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Registration now open for final Lydia’s Listening Session

Sessions are designed to equip women spiritually and emotionally

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Registration is now open for the third and final episode of Lydia’s Listening Session, hosted by the offices of Women’s Leadership Development and Leadership Development for Leaders of Color of the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries.

The third session is scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 14. Register by clicking here.

To date more than 70 women of color have gathered in two listening circles. The circles are equipping the women spiritually and emotionally and allowing them to share their experiences as they struggle to balance their ministry, home and community in lives upended by the coronavirus.

“These sessions have been an opportunity for the participants to share wisdom, victories and struggles, and to be open to where the Holy Spirit may lead us,” said Jewel McRae, coordinator for Women’s Leadership Development and Young Women’s Ministries.

Read reports from the two previous listening sessions here and here.

Jewel McRae

McRae says the sessions were created as a result of a RE&WIM strategic goal to dismantle racism and to create a sacred space for clergywomen of color and women leaders of color so they can be their authentic selves in every setting to equip them to combat racism.

McRae noted that according to the latest Faith and Leadership report, a large number of clergywomen and lay women have left their jobs as a result of this pandemic. Many have reported exhaustion, burnout and decision fatigue from the prolonged care of congregations, communities and households, as well as combating racism, including the violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

According to the Rev. Alexandra Zareth, Associate for Leadership Development for Leaders of Color, following this final session, RE&WIM will gather the data to produce resources and other support mechanisms for women so that RE&WIM can walk alongside clergywomen of color and women leaders of color in their ministry.

“We want to be able to better advocate for our sisters,” Zareth said. “We do that through listening to what the struggles really are.”

Participants in the listening circles have included women from across the mainland United States and Puerto Rico whose ministries and lives have been impacted by COVID-19.

“One of the highlights of these sessions is the gathering of women to come together to pray and come up with a personal commitment,” said McRae. “In October they’ll also have an opportunity to share their personal victories.  I’ve been truly inspired by all these women leaders of color.”

“Because they see one another through the virtual platform,” Zareth said, “I hope that they see they’re not alone.”

The Rev. Alexandra Zareth

Zareth noted that the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote these words: “Caminante no hay camino, se hace el camino al andar,” which she translates as, “Traveler, there is no path, we create it as we walk.”

“Women of color do this every day in ministry,” Zareth said. “We are focused on where we step, why we step, for whom we are stepping where … and this gathering is but a moment when we all get to lift our heads and see who else is out there, making their own paths. Here we find some solidarity because even if I’m in Puerto Rico and you are in California, seeing you shows me I am not alone in my response to God’s call to be a leader in church. And I know I will walk away stronger and more encouraged because I saw you and listened to you.”

“We’ve seen it in every single session,” Zareth said. “I know we will see it again.”


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