In his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated the profound spiritual role that marches, protests, sit-ins, etc. play in movements for social change, saying “[Through direct action,] we…bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with…injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion, before it can be healed.”
To conclude our time together, we will explore what we come to know and understand about Borders and Identities in and through participation in direct social action, and how we might join in exposing underlying tensions and systems of injustice so that they might be transformed. As we put hands, feet, and heart to our prayers in the hopes of directly impacting our local and national communities, we affirm that this, too, is what theology and ministry looks like.
Within the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, join us for an engaging weekend of workshops, worship, direct action, and networking around the theme of “Borders and Identity.”
Migration across all kinds of borders—both physical and metaphorical—is reshaping our understanding of identity across boundaries of race, culture, religion, sexuality, gender, and nationality. It has been a major, and divisive, theme of national politics. Halfway through the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, join us for an engaging weekend of workshops, worship, direct action, and community building. The conference will emphasize practical skills, timely resources, and a deeper analysis of the critical issues facing us at this moment. Our goal is to equip leaders to stand for justice with all those on the borders and margins.
During our latest international immersion, participants will study Spanish for ministry while engaging liberation theologians, base communities, women’s groups, LGBTQ communities, and social justice advocates. Read the blog!
Alumna Christine Haider-Winnett (MDiv ’15) shared the below reflection at a PSR Chapel Service.
I can’t tell you how special it is to be here with you today. For those of you who don’t know me, I graduated from PSR in 2015 and my husband, Alex, is still a student here. I am now an ordained deacon seeking the priesthood through Roman Catholic Woman Priests, a group of women ordained validly but illegally in the Catholic tradition.
The very first time I preached at PSR chapel was almost exactly 5 years ago, when I offered a short reflection on what Our Lady of Guadalupe means to me. So, it seems so sacred and perfect to be spending another Advent reflecting on Our Lady in this space that continues to shape my life, my ministry and my family.
I will be honest and tell you that I found it easier to speak about Our Lady of Guadalupe all those years ago. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a reminder of everything I love about Mary: this weird, fierce sacred woman who incarnates the lived experiences of oppressed people and inspires us to work for justice.
On the face of it, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception seems to be the polar opposite of Our Lady of Guadalupe. While Our Lady of Guadalupe is portrayed as a fierce goddess, the mother of God who enters into the human story to defend and inspire her people, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception can easily be seen as a fragile little girl. Someone so pure and dainty that she’s hard to relate to.
Perhaps most troubling, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception seems to present a problem with Mary’s ability to consent: how could Mary have been chosen at conception to be the mother of God and yet still have been able to freely answer “yes” to God’s call? If she was already conceived without sin for the express purpose of bringing the Christ Child into the world, what choice did she really have but to say to the angel Gabriel “May it be done to me according to God’s will?” Did she really have the freedom to say no?
I think the answer to this question lies most clearly in the Magnificat, the song Mary sings at her cousin Elizabeth’s house. In the Magnificat, it becomes clear that this miracle pregnancy is something that God is doing with Mary, not something done to her. Mary portrays herself as an active participant in this moment. She blesses God as she sings “my heart proclaims the greatness of the lord” and she receives God’s blessing with joy stating “from this day forward, all generations will call me blessed.” Mary enthusiastically rejoices in a collaboration between herself and God.
In the Magnificat, it is clear that Mary freely claims and has agency in what is happening to her. But at the same time, there does seem to be something cosmic and fateful about this pregnancy. Mary chose to birth the Christ Child, but I don’t think it was simply a choice. Instead, I think she is rejoicing at having finally uncovered her calling—having found what her heart was most deeply longing for. Mary rejoices because, like Jeremiah before her, she can hear God whisper: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you.” After years of searching, Mary finally realizes exactly what she has been consecrated for.
