Our bodies are us. Race, sex and gender, sexuality, and culture make each human individual, particular, different. Our bodies make us visible to some and invisible to others. Our bodies make us insiders and outsiders, citizens and immigrants, privileged and profiled, straight and queer. Beginning with our bodies, the Hedgerow Seminar aims to translate wounds into theological reflection and suffering into the compassionate practice of solidarity.

The black body uncovers the suffering body at the heart of Christian belief; it connects the cross with the lynching tree. Reading and reflecting with womanist theologian Shawn Copeland, we will ask how we can become the raced, gendered, sexed, enculturated body of Christ in our world that Jesus was in his. “If the body, the flesh of Jesus, is the ‘hinge of salvation,’ then the embrace of the church must swing open and wide,” writes Copeland, who draws on slave narratives to let the wounds of black women and men speak. Their suffering lays bare the human capacity for inhumanity but also testifies that untold violence cannot silence the human spirit and the desire for freedom.

Other voices will also show us how to become the raced, gendered, sexed, enculturated body of Christ. Alongside Copeland’s work, we will read feminist theologians Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock on their experiences—Parker with recovered memories of abuse and Brock with two cultures struggling within her. Parker, Brock, and Copeland were among the feminist, womanist, mujerista, and Asian theologians gathered 25 years ago at the Re-imagining Conference to re-imagine a church and world in which the bodies of women would be equal, no longer abused, discounted, or trivialized.

Throughout the seminar, guest instructors will guide our reading and reflection. St. Catherine University professors Sharon Doherty, Pamela Fletcher and Dawn Quigley will reflect on what builds community among us who live raced, gendered, sexed, enculturated lives today. Theologian Mary Bednarowski, who spoke at the first Reimagining Conference, will assess its impact on the church today. Together, we embrace our challenge: embodying new ways to cultivate communion in our world and be an inclusive body of Christ.

August 7th, 2018