperative enterprises. She cited Michael Albert’s work as useful. Albert, Michael, and Robin Hahnel. The Political Economy of Participatory Economics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.) PARECON, participatory economics, is a movement that is making inroads.

4. One more participant asked what religious groups could do with regard to the economic questions.
Keri said that many churches have been hindered by neo-liberal models. Success is determined by how an individual achieves success. But that dynamic does not take into account that all are born with initial endowments. These endowments can be social helps or obstacles to reaching goals. She mentioned the work of William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, as a resource for thinking about these questions. She said that some churches feel no responsibility for people who are poor. The merger of free market thinking and a certain reading of the Gospel leaves aside many people. Prosperity Gospel theology claims that God’s favor is upon those who prosper materially while those who are poor do not enjoy God’s favor. But Dr. Day is hopeful based on her reading of the Gospel from the underside. Churches have to listen to the needs of the poor.

5. The moderator inquired about the current budget wrangling and whether there is hope in any of the current legislative work for more economic justice.
Dr. Day cited the passage of the Affordable Care Act and certain programs for women and children who are poor as examples of forward movement. Citizens need to be vigilant in keeping the government honest in this arena. But with 80% of the country’s wealth in the hands of a few people, there are simply many who are still poor. We need conversation on structural matters and policy recommendations based on an asset-building approach to make real change.

WATER thanks Dr. Keri day and looks forward to her new book.

18 December 2013

3rd Annual Spiritual Gathering for All Women

Save the Date! 
3rd Annual Spiritual Gathering for All Women  
Friday June 13th through Sunday June 15th, 2014
Retreat and Conference Center at Bon Secours, Marriottsville, MD (near Baltimore) 
Sponsored by Women of DignityUSA and Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) 
This retreat is a time to focus on saints and saintliness.
We will look at the valuable lives of women,
with special attention to lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, including our own lives.
There will be ample time for rest, recreation, conversation, prayer, and socializing in a lovely setting.
For more information contact:; DignityUSA office 800.877.8797 or Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) waterstaff@waterwomensalliance.org301.589.2509

17 December 2013

January 6 WATER Meditation/Contemplative Prayer

book of mary
Contemplative Prayer at WATER and by Telephone
Monday, January 6, 2014
7:30 PM (EST)
Our next gathering for Contemplative Prayer at WATER will be with Mary E. Hunt using a poem from British theologian and poet Nicole Slee on “Faithfulness” on Monday, January 6, 2014, at 7:30 PM (EST).
WATER offers a regular contemplative prayer opportunity each month. This is a communal meditation, a time of silence and reflection followed by a short discussion.
RSVP by sending an email with the words “Register Me Contemplative” to or call 301.589.2509 so that we can expect you. If you wish to join by phone, please indicate that so we can send you the phone-in number.
The office will be open at 7 PM (EST) for tea and conversation. Silence will commence promptly at 7:30 PM, so please be here by then. We will finish and be on our way by 8:30 PM.
Parking is free in the garage behind the office after 7 PM. The front door of the building has a phone entry system; find “WATER” and dial the office to be buzzed in. Or, dial 0310 and that should work.
All are welcome. Some of us have been involved in the Engaging Impasse process ( ), which combines meditation with community dialogue. No experience required! Just come with a contemplative spirit. Your presence will enrich us all. Donations are always welcome.

12 December 2013

In Memory of Her

You can remember or honor someone special or an occasion by giving a donation in their name to WATER’s In Memory of Her Fund. You are invited to send your donation with a check and an accompanying note, or donate on our website via PayPal and send us an email to honoring your loved one.
Where does “in memory of her” come from?
According to Mark (14:9), Jesus said of the faithful woman who anointed him “and truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Church history has since conveniently forgotten her name. In Memory of Her honors people from all religious or non-religious traditions.
The following is our current list of remembrance:
From Deborah Amatulli of Suffolk, VA: In memory of Aunt Mary.
From Joe Scinto of Rockville, MD: In memory of Carol Scinto.

02 December 2013

A New Dynamic: Conversations Add Depth to Essays by Catholic Women Theologians By Mary E. Hunt

