Yesterday evening I came home and decided to try for something a bit more serious than the previous day's reading on theology and detective fiction (edifying though that had been).
Another of the books that arrived this week from the SCM sale is Controversies in Feminist Theology by Lisa Isherwood and the late Marcella Althaus-Reid.
As I read I was moved to find two writers putting so succinctly things I have not actively tried to express myself. I "recognised" something of myself in what they write. It was like an ache I hadn't realised I had suddenly no longer being there, yet the ache was in some way replaced by a deep longing and also some sadness. The resonance with their thoughts did me good - the life of the mind can be healing even when it rouses painful emotions.
Then this afternoon a colleague came to see me, a person so wonderfully centred and clear about her role and convictions. We talked about a publication project and I mentioned my reading from the previous evening. She had known Althaus-Reid, studied with and been inspired by her. We spoke about difficulties and motivations, about bravery and tears being the source of strenght. We spoke also of future projects, things we wanted to write, people we wanted to get to write and the idea of having a feminist theology lunch. When she left she said "As Marcella said 'our work continues'". It was a strange sort of blessing but I recognise it for the benediction it was - our work continues. Ah the generosity of a conversation.
So here are a few bits and pieces from the introduction to controversies in feminist theology which resonated particularly with me - not even for reasons I can clearly state, they simply "echoed" with me as the French would have it.
"What feminist theologies offer, when we get it right, are a political challenge to a world that believes, or large parts seem to, that democracy once decided on can be exported with bombs and repression for the good of all. Freedom through death is a concept feminist theologies gave up on long ago! For feminist theologies, democracy means that controversy will remain at the heart of what we do and that it will fuel us to greater engagement with a world in need of our passion. Our ability to live with disunity is our greatest strength and our greatest question remains how to have the disputes, not whether to have them.
Feminists have always been brave women; they have and do put their lives on the line for the debate to be opened or to continue. Most of us are never asked to actually lay down our lives but we do have to show bravery in the way in which we continue to question and not hide behind either moral certainty or the morality that calls some not to offend the many. We need to be brave in continually questioning our own thoughts and keeping those too open to the unfolding future; a future that 'takes place every time a possibility is imagined, a collective self reflection takes place, a dispute over values, priorities and language emerges' ...Feminist theologies arise from the the lives of allwomen and are aimed at expanding those lives through justice-seeking and right-relation, this is an embodied activity which loses all credibility when confined to the page."
I cried, perhaps with recognition or something else, as I read that last night and tears fell this evening again as I typed these words.