Women’s Equality Day was observed in the US on August 26 to commemorate the passing of the 19th amendment, which prohibits states from denying the right to vote to any citizen based on sex.

In honor of this day, Nadine Compton conducted an interview on behalf of New Church Ministry with Rev. Dr. Irie Session and Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp, two female preachers who started The Gathering in Dallas, TX. They talked about church planting, womanism, and the importance of not only equality, but inclusion.

Their conversation took place right on the heels of General Assembly, where Disciples marked the culmination of the 2020 Vision. In NCM’s resolution, it celebrated the formation of 1,000 congregations in 1,000 different ways. This discussion Nadine had with the women of The Gathering truly demonstrates the diversity of the new congregations Disciples have welcomed, and how important this aspect of the Vision is to the future of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She spoke with The Gathering’s preachers over Zoom (you can watch the video of the interview here).

The discussion has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Nadine: Thank you so much to the both of you for being here. So both of you didn’t start your careers as preachers. Irie, you started off in banking and criminal justice and Kamilah, you started your life as a lawyer. What led the both of you to be church planters?

Sharp: Irie you want to go first?

Session: People often ask me or they say, you know, “you’re everywhere you do this, you do that.” Where I am in this season of my life, I would say that, like, I didn’t plant a church on top of all of that. What I have learned to do is to blend all of my doings into becoming what I consider a spiritual entrepreneur. In other words, I have made my gifts, my talents, my expertise and experiences available to God and the universe, in an effort to make life better for others. And so I’m open to – I try to be open to – the Spirit, and where I sense the Spirit leading me in any given time. And so when we started talking about The Gathering, it actually flowed out of some conversations that we were having with Reverend Kamilah’s husband, actually. (Kamilah can tell you more about her specific piece of that.) But we were in transition, trying to find a church where we felt like we fit and we were spiritually nourished and that spoke to our concerns with social justice. And so we were actually attending a particular church and Kamilah’s husband, Nick, would would often look over and say to me, “Why don’t you go be Moses, and plant a church?” And I would look back and like, “I’m not interested in that and if we did anything like that, it would not be me.” He mentioned also this idea of having a one-hour service, and so probably about two years later, after, you know, some resistance and some other things sort of fell in place, The Gathering was planted. I mean, we weren’t thinking about a church, we were thinking about a community, a gathering, where the community could experience womanist preaching. And the community that began gathering really made it clear to us that they were interested in a church. So that’s kind of how it started. Kamilah?

Sharp: Well, for me, as you say I started my life as an attorney. That’s the only thing I ever want to be since I was seven years old. And never did I imagine I’d be a preacher or pastor and definitely not a church planter. I was not interested in any of that. A series of, I guess, yeses to God is how I feel I ended up right here: the yes to call to ministry, leaving my good paying job to go to seminary… [Laughs] (Then I came to Dallas to pursue a PhD, so I’m working on my PhD in Biblical Interpretation at Brite [Divinity School]. And my husband’s family is from Dallas.) …And the yes to a lot more time of school after I said I would never go back to school. And as Irie was saying, you know, trying to find a place where I felt I could worship and be you know, nourished as she said. And here in Dallas, you know, there was no place that really felt like, you know, “this is where me and my family would need to be or want to be.” And like, you know, again, piggybacking off her, the idea of even doing this wasn’t an idea of planting a church. It was, “what will happen if we create a space for womanist preaching, for people to hear more womanist preaching?” Because, after we did the first Seven Last Words with Seven Womanist Preachers, people were asking for more womanist preaching. And so the question then became, “how do we get a space for people to do that and experience that?” And you know, as Irie says, she wasn’t interested in planting a church, I was interested in planting a church, and definitely not by ourselves. But when we first started out initially it was three of us. And so the idea that there will be three people who could manage the load seemed more realistic, even with the idea of just creating space, because even in a creative space, it takes time, it takes energy, it takes planning. And I was working on a PhD. And I’m still working on a PhD. [Laughs]

Session: And you’re a mom and a wife…

Sharp: Right.

