Jessica Davis, a Black woman with relaxed, curly hair, brown eyes, and wearing a blue shirt, is visible from the shoulders up, facing the camera, against a background of trees and other greenery

From the Board: DEI Consultant Contracted

Beloved of YCWI, 

Over three-and-a-half years ago, I attended my first YCWI conference in Atlanta. At the end of the event, I was installed as part of the incoming class of Board members. As I stood before you, ready to take my promise to serve and to be covered in prayer, I looked around and noticed that most of the rest of the Board looked a lot like… me.

Mere hours after our installation, the one brave woman of color on the Board needed to step down for personal reasons. This difficult moment was the beginning of my education as to the history of white privilege within the structure of YCWI.

If you are uncomfortable or concerned or angry while reading this, I can assure you that all of those same emotions and concerns have been present, especially the past two years I have served as your Vice Chair. I applaud the women in our leadership who have been brave enough to say, “This is not right,” or “This is not a safe space for me.”  And since my time joining the Board, the question of who is welcome, wanted, and supported to be on the Board has been at the forefront of all of our conversations. Piled onto this are the realities of the pandemic and the sheer amount of energy we have all needed to just keep our heads above water—it has been a strenuous two years for the Board, just like it’s been for most.  

And yet, the Holy Spirit was still working. Maybe not as quickly as you or I had hoped, but the power of God was still troubling the waters. Thanks to the generous support of the membership, we have been able to contract to bring on a consultant to help us in this area. We recognized right away that first, we needed an expert with direct experience in anti-racist work to help us navigate this, and second, women of color (and especially Black and Indigenous women) are historically paid less than their white male (and female) counterparts. We were determined to enter a fair and just contract.

Just as many of you are entering into a new season with your ministry, we too as a Board are beginning the next chapter of YCWI’s story. I am thrilled to see the ways that our new Chair and Vice Chair are continuing to pour their love, talent, and determination into addressing this issue. The Board, after 3 years, will finally be meeting in person this November. (Yes, almost all of the current Board are women that I have never met in person.) Our time together will be spent with the consultant we’ve contracted, and I am already amazed and grateful for the incredible insight, wisdom, and truth-telling that Jessica Davis brings. The seeds of hope are starting to sprout up in me again.  

As we continue into these hard and necessary conversations about who we want to be as YCWI, I ask that you keep the Board in your prayers. Each of these women bring their hearts and their passion to the work and I am honored to be part of this talented group. With your prayers and support, guided by the Holy Spirit, I believe great things are in store for this organization that we love.  

With hope,
Rev. Katie Nix
Board Member, Young Clergy Women International

 


 

Hello YCWI family!

I joined YCWI in 2018. Like you, I have noted with concern the relative lack of BIPOC clergywomen in our organization. Like you, I have watched as BIPOC clergywomen fought for acceptance and safe harbor within a community that prides itself in being exactly those things. Like you, I watched from afar as our leadership in recent years has struggled to address the racism and white supremacy within our organization. When I applied to join the Board last year, I did so because I wished to aid and support the Board as it looked at how our very systems – our bylaws, operating procedures and membership requirements – have been hindering our work toward equity. And so, it is with deep joy and gratitude that I share with you this update.

Jessica Davis, a Black woman with relaxed, curly hair, brown eyes, and wearing a blue shirt, is visible from the shoulders up, facing the camera, against a background of trees and other greenery

YCWI has contracted with Jessica Davis (she/they), a consultant who specializes in working with religious organizations, to aid us in this critical task. Jess met with the Board in September and will continue to meet with us monthly, including a two-day intensive session in November, as we reimagine our structures and work toward a just and unprejudiced future for YCWI. Jess’ bio reflects their expertise: 

Jessica Davis, MA, is a Christian educator, pastoral counselor, reparations educator/coordinator, and freelance writer and speaker living in the Philadelphia area. Her ministry passions include: youth ministry, church music, community visioning, and diversity/equity/inclusion. When not doing churchy things, she can usually be found knitting, volunteering with refugees and asylum-seekers, or working as a freelance makeup artist. You can connect with her work through Jessica Davis Church Consulting on Facebook.

Our work with Jess will include overhauling our bylaws, prayerfully considering our membership requirements and their impact on clergywomen of color, and placing internal structures to aid all of us, Board and members alike, in the ongoing work of anti-racism.

During this time of sacred reckoning, the Board is taking an “intentional pause” on other work—which includes the fall stewardship campaign we would normally be in the throes of right now. Let me say that, while we aren’t specifically soliciting financial gifts for next year, it is your continued faithful giving which has enabled the broad scope of the work we are presently undertaking. We thank you for supporting YCWI on its continued journey of building the kin-dom of God – a kin-dom where we can indeed all be one in Christ Jesus. May it be so!

Peace,
Rev. Kate Mackereth Fulton
Vice-Chair, Young Clergy Women International

Famous Last Words, Part 1

I’ve had many opportunities to give sermons on the openings of the books of the Bibles. They are fun sermons to write because you get to dig into the particularities of genre or historical context or even artistic perspective. I realized that I had not had as many opportunities to preach on the texts that […]

A Litany for Changing Season

The air feels crisper this morning. 

The sunlight shines at a different angle. 

Change is in the air. 

 

We feel the change not only on our skin,

But in our souls. 

Something is shifting. 