In Mexico City June 18, mothers carry posters of their daughters who disappeared in Ciudad Juárez. The marchers were demanding police investigate the cases of missing women in the border area. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
Edited by Rosemary P. Carbine and Kathleen J. Dolphin
Published by Liturgical Press, $34.95
Catholic women theologians work with abundant hope on contested turf. Women, Wisdom, and Witness: Engaging Contexts in Conversation makes clear that they need collegiality to survive. The collection of essays is divided into three sections: "Women's Experience in Context: Suffering and Resistance"; "Women's Wisdom in Context: Academic and Higher Education"; and "Women's Witness in Context: Religion and Public Life." Work of this scope does not mask the fact that there are still too few women teaching in Catholic higher education, especially at the graduate level, to make much structural difference. Still, editors Rosemary Carbine and Kathleen Dolphin have done a service to the field by publishing a volume that demonstrates the skills and commitment of more than a dozen women writers/teachers.
The essays were part of the New Voices Seminar, an annual meeting held in conjunction with the Madeleva Lecture at St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind. More than 50 young women have participated in that experience, which combines critical theological reflection with personal support. They practice the art of engaged conversation, learning to listen and learning to expect to be listened to as well.
This dynamic is reflected in a unique feature of this collection, namely, transcripts of telephone conversations among the authors that add depth to their chapters. They model how feminists are attempting to transform the ways in which we work as well as the work itself. The appended conversations help to make academic writing accessible for a broad audience. These sections make the book welcoming for students and other informed, but not necessarily expert, readers.
A chapter from each successive section shows just how effective this method can be. Nancy Pineda-Madrid offers the painful, powerful story of "Feminicide and the Reinvention of Religious Practices" in the essays on experience. She details the killing of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and other places, murders that their perpetrators carry out with impunity because women's lives are seemingly expendable.
Pineda-Madrid's theo-ethical perceptions of the crucifixion of women merit serious consideration and imaginative expressions of faith. She opens up conversation about the need to lament as part of doing justice. One can hear in her colleagues' responses the deep chord of recognition of women's suffering. There is an urgency to bring that experience into the classroom as part of feminist pedagogy.
LaReine-Marie Mosely's chapter in the second section on wisdom, "The Conundrums of Newer Catholic Women Theologians," raises equally challenging issues related to the kyriarchal Roman Catholic church. She names the problems of clericalism and chauvinism that underlie some priests' sexual abuse of children and some bishops' cover-up of those illegal actions. This is welcome work to address a monumental problem.
In the conversation section she lays out related issues. She names the racism that prevented bishops from addressing that social evil in effective and timely ways. She brings homophobia and colonialism into the mix, urging her colleagues to listen in proactive ways. Catholic theology needs more such interlocking analysis.
In the third section on witness, Rachel A.R. Bundang reflects on "Bridget Jones, Cancer Patient: On Navigating the Health Care System as a Singleton." Hopefully, the new health care laws will remedy some of the unfair complexities. But society at large and Catholic circles in particular build structures and encourage mores based on the normativity of couples, not the reality of single people, unfairly privileging the former and oppressing the latter.
Marriage and motherhood for women are so deeply ingrained in our national and Catholic psyches that many do not recognize the inherent worth and value of a person qua person. When it is a person, not a couple, that gets sick, needs care, or otherwise acts like a human being, that person can be rendered invisible. Most institutional Catholic theology has only exacerbated the problem with emphasis on narrowly constructed views of family and an also-ran attitude toward those who live alone.
Lurking beneath the surface of many of these essays was much bolder, more constructive, more creative work of which these and other Catholic women theologians are capable if they move beyond institutional boundaries. I looked for signs that they were talking with colleagues far from their Catholic campuses. I wanted to see how they were shaping their theological priorities and lifting their theological voices without regard for consequences in kyriarchal Catholic academia. I hoped that they would cast off fear that they might lose their licenses to teach (the dreaded mandatum). Alas, in many cases, I was left wanting.
Yet each of the chapters in this well-written and keenly edited collection deserves and invites further conversation. They form a new theological agenda for new voices to take on. I sincerely hope they will, and by doing so encourage others to go even further in developing feminist Catholic theologies that sparkle and glisten with spirited insight.

01 December 2013

December Ritual: Telling Love's Story On World AIDS Day By Diann L. Neu

We are all people living with HIV/AIDS−those who are infected with this virus; those who have lost loved ones; those who care for them, and every one of us struggling to eradicate this disease. HIV/AIDS has changed our lives.Some of our beloved family members and friends carry or carried in their bodies this debilitating disease. Some have been discriminated against; most have been loved deeply. Each has surely felt anger and pain, hope and fear, support and loneliness. They are here with us now, reminding us that we must respond to AIDS: with love, tears, rage, compassion, hope, and action.
Light a Candle
Remember those you know who are living with HIV and AIDS, those who have died of AIDS-related causes, all who have been affected by this disease.
I remember Shawn Sheffield who was born HIV+, lived valiantly with the virus, and died of AIDS at the age of five. The WATER community created Shawn’s wake and funeral with his adoptive Moms and made his quilt panel for The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Pray for Hope
Join your candle with many candles, many lights.
As those who keep the night watch await the dawn,
Remain vigilant
Until a cure for AIDS is found,
Until those dying with AIDS are comforted,
Until love drives out injustice,
Until compassion reigns.
Look at the Face of AIDS
We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
We are friends, partners, lovers, family, neighbors.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
We are care sharers, justice workers, health care professionals, social workers, ministers.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
We are students, teachers, parents, sisters, and brothers.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
Some of us are wise elders; some are caring adults; some are searching youth; some are wonder-filled children.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
Some of us are lesbian; some of us are gay; some of us are straight; some of us are bi; some of us are trans.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
Some of us have or might get HIV.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
Some of us feel angry and sad, fearful and fragile, vulnerable and alone.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
We are multi-colored and many cultured people, we are one world.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
All of us are people of faith, awaiting the day when AIDS is a distant memory.
Response: We know the face of AIDS. You are here, right here in our midst.
AIDS affects all of us and takes us to places where we would dare not go. How is AIDS affecting you? What love story do you tell? What would you want on your quilt panel when you die?
Remember and Respond
Compassionate Holy One, open our hearts and minds and hands so that we connect ourselves to the global community of others responding to AIDS.
We remember all those women, men and children in this country and around the world who are living with AIDS.
Response: Justice demands that we remember and respond with compassion.
We remember all who care for people living and dying with AIDS in their homes, in hospices, and in support centers.
Response: Justice demands that we remember and respond with compassion.
We remember all who are involved in research and hospital care that they may respect the dignity of each person.
Response: Justice demands that we remember and respond with compassion.
We remember all partners who are left mourning for their beloved ones.
Response: Justice demands that we remember and respond with compassion.
We remember all parents who learn the truth of their children's lives through their process of facing death.
Response: Justice demands that we remember and respond with compassion.
We remember our responsibility to eradicate this virus and the social/economic conditions that make those who are poor, young, gay, trans, women so vulnerable.
Response: Justice demands that we remember and respond with compassion.
Let us go forth to respond to AIDS: with love, tears, rage, compassion, hope, and action.
©Diann L. Neu,, co-founder and co-director of WATER.