Session: And you’re partnered up, you know.

Sharp: Right. And as my daughter likes to joke, “…and my 40 cousins,” you know, so just life, period. [Laughs] So trying to figure out how this would be a way of it working, where you should live and not die, even in doing.

Session: [Laughs]

Sharp: And so, you know, when we agreed to start it, like she said, you know, we started out with the idea of creating space and so we planned it, and we prayed about it, and the first Saturday, people showed up. I was like “okay,” and the next Saturday, people showed up.

Session: [Laughs]

Sharp: And every Saturday since then, [laughs] people have showed up. We started in October in the fellowship hall because this wasn’t church. So we created just a space in the fellowship hall. But on the first Saturday of December, the church had already rented out the fellowship hall for another event. So they were like, you’d have to move in the sanctuary. And I really didn’t want to move in the sanctuary because again, this wasn’t church. And I didn’t want people who were coming to feel uncomfortable because a lot of people who were coming to our service, and who still come, are people who have been hurt by church. I didn’t want to re-traumatize them. But we went in, and the people loved it. And so that’s when we became church.

Session: Yeah. I want to add something to what Kamilah was saying about The Seven Last Words. So The Seven Last Words or Seven Last Sayings of Jesus From the Cross is an event that occurs primarily, I would say, or traditionally, in Black church… are you familiar with that Nadine?

No I’m not, please fill me in.

Session: Okay. It occurs on Good Friday. What happens typically is there are seven pastors or seven preachers that preach each of the seven last words of Christ from the cross. And so we were, looking at that, thinking about that, and wondering what would it look like if we had seven Black women because traditionally, it’s always seven men. They may have one woman in there, but rarely. And in Dallas I’ve never seen, had never seen, seven Black women doing that. So we organized that, and it was actually held at an open and affirming white congregation in Dallas, Midway Hills Christian Church. The place pretty much packed out and it was incredible. It was seven Black women, the seven sayings, for seven minutes. So each of us had seven minutes to preach. And most of us, you know, tried to stick within that seven minutes, but, you know how that is. But after that is when we started getting all these inquiries. And so, you know, we just kind of paid attention to those kinds of things, right, those kinds of responses. And then we would go various places individually, and preach or speak. And again, we would still get the same question: where can we hear some more of this? And then Reverend Kamilah talked about the church where we have our services. And when we talked and agreed to do this, we knew that we did not want to have concerns of mortgages, because our focus, we wanted it to be on ministry, and on a certain kind of ministry. And so what we began looking for was a church, a Disciples of Christ church, that could give us what we called ‘permanent nesting space.’ And so I sent an email to the North Texas Area minister, and asked him to send that request to the North Texas Area churches. Within several hours, we received five responses, saying, “Yeah, come to our church.” But we had in mind, a particular church that we wanted, that we felt like would be best for this ministry. We wanted it to be centrally located in Dallas, where people had access to transportation and things of that nature, which was Central Christian Church. And I would say, it took about two weeks for Dr. Ken [Crawford, Central Christian Church’s senior pastor] to reach out and confirm, but when he said yes, you know, that, again, was another affirmation. Because that’s what we’re looking for, right, we want God’s approval. We want Spirit’s approval, and we want to know that we’re, to sense that we are moving in a good direction. And so when those kinds of things happened, you know, that was affirmation for us.

Rev. Irie Session

This actually ties in really great to my next question. So The Gathering describes itself as a womanist church, but not everybody is familiar with that term. How do each of you define womanism?