Read more

Stealth Queers

Stealth queers are all around you. Your gaydar won’t detect us. Your discriminatory church policies forget about us. 

Are we closeted? Not necessarily. 

We just go about our business — and you make assumptions. 

You see me as a cisgender woman married to a cisgender man, and you assume that I’m heterosexual. I’m not. I’m bisexual. And my marriage to a cis man doesn’t negate my queerness. It just makes it stealthy

Three owls in the bi pride colors sit above the words STEALTH QUEER against a black background.

“Stealth Queer (Bi 2.0)” T-Shirt Design by YCW Laurel Capesius

Read more

Cup of Equality

A few months after leaving my pastorate, I am never sure whether to say “I’m a stay-at-home mum” or “I’m unemployed” or “I’m a freelance ecumenist who is slowly starting a coaching business and might be working on a book while moving across the Atlantic for my spouse’s job and definitely is not earning any money.” Technically my denomination views me as on “sabbatical,” but caring for a toddler is neither restful nor soul-renewing. And unlike most sabbaticals, I do not know how long this would last or what I will do after. I’m waiting in a new setting across an ocean to discern the next step in my vocational path. 

I now find myself outside of a defined role. I have no name-tag, or title, or place in local ecclesial structures. I am sitting in a pew after ten years of always being behind the pulpit and the altar. I resonate with the psalmist who remembered the past while questioning the present and waiting on the future: 

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.” (Psalm 42:4)   Read more

A Ministry of Ending

Would we close? Or could we keep going? 

It was the question that occupied my mind as I drove to meet with a denominational leader about my congregation. And it was the question that came at me from every side as I began my ministry as a solo pastor of an urban congregation in St. Louis, Missouri, just a month after my graduation from seminary. Though I had led a congregation to a merger as a student pastor, I still wasn’t equipped to answer this question. Nobody had mentioned the financial strain, the community members’ fatigue, and the denominational push-pull the congregation had been through for the years preceding my arrival. 

It had taken months for me to land this face-to-face meeting with the one person in my denominational structure with the authority to decide my congregation’s fate. 

Would we close? Or could we keep going? Read more

The Heroine’s Journey, Part 3- Road of Trials: Meeting Ogres and Dragons

This post is the third in what will be a series of ten exploring the kinship between the Heroine’s Journey as established by Maureen Murdock, my lived experience of ministry as a female clergy person, and a few familiar fictional characters. Each devotional will end with a blessing for the Heroine at each stage of the journey. In the previous post, we examined the second part of the journey where the Heroine enters into a process of formation as determined by the external “other” that the Heroine hopes will overwhelm their pesky femininity.

 

The Heroine’s Journey;

Part Three – Road of Trials: Meeting Ogres and Dragons

Now the Heroine must prove their skills, knowledge, and relationships against the hardships of the world–necessary work in order to develop ego and character. Challengers draw near to keep them from their chosen path. When the Heroine has triumphed over their trials and adversaries, they gain reputation, status, empowerment, and confidence. Alongside their external success, the Heroine believes that they have secured the other to their identity and no longer have to fear being deficient or inferior.

 

Personal Story

There is one photo of me that best encapsulates this phase of my life, when I was both establishing my family and endeavoring to establish my career. It was taken at a synodical continuing education event that I was attending in order to network, to keep my face out there, and make sure that I wasn’t forgotten or discarded. I was two years into a search for my first call and the ordination that would go with it. Though it is not visible in the photo, I was pregnant with my second child, which meant that I felt gross in my own skin and my back ached. 

I knew I was being photographed that day. I remember being annoyed about it even as it was happening, because I recognized what was unfolding. I recognized it because a classmate from seminary, a person of color, had shared with me when this had happened to him. They were taking photos of me because I was young and female, and they needed more diversity for their website. I was being gobbled up by the insatiable content monster that lurks in so many aspects of modern life. Yet I understood that the photographer had no way to know I was not ensconced in a congregation or some other ministry setting. He was doing his job just as I was doing what needed to be done.  Read more

Separation of church and state fails to protect female clergy

The founding fathers meant for religious freedom to stand as a fundamental principle of evolved civic life.  But in reality, church-state separation has had the unintended effect of protecting and enabling pedophilic male priests and endangering female clergy at the hands of abusive parishioners.  This two-sided coin of silencing abuse within church culture reveals a deeply patriarchal current that runs through not only conservative Catholic parishes but also highly progressive Protestant denominations.

Read more

Young woman studying, thinking, “What will this cost me?” The background is purple and the color scheme is various shades of purple and peach/pink. The girl is wearing headphones and sitting at a desk with a book open.n

Jubilee, Student Loans, and the Nature of Forgiveness

On August 24, 2022, President Joe Biden announced his long awaited plan to forgive some student loan debt. It was a promise he made to would-be voters almost three years ago during his campaign. Throughout his presidency, various talking heads and Twitter hot-takers have wondered when he would finally do it. 

Well, he did it, and the reaction was just as predictable as his presidency.  Read more

A Back-to-School Blessing

A top-view photograph of brightly colored school supplies (colored pencils, tempera paints, tape, protractor and compass, paper clips, calculator, eraser, pencil sharpener) arranged in a loose circle atop gray hardwood floor.

God of all that learns and grows,

Bless our students, and guide them that their minds may grow in wisdom and their hearts may grow in compassion. Help us to nurture their questions and encourage their curiosity that they may learn more about the world You created and the people around it.  Read more