28 November 2013

Sisterhood and Solidarity in Sweden and Iceland

L to R: Mary E Hunt of WATER, Solveig A. Bóasdóttir
of Iceland, Ann-Cathrin Jarl of Sweden
Mary E. Hunt was privileged to offer the keynote lecture at a weekend symposium on “Friendship, Theology and Sisterhood” sponsored by the Seglora Foundation and hosted by the Sigtuna Foundation in Sigtuna, Sweden, November 9-10, 2013. Participants included journalists, ministers, academics,and activists notably WATER Volunteer in Global Service, Ann-Cathrin Jarl.
In her lecture, “Love Your Friends: Feminist Relational Ethics for Solidarity,” Mary spoke of friendship as foundational to a good society. Other speakers looked at historical and philosophical issues related to friendship. Mary also gave a public lecture on “Friends Act Friendly,” encouraging people to “practice” being friends in the hope of creating a most just world.
Dr. Hunt lectured on “Post Colonial Catholicism: A U.S. Feminist Perspective,” at the Theological Institute at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. Former WATER Visiting Scholar Dr. Solveig A. Bóasdóttir is the dean of the faculty. Both Sweden and Iceland have small Catholic populations including people who seek to create new models of church.

21 November 2013

December 18 Teleconference with Keri Day

"Is Moral Economy Possible?"
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 1 pm - 2 pm EST

Dr. Keri Day is Assistant Professor of Theological and Social Ethics and the Director of the Black Church Studies Program at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. She has her B.S. in Political Science with a minor in Economics. She earned an M.A. in Religion and Ethics from Yale University and her Ph.D. in Religion from Vanderbilt University.

She is a theological educator, researcher and writer who focuses on the ways in which race, class, gender, and sexuality relate to American poverty. She looks at how faith communities can respond to socio-economic issues. Her work has been published in a number of journals including The Princeton Theological ReviewBlack Theology: An International Journal, and The Journal for the Society of Christian Ethics.

Her first book, Unfinished Business: Black Women, The Black Church, and the Struggle to Thrive in America, was published by Orbis Books in 2012. She is presently working on a second book tentatively entitled, Dreaming Dangerously: Global Feminist Approaches to Moral Economy.

Along with her scholarship, Dr. Day engages with public policy leaders. In 2011, she was the keynote speaker at the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Springfield, Illinois, highlighting the importance of interfaith dialogue within local communities. She was in a 2012 delegation that participated in the White House Religious Scholars Briefing in Washington D.C. to discuss issues related to economic policy, religious freedom, faith-based initiatives, human rights, and peace building around the world.  She has also been a commentator on KERA, NPR, and DFW/FOX News on issues related to faith and politics.

Email "Register Me Teleconference" to in order to receive dial-in information.

December 2 WATER Meditation/Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative Prayer at WATER with Geralyn McDowell
“To Know the Dark”
Monday, December 2, 2013
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. Geralyn McDowell will lead the meditation on “To Know the Dark.”
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.
The next WATER Meditation is Monday, January 6, 2014, 7:30 PM. 

Happy 90th Birthday, Joyce Ride!

WATER applauds Joyce Ride on the occasion of her 90th birthday, which she celebrated with style in Washington, DC. She was in Washington for the awarding of the Medal of Freedom to her late daughter, the astronaut Sally Ride.
Joyce’s passion for justice knows no bounds. She is active in Friends Outside, a group that helps women in prison. She has pushed the Presbyterian Church toward greater inclusion of LGBTIQ people. She stands up and is counted on for many struggles. Her marvelous humor and her stalwart support make her a WATER favorite.
Ad multos annos, Joyce Ride!
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Joyce Ride enjoying a birthday book made for her 90th. Gloria Steinem and Mary E. Hunt look on with delight.

15 November 2013

AAR/SBL Tips for Feminists and Others by Mary E Hunt

Originally posted for Feminist Studies in Religion.

Are you getting ready for attending the American Academy of Religion/ Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting? I am. Sometimes my colleagues who are newer to the scene and/or those who come from abroad ask me about how to navigate the meeting.

Here are my top ten bits of common sense advice especially for feminists. I will leave it to other colleagues to advise on how to handle the job market, present a paper, chair a session, deal with the many particularities we all face as we negotiate the meeting on our own terms. But here are some hints for general conference going that might help. They are not meant to be definitive, but to help orient those who want to make the most of their time at an important event. You are investing a great deal of time, money, and energy into it so why not get the max out of it?

1. STUDY the program so you have a good sense of what sessions, meetings, and social events you want to attend. There are always last minute changes that can be found in the addendum provided at the meeting. But having a good idea of what you hope to do before you arrive, and a sense of where things are located will go a long ways toward smoothing your path.

2. Make a PLAN. Good calendar software makes it easy. Then fill in your program with the must-do and the might-do choices. Be sure to leave time to get from place to place as convention centers and hotels can be gargantuan and spread out. Know that you might not do everything you would like each day, but having a plan beats wandering around reading the program book looking for that one session only to realize it was yesterday.

3. Find a PARTNER. Going to a meeting with 10,000 of your closest colleagues can be a very alienating experience. Find a friend or colleague with whom you can plan, touch base, and maybe even share a room. You might want to team up to go to receptions or other unfamiliar scenes to eliminate the initial awkwardness.

4. Give yourself a lot of SPACE. Don’t try to take in too much of a multi-faceted meeting. Sometimes less is more—a few good sessions, some dates for coffee with friends/colleagues, one reception, a keynote lecture—rather than trying to attend “everything” in a smorgasbord of offerings.

