Engendering Spirit: Video series expands understanding of what it means to be human

Sherry Warren looked around and saw a need for more discussion around faith and gender: gender roles, reproductive justice and women’s role in the church.

Sherry Warren, minister for women’s and gender justice.

So she went to work putting together an educational video series addressing these issues. Warren, who serves as the United Church of Christ’s minister for women’s and gender justice and part of the Gender & Sexuality Justice Ministries team, launched “Engendering Spirit” earlier this year. Anyone can join in and view the series for free by registering.

“Congregants can access this series alone or in groups,” said Warren. “I’m giving people an opportunity to learn about these contemporary concepts — as well as the timeless issues around these topics — and discuss them or just think about them on their own.”

Expansive language, expanding understanding

Warren believes there is more conversation than ever around the idea of gender as a construct or identity.

“We are exploring these ideas more readily,” she said. “In one session, we talked about the language of gender. There is more expansive language for God and humanity today. And we are looking for ways we can do better to address these ideas within the UCC.”

Since people learn in different ways, there is not only a webinar to view and attend but Warren puts a study guide together as well. “This provides a brief guide for each episode and prepares a person for the topics we’ll discuss. It can also be used in groups — and, when studying together that way, we create a covenant.”

A covenant like this can lead to increased trust around the discussions as well as privacy beyond those groups.

Warren said she encourages those who participate to lean into whatever it is that they may feel resistant about — and to pray if that is helpful. “This is experiential learning, and we ask, ‘What? So what? Now what?’ at the end of our sessions.”

Although the topics are more talked about than ever, they also aren’t new.

“Many of the topics we talk about, such as the role of women in the church, have been around a long time,” Warren said. “We encourage participants to think through what they’ve experienced themselves. And we hope to expand the understanding of what it means to be human.”

Urgent issues ahead

Warren noted that Engendering Spirit episodes address urgent concerns such as reproductive justice as well as more “evergreen” issues. The webinars are posted on Frontline Faith, the learning platform used by the UCC.

“Like a podcast, once you register you’ll be notified when a new episode drops,” she explained.

The coming year promises to be full of critical topics, according to Warren. “We’ll certainly talk more about reproductive justice, as well as human trafficking. And we have a group book read we do together. In the fall we read Fat Church, which can be purchased through the Pilgrim Press. And next year we’ll discuss Girl/Friend Theology, which can also be found through Pilgrim Press.”

In addition, she said, look for an episode about period poverty and hygiene.

Warren’s newsletter, Talitha Koum — which she says means “Arise, girl” — goes out to those who participate in Engendering Spirit as well.

So far, two episodes of Engendering Spirit have been produced, and a third will be available Jan. 1. More than 40 people have registered so far.

Laura Robinson of Convergence helps support the series and said she has been impressed with the response. She encourages congregations to take a look.

“This course — which includes a webinar-style conversation with fabulous guest panelists and an expansive discussion guide and additional resources with each episode — is the perfect way for your church or community to begin having conversations about all things gender,” Robinson said.

Learn more and register here.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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