( PNS) A first-of-its-kind event, the Leadership Development Institute for Latina/Hispanic Women in Leadership, is being held in Louisville Nov. 19-22.
Sponsored jointly by the offices of Leadership Development and Recruitment for Leaders of Color and the Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support of the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, the institute brought together about 30 Hispanic women from across the U.S. representing six different countries. The pastors, ruling elders and chaplains were all ordained by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“This event is unique in that it gathers Latina women leaders to do theology,” said the Rev. Alexandra Zareth, associate for Leadership Development and Recruitment for Leaders of Color. “The women are doing a type of liberation theology called Mujerista/Latina Evangélica. It makes space for voices of women whose voices are usually silenced, not heard.
“This is a space that values context and lived experiences and teaches that out of their unique context, women can study the Bible in a unique way,” she said. “This is not a space where they will be spoken to but where they will speak as experts and they are given time to stop and reflect on their experiences and realities in light of the Scripture we will study together.”
The Rev. Rosa Blanca Miranda, associate for Hispanic/Latino-a Intercultural Congregational Support, said, “Latina clergywomen rarely have the opportunity to come together to network, to encourage each other or to share their experiences in ministry and learn from each other. This event provides a great opportunity for Latina women to build a network throughout the PC(USA).”
Zareth and Miranda say they are hoping to help participants feel their voice is valued and a space is made available for them to practice “speaking up.”
“We would love to create trusted friendships through the honest dialogue and fellowship they will have,” said Zareth.
Zareth said she believes it is important for the voices of Latina women to be heard because Jesus heard the voices of those who were marginalized.
“Matthew 25 reminds us that sometimes the most valued ones seem invisible,” she said. “These voices are the ‘least of these.’ These voices have less access than others to microphones. They are not the typical participants at events, and yet they are filled with talent and gifts that we rarely get to observe from close up and learn from.”
“These are voices that have of lot of wisdom and a lot to share from their own experiences, challenges, and celebrations as Latina women called by God into ministry,” said Miranda.
The first session of the Institute was facilitated by the Rev. Everdith Landrau, manager of Ecumenical Networking, Education and Resource Development for the Office of the General Assembly. Her session focused on the importance of self-care. During her presentation Landrau provided participants with a self-care inventory. The inventory asked a series of questions designed to address one key concern: How well are you taking care of yourself?
Landrau, a member of the Institute Leadership Team, says it is important that self-care was discussed during the conference’s first session.
“In my experience, women clergy don’t always put their need first,” Landrau said. “In order to heal we must know what our needs are. Scripture is full of opportunities to partner with our self-care as a spiritual practice.”
As to the potential for future conferences, Zareth said, “The hope is that women experience a skill of ‘doing theology together’ that they can then do in their own spaces, cities and presbyteries.”
“It is my hope that this will be the first of many others, at the national and regional levels,” Miranda said. “I hope this event is the impetus for a national gathering of this type.”
The entire institute was conducted in Spanish, with translation services offered in English and Spanish by Administrative Services Group staff Spanish translator Stephanie Vasquez.
“This was truly a collaborative effort that brought gifts from OGA, PMA and A Corporation,” said Zareth. “Without the team, this would not have happened.”
by Gail Strange, Presbyterian News Service