Powerful Women For Whom I am Grateful (and the men who love them)

Dear Sanctuary NYC Friends,


          This month we have been entertaining the powerful duo of Forgiveness and Gratitude. In the five minute teaching section of the service, we have heard from Revs. Carol Napier, Jeffrey Lepinske and Nancy Napier on the topic of Forgiveness. I have then woven their powerful reflections into the message on Gratitude, and the music has brought all the threads together with a beauty that only music can provide.


As we approach the last Sunday of August, we are looking forward to our guest speaker, the womanist theologian, poet, preacher Rev. Raedorah C. Stewart.  In her honor, I would like to use this piece this week to share some of my own profound feelings of gratitude for the many extraordinary women in my life. 


When I moved to NYC in 1970, I was a “baby feminist.”  I looked up to my elders including the glamorous and brilliant Gloria Steinem, who seemed almost too perfect in her embodiment of smarts and style and courage. I admired Angela Davis for her bravery and searing cultural and intellectual critique. I learned from a wonderful pioneer named Flo Kennedy, and loved the writings of Alice Walker and the raw revelations of the woman’s heart from Ntozake Shange. The artist-activists June Jordan, Marlo Thomas, Jane Fonda and others powerfully shaped my understanding of a life that might be possible for me.


I came of age just at the end of a time when women were taught to compete with one another for men, for popularity, for position. It never felt good to me. I loved the emerging feminist understanding of honoring one another’s contributions academically and socially. It used to be assumed that you would break any plans you had with another woman if a man asked you out and no explanation necessary. I didn’t like that either! These were some of the practical and radical changes the women’s movement addressed. 


Of course the fact that women held either pink collar or no collar jobs, and were paid less than men, that their bodies were considered the property of men, these were the deeper areas of inequality. And many women were afraid to even speak of that.


While I was coming of age in NYC, there were movements in academia that were separating out the issues of separateness between African American and Euro American women, of lesbian women and straight women. The womanist movement grew in this time, and was defined initially by a writing of Alice Walker in which she defined a woman of color who was also community affirming, who may or may not be same gender loving etc. And so divisions began to be defined.  Separatists exist in every new movement. There were feminist separatists and womanist separatists and still are.



But the women I admire, like the womanist scholar Rev. Raedorah, and the African American feminist writer bell hooks, are speaking to the larger human condition beyond the divisions that separate us.These women are looking for the things that connect us at the level of our humanity. And this is what I aspire to do as well.


I give thanks for the women who have shaped me. I give thanks for a mother who was brave enough to walk out of an abusive marriage and take me with her. I am grateful for a grandmother who stood strongly in her faith in G-d and passed it on, even as the world changed radically from the horse and buggy to space ships. I am grateful for my sister Judith who is a warrior for human equity working with the mayor’s office in Portland, Oregon.


I give thanks for the two women who have stepped into the leadership of Sanctuary NYC with me, Revs Ingrid Scott and Karen Osit, for the women on the Ministry team who embody a desire to manifest an integrated model of communication and of leadership.


I give thanks for the men who are strong enough and sensitive enough to want to work in a model with strong female leadership, and who represent the truly evolving ideal of strong and loving male-ness.  I give thanks for the women who are leading communities to birth a new age with a transformed value system: for Revs. Diane Berke, Jennifer Berkeley, Francine Brookins, Marianne Williamson and the whole younger generation of soul sisters who are doing inspiring online ministry. 


I give thanks for Donna Redwing, and for Oprah Winfrey. I believe that we benefit more from supporting one another, and from looking for the places where we are One. The model I grew up with of squaring off against one another is falling away. It must fall away for a new age to dawn.  I know that as each of us truly embodies the uniqueness within, as we allow ourselves to truly listen for the guidance that is uniquely ours, a new model of how the world can be is emerging. It has the power to transform the way we communicate, the way we lead, the way we live. 


And I am grateful to be alive to be part of how it comes forth.


This Sunday we will hear from Rev. Raedorah, form Nancy Napier and of course, I will be there to do the announcements. LOL.  After the service, join us for a talk on Food and Food Equity in the chapel, where we will also have refreshments and fellowship.


This is also Auto Tithe Sunday! So you will all have a chance to sign up for that too!




Have a great rest of the week,


See you Sunday at 2 pm on the corner of Amsterdam and 86th!


I am grateful for YOU.


With love,

Rev. Jane


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