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An Improvised Mujerista Liturgy

What happens when a bunch of Latin American women want to get together to seek the presence and voice of the Divine? Recently, the student organization of Latin@s American@s at Vanderbilt Divinity School received the nice surprise of the presence of a Latina Scholar in Nashville. We had very short notice and thus had to improvise. We particularly improvised a liturgy that, intentionally or not, resembled the characteristics of mujerista liturgy proposed by Ada María Isasi-Díaz in her book Mujerista Theology.

First, we created a sacred space and time. We brought objects that are meaningful to us. We created an altar with those objects. Then we sat in a circle around the altar and kept a moment of silence. That we chose to sit in a circle is significant. Mujerista theology questions hierarchies and prefers circles as a way of showing relations among equals. Another way in which we showed this equality was by wearing stoles, all of us, regardless of formal ordinations in our respective traditions. The stoles were all the same length, shape, and style. The only thing different was the base color. Each person chose a color they liked. In this way we remembered that we celebrate our equality as much as we celebrate our uniqueness. Each one of us has particular gifts to bring to the community.

Second, we prayed. It looked like an informal conversation. Every person said something. We mostly gave thanks to God for each other, for that space, at that time, to connect with each other and the Divine.

Third, there was a ‘preaching moment.’ What is characteristic of a mujerista sermon is the idea of doing theology together, en conjunto. It is more a facilitated conversation than a lecture or formal address by one person. We read a Scripture reading and then each person shared what she perceived in the text. It was the story of the foreigner woman who insisted in getting healing for her daughter from Jesus (Matthew 15:21-28). One perceived there her own struggle to find in her classes “food” for herself, her struggle to push professors to give her material that is relevant for our context, for our people, our community of immigrants and Hispanic American living in the United States. Another one perceived in the story a woman who dared to break the rules to credit bureau is what makes purchasing major items like homes and cars possible for most Canadians, even those with substantial savings. get what she needed for her and her family to enjoy fullness of life. Another one saw in the story the many women who reiterate received interpretations of Bible stories and the challenge that it supposes to help them see things in a different way, like the woman did with Jesus. Then, another one synthetized our ideas and shared how the story shows the power of being a woman, the power to insist and persist to get what is needed for life. This, however, needs to be done with courage, creativity, and wisdom.

Finally, we did a ritual that I call “the struggle ritual.” We followed this ritual as it appears in the book Mujerista Theology. We blessed bread and milk with honey. The bread symbolizes the daily food we need to live as well as nourishment from God who sustains us to keep struggling everyday. The milk with honey reminds us of the Promised Land, of the future that we are creating with each other and God when we struggle everyday to survive and to find a good quality of life. With that, we blessed each other knowing that we are sisters walking together this journey toward our preferred future. We give each other strength to remain en la lucha, in the struggle.

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