Session: I’ll go ahead and leave the scholar to go last. So let me begin like this: everyone interprets the Bible through a certain lens, whether we admit it or not, or whether even we know it or not. What I’ve discovered, and I’m sure you have to, is that we bring all of who we are to our study and interpretation of the biblical text. That is, what we’ve been taught theologically, what we believe about the Bible. And I say what we’ve been taught theologically, what we believe about the Bible, because the two may not be the same, right? We may have been taught some things theologically, but may not necessarily believe ’em. But we bring our biases, we bring our experiences, etc. So as a theologically trained Black woman who identifies as womanist, what I’m simply doing is naming the lens through which I do theology, and ministry, and quite frankly, life. So we’re naming that. So I wanted to say that first because often, I think when people see womanist church, or when they see womanism, they get a feeling that like, we are… We’re doing something… Well we are doing something that no one else is doing, in a sense, because we named it, we put it out there. But everybody has a lens, right? So I thought that was important to say, but as far as the definition of womanism, I consider it an embodied framework or methodology that – and to quote Dr. Mitzi J. Smith – that privileges the voices, traditions, concerns, and experiences of Black women, as opposed to the voices, traditions, concerns and experiences of say, white males, right? Because traditionally, that’s how we’ve all read Scripture. That’s how we’ve understood it. And so, when we when we think of theology and biblical interpretation, they’ve been held hostage by the white male gaze and the white male perspective, right? But that’s just one way of doing theology, not the only way. Womanism declares Black women’s theologizing and scholarship is valid, and more importantly, necessary for the survival and wholeness, and I would say well-being, of all God’s creation. That’s how I would define it.

Sharp: And I would take it even a step further, because even outside of our theology, womanism is about our lived experiences and how we are communal about the community and the survival and fitness of all people. But womanism is grounded in the experiences of Black women and taking Black women’s experiences seriously, as a valid starting point. However, because we are concerned about the survival of all people, it’s not just about Black women.

Session: That’s right.

Sharp: And so for me, womanism is a lens in which I interpret the Bible, but it’s also my lived experience. It’s also how I try to live out my life in helping liberate all people. As a womanist church, yes we are interpreting the text from a womanist lens, but we’re also trying to liberate all people through our preaching, through the ways that we engage in issues of injustice, and trying to seek justice in the way we put our bodies on the line for certain things and the ways that we spend our money. All this is wrapped up for me, and what it means to be a womanist.

Session: Ditto what she said.

Sharp: Womanism started out in [academia]. And I believe one of the things that we are trying to do is make womanism accessible to more people to understand. Because for me, when I learned the term womanist, it was what I’d been my whole life, I just never had that terminology.

Session: And for me, it wasn’t what I did my whole life, but it was what my soul was in desperate need of. And so when, and I know this is another question that you’re going to ask, but I came to a womanism when I was a seminary student at Brite Divinity School and had experienced some success professionally, but emotionally, and even spiritually, I was not free. In terms of who I believed I was, and my capabilities, and my worth, and my value, it was all wrapped up in a patriarchal kind of Christianity that was suppressive. And so when I experienced womanism, I say it saved my righteous mind. And so for me too, it is a way of doing life and it’s a way of being that I believe can transform our Church.

Sharp: The world.

Session: And the world, yeah.

So Kamilah, did you also feel like what led you to a womanism was academia?

Sharp: Yeah, I learned the terminology in seminary as well. I was taking a Hebrew Bible class and Hebrew Bible interpretation. That’s where I learned about womanism and was like, “that’s what I am, that’s what I’ve always done.” And not only me, this is how my mother was, this is how I grew up, in a very communal sense of seeking liberation for everybody. And also a communal sense of trying to make sure everybody’s okay, too. I was familiar with the term feminism, I’d heard of feminism before. But that’s not really what I am. This is really what I am.

Session: Yeah.

So for the both of you, was it a no-brainer when you started The Gathering, for it to be a womanist church? For it to be based in this theology?

Sharp: We knew we were going to be grounded in womanist preaching and womanist interpretation, but it was never supposed to be a church in the first place. [Laughs] But once it became a church? [Laughs] It was Irie’s idea to name it as such. For us, we were operating as a womanist church, but to name it? And it’s interesting becuase when you name it as such…

Session: Yes.

