Archive for February, 2016

The Influence of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

3 comments Written on February 24th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Evelmyn Ivens works at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) in Chicago and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary in 2013 with a MA in Theological Studies. Evelmyn was born in Mexico and moved to the United States during her teenage years; she has lived in Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL. Enjoys traveling and learning about other cultures. She’s passionate about issues of immigration, hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a panel and I’ve known for a while that the other three participants were men, however, it really didn’t hit until the night before. As I was preparing and reviewing notes I also started to think what would I wear? A thought that may seem superficial, yet, for women even these details are part of a process. I was going to be in front of an audience with two pastors and an executive director. I needed to look casual but not too casual, not too overdressed but neither underdressed, just enough jewelry and what kind of jewelry? Would I wear heels or not? Clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, etc. they all make a statement, and off course I wanted to make a statement. I wanted to look as someone who knew about the topic. I in fact know a whole lot about the topic to be presented at the panel; yet, we live in a society where women have to present themselves in a certain way to be respected and to be taken seriously. Sometimes even age is a factor, about two years ago I was teaching a class and on the first day of class, one of the students said to me, “Oh, we thought our professor would be an older woman.” It took weeks before the students, who were older than me would believe what I said, or that I in fact had the credentials to be teaching that class.

The most sexism I have experienced has happened in church and in Christian organizations, sad isn’t? I’ve seen male Christian leaders feel intimidated by highly educated women, they just don’t know how to interact around these women. I have felt so frustrated in situations like this because church and Christian organizations are supposed to be this safe place for women in leadership; however, sometimes it becomes a hostile place.

Then in those moments of frustration I read stories like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s story. One of the best-known Mexican writers, poets, and philosopher. Juana de Abasaje was born in central Mexico in 1648, and according to Mexican author Carlos Fuentes; she was probably an illegitimate child. When she was seven years old, she asked her mother to let her dress as a boy so that she could attend the university. She made her way to the university and there she impressed her professors, Juana was an intellectual who seemed to know everything, even though she faced many restrictions in both the political and religious settings. Juana decided to become a nun, in the hopes to find refuge and autonomy to write. It is then that she becomes Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. In her cell at the San Jerónimo convent in Mexico City, Sor Juana collected more than 4,000 volumes. There she could write in freedom, with discipline and wisdom. At the end even her cell couldn’t protect her from male dominant and orthodox authority, at the hands of the Archbishop of Mexico, Aguiar y Seixas. At 40 years of age Sor Juana was banned from her library, and was silenced for speaking up her mind. She died in 1695 at 47; however, her work defeated those who silenced her. Sor Juana’s baroque poetry transcended time, and today she is known as a foundational figure of feminism in the Americas.

Figures like Sor Juana, give me hope, also gives me hope male friends who continue to advocate for me, and for other women in ministry and in leadership.

I pray that in those moments of frustration, we can find peace and comfort. Amen.

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The Power of Weakness

2 comments Written on February 16th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Nilwona Nowlin-photoNilwona Nowlin currently serves as the Administrative Specialist for Governance for the ECC and is a member of the Christian Community Development Association and the Redbud Writers Guild. In her “spare time,” she teaches workshops about living successfully as an introvert. Nilwona is a member of the Kingdom Covenant Church (Chicago) launch team and randomly blogs about random things at thedreamerspeaks.

Last month, while listening to a sermon, I found myself reflecting on my weakness and the power that lies within it. Of course, I blogged about my thoughts. I decided to share the post here for two reasons: 1) because I want to challenge you to rethink your understanding of “weakness,” particularly in the context of a society (and Church) that still refers to women as “the weaker sex” and 2) because the sermon that sparked my moment of reflection was preached by a woman.

The original post is below.

I am black. I am a woman. I am a black woman. I have chronic illnesses and a disability. I am an introvert. I look much younger than I am so am often assumed to be “young.” I grew up poor. I am a great big ball of “socially undesirable.” Since God knew me before I was even a thought to my parents, I must assume that God also knew that I would be made up of all of society’s less desirable parts. Yes, I am also made in the image of God, but society doesn’t often acknowledge (or care about) that part of me.

Believe it or not, all of these thoughts came to me as I was sitting in a chapel service at work, listening to a sermon being preached by a friend and colleague. Her message was based on the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about the many members of the body of Christ. She highlighted how Paul places emphasis on the fact that the “weaker” parts of the body are just as important as the others. It was her emphasis on weakness that got my brain to wandering.

The pinky toe is seen by most as a weaker body part – good for nothing more than running into tables and bedposts in the middle of the night and channeling some of the worst pain imaginable. However, the pinky toe plays an important role in providing balance to the body. It is the same for the members of the body of Christ (and society) who are on the margins and often considered non-essential. They are valuable in ways that we take for granted or may never know if we don’t embrace them fully.

I embody weakness in a number of ways. Because of this, I have experienced pain, shame and isolation. But my lived experiences have made me more sensitive to those around me who are going through similar experiences. It has better enabled me to effectively operate within the body of Christ as a mercy shower – as the heart, if you will. As I operate in this area of giftedness, I am then reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12, that God’s power is made strong in our weakness.

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Words of Affirmation

2 comments Written on February 2nd, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories

Rev. Cathy Kaminski is the lead pastor at Trinity Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. She hasn’t always been a Covenanter, but is now thankful to call the ECC home. Fueled by lots of coffee, Cathy enjoys writing, reading, and being in the community.

cathy kaminski affirmation (1)It’s safe to assume that we all know the power in affirmation. The most basic definition is emotional support or encouragement. Ever had a bad day? How does a positive word change that? Ever feel discouraged? What happens when someone intentionally tells you how you are exceeding? These words breathe life into a weary soul.

But affirmation is more than that. Words of support and encouragement can mean the difference between persevering and giving up. They can empower us, but their absence can debilitate us. When we fail to recognize their power, we miss opportunities to love those around us and we can also be tempted to lose sight of our own calling.

Think about it this way: journey with me back to a time of traperkeepers and sharpened pencils. Middle school. We loved it…well, perhaps not. After all, the emotional pendulum swing of our adolescence hinged on the acceptance or rejection of our peers. One negative word could catapult us into an orbit of social stigmatism. Or conversely something as simple as an invitation to a lunch table could set you on a course towards popularity. Maybe I’m making this too simple, but I can’t help but see the tremendous influence of the people in our world. Not only on the direction of our lives, but our own levels of confidence.

This principle does not change as we get older, but it does look differently. In my own life words of affirmation put me on a path towards God’s calling. I did not have a strong conviction for women in ministry. I had more doubt than I like to admit. Yet voices from my community opened my eyes to God. Voices that encouraged my leadership. Support that fueled my obedience to service. Words of truth that empowered me to be the person God created me to be.

In the same way, at a later season in life, absence of affirmation sent me on a downward spiral of fear and questioning. I almost walked away from ministry because of the lack of support and encouragement. How could I have such little faith? I don’t think that was it. We NEED support from our community. We are not meant to live lives of obedience alone. And we don’t just need these voices, we need to BE these voices to others.

When the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica about building one another up, this is more than encouragement, (1 Thessalonians 5). It is a charge! To be the church we must build one another up as indeed we are already doing. We must see the power in our words and actions and seek to speak truth that empowers those around us. We must see the words of criticism that cut and seek to be voices that heal. Voices that encourage. Voices that point others towards Christ. For this is all of our calls, our privilege, our duty. To speak love and mercy and equip others for lives of service. So go ahead, invite someone to your lunch table. See what happens!

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