5. Think RESEARCH not just learning on the spot. For example, when you go to the book exhibit, pick up catalogues for later perusal rather than trying to take in a whole warehouse worth of books. At sessions, file away a name or paper title for future reference rather than trying to digest the entire panel if you have reached a saturation point. Lots of people will be glad to share their work (some won’t—whatever) if you ask respectfully and provide an email where they can send it. Then courtesy dictates that you read and acknowledge the paper. Scholarship is meant to be shared not consumed.

6. Take CARE of yourself. These meetings can be strenuous. Distances can be great between sessions. Accessibility is the law but it is not always followed to the letter. It is crucial to eat, rest, and exercise as best you can. Many hotels have fitness rooms, pools, and other amenities for refreshing body and spirit. If you have special dietary needs and/or are on a limited budget, give some thought to your food needs. Hotel meals can be pricey; convention centers are not known for their bargain prices or attention to healthy fare. Consider packing your favorite healthy snacks to tide you over. Local grocery stores can be lifesavers when lines are long in the meeting venues and/or when you have dietary restrictions.

7. Be SAFE. These meetings are usually held in large cities that are accustomed to welcoming lots of visitors. But big cities can be dicey so be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave valuables unattended. Get local advice about street safety. When in doubt, take a cab. But do not overdue the caution thing as finding your way in a city is not rocket science and most people, contrary to some press reports, will be helpful and are glad you are there.

8.  Report PROBLEMS. Hotels want their properties to be safe and attractive so if you have an incident—harassment, robbery, etc., -- make it known. Likewise, some colleagues behave inappropriately. AAR and SBL have policies against just such things, policies wrought of other people’s negative experiences, especially women. Do not let someone’s unprofessional and perhaps illegal behavior go unnoticed. See "Not for Women Only: Are Blurred Lines Really the Problem?" by Kate Ott for a helpful discussion of harassment and reporting.

9.  Be FLEXIBLE. Some sessions that look good on paper will be deadly boring when you get there. Feel free to leave discretely. An old friend might show up unexpectedly with whom coffee will trump a plenary. Go for it. You might find the perfect publisher for your new project. Share it with her/him even though you don’t have a previous appointment. By Day Three you might be wiped out at noon. Take a nap and don’t apologize. This conference will happen again next year, and besides, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

10. ENJOY the experience. It might be that once is enough for you. Such large gatherings may not be your preferred way to participate in the field. There are options. Or, you may become a lifer who goes year after year to keep current in the field, contribute as best one can, and most of all, see friends who make the whole thing well worthwhile. Linking with people on the Internet is simply no substitute for hearing a smart paper delivered first, finding the latest book in your field, or dining with an old friend. Have a great time. See you there!
You are also welcome to join us during the AAR Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD for the Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network Meeting (M22-300), Friday November 22, 2013 from 4:00 PM-6:00 PM at the Hilton Baltimore-Key 5. All are welcome.
The Network will discuss the development of ideas over several generations of feminist liberation theology. Panelists are Nikki Young, Bucknell University; Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver; and Monica Melanchthon, United Faculty of Theology and MCD University of Divinity, Australia.
Discussion will follow their short presentations. All are welcome.
RSVP to Mary E. Hunt, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) at 301 589-2509, or Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School,

01 November 2013

November Thanksgiving Ritual: Return Blessings by Diann L. Neu

November Thanksgiving Ritual:
Return Blessings
By Diann L. Neu
Thanksgiving Table Cropped
This is the season of harvesting.
This is a time of giving thanks for all good blessings.
Lift your spirit and give thanks.
Lift your voice and return blessings for life.
Return Blessings
Return blessings, O Holy Ones,
So life’s cycles can continue with beauty, balance, and abundance.
May life’s cycles return blessings.
Return blessings, Sacred Earth,
So air, water, fire, and food can nourish all we hold dear.
May air, water, fire, and food return blessings.
Return blessings, Beloved Sisters and Brothers,
So all creation can share pleasure and do justice.
May all creation return blessings.
Return blessings, Crawling Creatures and
Winged Friends,
So Earth can be renewed.
May Earth return blessings.
Return blessings, Trees, Flowers, Rivers, Mountains,
So nature can refresh all spirits.
May nature return blessings.
Return blessings, Stars, Moons, Planets, Galaxies,
So wonder can nourish all visions.
May wonder return blessings.
Return blessings, Changing Seasons,
So life’s cycles can continue in peace.
May life’s cycles return blessings.
Recall significant events when you received and gave blessings. Finish this sentence: I return blessings for ...
Share around your table.
Blessing the Meal
Hold a loaf of bread and return blessings. 
Blessed are you, Holy One of Thanksgiving, for you are the bread of life.
Blessed are you, Divine Spirit, for you sent your people manna as they wandered in the desert.
Raise your glass and return blessings. 
Blessed are you, Great Spirit, for you invite us to drink deeply of Earth's bounty.
Blessed are you, Source of Life, for you beg us to drink this fruit of the vine in memory of all who have died.
Extend your hands to the food and return blessings. 
Blessed are you, Holy One of the Harvest, for you keep us yearning for a world without hunger.
Blessed are you, Sophia-Wisdom, for you gather us around this Thanksgiving table.
Eating the Meal
Let us return blessings with each bite we take!
© Diann L. Neu is co-founder and co-directior of WATER.
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