Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Trouver sa voie, trouver sa voix - at the crossroads

We began our season of feminist theology encounters on the theme of "trouver sa voie, trouver sa voix" this evening - Find your way, find your voice. I chose to start our reflections with studying the songs of Hannah and Mary, whose poetic, revolutionary words spill out as they recognize the personal and global upheaval that the birth of the babies they are each carrying may entail.
We always drink tea or coffee and eat biscuits as we arrive at our sessions (tonight we had the treat of homemade brownies) and I encouraged the group to walk our wonderful labyrinth before we started our Bible study - a physical way of meditating on pathways.
As always we had new people joining the group and also a special visitor, a prison chaplain from Amsterdam who is using three months sabbatical to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem by bicycle.
We shared very contrasting reflections on the texts - what does it mean for a woman to find her voice? What does it mean for Mary and Hannah to be the voices of history in the making?
As we were reading particularly Hannah's song I realised how shocking the visceral language of the Bible can seem to people - especially to folk in easy, nice Geneva.
One of our group was so carried away by the theme that she told us the extraordinary story of her life - how the war changed her path irrevocably. One of her brothers joined the French resistance, the other (a monk) set off with other forced labourers to work in German factories. And we also reflected critically on how women find their voices. How hard it is to be heard when your voice is coming from below and how this can make your voice shrill and hard, difficult to be listened to.
Listening to how each of us found challenge and grace in these glorious tumultuous hymns celebrating faith and the possibility of all things being made new, I was struck by how using the device of a thematic (or hermeneutic) key can help us reach new understandings. The idea of voice and pathway opened something up in people, Hannah stands tall and allows her face to be seen and opens wide her mouth in praise and hope. Looking around the group tonight about half of us have children and half not - three who don't have children worked as midwives and nurses in Africa. What is it we are giving birth to through our words, by following our ways? Can we raise our voices and sing a new world into being?