If you are here at PSR, maybe that means that you, too, have seen glimmers of what God has consecrated you for. I have been lucky enough to experience that a few times in my life: I felt it as a thirteen-year-old girl sitting in my small-town Catholic church when I first knew I was called to be a priest. I felt it last year, during my ordination as a deacon, when my bishop (a fabulous 80 year old woman with a purple streak in her hair) laid hands on my head.
And I felt it a few more times: When, at 16, I realized that the feelings I had for a female friend were more than friendship, and I finally claimed something queer within me. And I felt it years later, when I first realized my husband was the person I wanted to grow old with. I felt it earlier this year, the first time that I heard my baby’s heartbeat on the sonogram.
These moments were more than a simple choice on my part, and were more than something chosen for me by God. They were moments where my joy collided with God’s rejoicing in me. Moments when a lifelong longing suddenly made sense. When the kindling fire that God had set before my birth finally burst into flame. These were, simply, moments I fell in love.
To me, the Immaculate Conception is the celebration of those moments in each of our lives. It’s the recognition that all of us—not just Mary and Jeremiah—were known by God and consecrated for a purpose from the first moments of our creation. This day is a reminder that our life’s destiny is to uncover and live out the purpose God set for us, a purpose that is made most clear to us in moments of love, and passion and desire.
And so, as we celebrate this weird and sometimes uncomfortable feast of the immaculate conception, I invite you to see it—not as a denigration of sexuality—but as a celebration of desire. A celebration of that desire that God set in our hearts before we were born—desire for one another, for our vocations, and for the sacred. A celebration of the ways that our longings can serve as our true compass, pointing us toward our calling: that place where our joy and God’s rejoicing in us collides.
Christine Haider-Winnett graduated from Pacific School of Religion in 2015 with a Masters in Divinity. She also holds a Certificate in Women’s Studies in Religion from the Graduate Theological Union and a BA in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College. Christine is an ordained deacon in Roman Catholic Womanpriests (USA) and former Co-President of the Women’s Ordination Conference, the largest organization in the world working for women’s equality in the Catholic Church. She currently serves as deacon at St. Hildegard Catholic Community in Berkeley, California. Christine and her husband Alex (also a PSR student) are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. You can learn more about Christine’s ministry here.
Godfree McIntyre, MDiv/CSR Student, shared the following reflection for our Transgender Day of Remembrance chapel service.
Layers upon layers of heavy blankets of judgment and destruction are thrown with a brutal careless violence of oblivious hatred on the flames of transgender life by people afraid of things they do not understand, and yet … we exist. We continue to exist. And we do not exist in a vacuum.
We exist in a world of humanity that is created in God’s image. A colorful world of unfathomable diversity. Human bodies of all shapes and sizes and colors and abilities embody expressions of every nuance of gender, and orientation, and personality woven through the infinity tapestry of Creator’s being, Source of our being. And no thing created is flat or two dimensional. Certainly, no human being is only one color with no gradient, one sound with no harmonics, one gender with no divergence. We all transgress the lines of the boxes…those constructions of control that would paint all walls white and make all streets straight. We all defy the “norm” no matter how well wrapped in it we may be, our truth…God’s truth is always resisting and trying to break forth.
The spirit of the creator calls us forth into muddy, messy, beautiful, chaotic authenticity. Our transcestors lived their truth. They poured their grief, and joy, and pain, and passion into the air around us…their breaths and voices in concert continue to impact the atmosphere. And we carry them with us as we carry on defying the lie that God hates, that normal is narrow, that freedom is a criminal act. We each living our truth make known the truth that God is ever with us, loving us, delighted in us.
Let’s remember every day the power of the testimony lived by our transcestors and on their shoulders continue to raise a voice and demonstration antithetic to those smothering blankets of oppression….not only for the right to exist, but in celebration of the wonder and beauty of the image of the ever-present God expressed in our uniquenesses in symphony. Let’s lift one another up in the presence of the Holy Who is indeed beyond all binaries, who calls us each by name and loves us all beyond measure.