[Episcopal News Service] Anglican women praying, weaving bonds of affection, participating in God’s life and love for the world, and reflecting on how such spiritual practice emerges in diverse cultural and socio-economic contexts was the focus of a March 14-16 conference at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, according to a press release.
Conference participant Chrissie Crosby from Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria said that “something wonderful happens when women gather to share in God’s many graces, almost as though a holy blanket wraps us tightly together. Whether we speak the same language in daily life, we speak the same language in prayer. We feel safe with each other.”
Such experiences of prayer were brought together under the theme of “Anglican Women at Prayer: Weaving our Bonds of Affection,” facilitated by keynote speaker the Rev. Ellie Sanderson, a priest and scholar in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia with experience and expertise in community theological reflection.
Throughout her ministry, Sanderson emphasizes nurturing Christian community as a deep family of Christ, being disciples and making disciples, and giving to the last, the lost, and the least.
In her keynote address, Sanderson said that the imagery of weaving is so inviting. “It holds within it such a wealth of beauty and a deep resonance for so many women around our communion,” she said. “Weaving speaks of diversity and unity, and it speaks of creativity and community.” She noted that the Maori wisdom speaks of a sacred thread, a “sacred interweaving between Christ and creation and the thread that never ends.”
The conference was a partnership between VTS’s Center for Anglican Communion Studies and the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, a group of several hundred lay and ordained women dedicated to intercessory prayer.
Messages of support were received from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Welby said that he received news of the conference “with much joy,” underscoring that his first priority as archbishop is a commitment to the renewal of prayer and Religious Life.
“Thank you for helping fulfill this priority, one that I clearly cannot manage alone,” he said “I believe our task as the church, first and foremost, is to engage in lively dynamic, that is to say, to enjoy the intimacy between God as creator and ourselves each as beloved child. This is the gift of Christ, continually renewed through prayer – prayers of dependence, of honesty, of pleading, of trust. Thank you for giving yourselves to God and to one another these three days. You may not fully know the effect of your prayers: woven together, I believe they will help bring the renewal of the warp and woof that sustains our affection and witness and vision.”
Jefferts Schori described prayer as “above all an attitude of awareness toward God and what the Spirit is up to around, among, and within us … May your ministry be strengthened for transformative service in the world, in families and congregations, and all the broken places of our shared existence. And may you know yourselves beloved in the One who is the ground of our being, and closer than our fleshly clothing and the breath that sustains our lives.”
The challenge now, according to a seminary press release, is “how the voices of women and the voice of God heard in this conference become an enduring testimony and an enduring resource for the continued weaving of our lives together as sisters and brothers. For that, we need to commit ourselves to further listening, further reflection on the Scriptures, and further openness to the Spirit’s work inviting us to deeper participation in God’s mission through the person and work of Jesus Christ.”
This article is based on an a piece written by the Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D.,D.Phil., director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, which appears in the spring issue of the VTS’ News from the Hill.