We came. We came from across the world. We rode in on airplanes, trains, subways, taxis, and shuttle buses. For some, this entry into NYC was a brand new experience, another new element, like the faces of the new community of sisterhood gathered; for some, this CSW was a homecoming of sorts, the city and community a familiar embrace.
As we came together, we began preparing ourselves for the week we will spend together. We gathered Friday night for our PC(USA) orientation. We learned each other’s names, fed off of each other’s excitement, and held each other in prayer. We came together in the space of Church of the Covenant’s fellowship hall and we we came together in the spirit of the holy work of listening, prayer, and advocacy ahead.
The next morning we gathered with our ecumenical sisters to learn what it would be like to be the Ecumenical Women at the CSW. This group, comprised of 19 communities of faith, was historically founded as an opposition to other faith-based voices connecting their beliefs to the continuation of a patriarchal, oppressive structure. We, as Ecumenical Women, come together to say that it is not despite our faith that we gather to advocate for the rights and safety of our global sisters, but directly because of our faith and the messages of our Biblical mothers, and the lessons taught by our brother, Jesus Christ.
Or, more precisely, we are listening. We are attending panel events and hearing speakers from around the world talk about the lives, their pains, and their victories in the journey towards equality for women. We listen each night to each other as we gather to share where we found hope and where we were inspired during the day. Last night, we listened with pride to our PW sisters and mission co-workers tell about what the our denomination is doing to promote education and literacy for girls in the USA and around the world. We listen as a prayer. We listen as advocacy. We listen to become allies for our sisters.
Our Biblical theme this week as we have gathered with our ecumenical sisters for worship each morning, has been the story of Zelophehad’s daughters. In case this is a new story for you, as it was to me, it is found in Numbers (27:1-11) of daughters, while still grieving the death of their father, came and stood up in front of Moses and the elders of the community to request the inheritance that would have been theirs if they had been born sons, not daughters. Moses, in one of his final acts as the leader of this transient people, received from God the affirmation that these women should be given their inheritance and be able to keep their family’s name alive.
In honor of those brave women, we celebrate this week the women and girls across the world standing up and claiming what should be every person’s inheritance as a child of God: food, water, safety from violence, quality education, and equal opportunities. We stand with them as it is possible and we work to make spaces safer for them to stand and for their voices to be heard. We are working to become our sisters’ allies.
As I write this, we are in the middle of the second day of the commission. Already so much has happened and so much has been learned. Keep our delegation in your prayers as we continue to listen and stand in this place where we have come together and as we go, pray that we advocate, ally, and keep our sisters in our hearts, prayers, and honor them with our words and actions.