Sharp: …we already got people questioning us like, “three Black women, really?” And then to say womanist, you know, “what, can men still come?” You get all those type of things. It’s interesting because we’ve named it as such, that this invoked certain things in people, whereas you don’t necessarily ask some of these questions of other churches that just have ‘church’ in the name.

Session: Right. And I think that’s a really good point. I’m glad you mentioned that, Kamilah, because I was thinking about that this morning, that had we just named the church, The Gathering, even with two or three women pastors, it would not have caused… You might not be interviewing us, right? But because we named it and we – and I forgot that it was my idea, I didn’t remember that…

Sharp: [Laughs]

Session: But we want it to be… because we’re trying to, as Kamilah said, and we are doing this, we are making womanist thought more accessible by some other things that we’ve done, putting the name there was important for doing that, for making womanism accessible, even for generating questions so that we could have conversation and dialogue about what it is – it’s a way of educating the community. But also, I think it’s a way of being forthright and letting people know, upfront, that this is what we’re about. This is what we’re about. And not being afraid to do that, right? Having the courage to even experience some opposition, some questioning, but I see it as always opportunities for education, and enlightenment.

Sharp: And also, you know, with the whole naming of it, even coming out initially with our priorities and you explicitly say, you know, the things that we’re for, you recognize that there’s going to be a lot of people that’s not gone come with you.

Session: Right.

Sharp: And that’s okay. Because we said it’s a womanist church, now there are people who won’t like it, who don’t even know what womanist is, but won’t like it, because we put that name in the title.

Session: Right.

Sharp: And that’s okay. Because they’ll learn eventually.

Session: Yeah.

So I’m going to skip forward, actually, because I feel like this question that I’m going to ask ties into what you said, Kamilah. So you had said that womanism, and at least your approach to it, is that you want to liberate all people, you want to make it accessible to everyone. But it doesn’t change the fact that womanism or womanist theology is rooted in the Black female experience in America. How do you then navigate the power dynamics of having a multiracial, mixed gender congregation? And then the second part of that is, how does this inform what you preach from the pulpit?

Sharp: I’ll start with your second question I think, and back into your first one. Because we are interested in the liberation of all people, we are often preaching issues about marginalized people, because we are as Black women, marginalized people in these all but United States. And so, a lot of our topics are dealing with justice issues. Although right now we’re talking about money. We’ve talked about all types of things, not just justice issues, but issues that are impacting people in their lives and issues that are going to impact you whether you’re Black, White, red, gay, or straight. These are issues, issues about money, issues about domestic violence… But certain things that we’ve preached about, these are issues that are issues across the board. Now, they may impact Black women more so than they impact some other people, but they still impact people. And not only that, because we’re trying to teach a communal spirit. If it impacts me, whether it impacts you directly, it should impact you because we’re part of the community. So trying to get an understanding that it’s not an individual experience, it’s communal experience, and a communal healing is going to need to take place. And as far as your first question… The other thing is we have a nonhierarchical organization. So that’s the other thing about The Gathering. There is no senior pastor, we’re co-pastors. And so the idea that we’re trying to eliminate patriarchy and hierarchy, not only in the world, but in the Church, we navigate that by modeling, this is how we want to live life in a communal, nonhierarchical manner. And if there’s no hierarchy, then we can get rid of some of these high-power dynamics. And recognizing that there are still issues, we still are centering the experiences of Black women when we start, so we’re still speaking from our own experience.

Session: Nadine, can you unpack just a little more what you mean when you say “navigate the power dynamics of having a multiracial, mixed gender church?” What are you trying to get at there?

I’m glad you asked…

Session: [Laughs]

…because I struggled with forming this question. I will be up front, I pass as white. I’m half white, half Asian. And so I have a foot sometimes in both worlds. And so [racism] is something I struggle with as well… I guess what I’m asking is, if you’re a womanist, you’re a Black woman in America…

Session: Yeah.

…Do you feel like, “Ok well, you know, I have some white people in my congregation, I have some men, I have to now change what I originally wanted to say so that it also includes them.” Do you ever feel like you have to censor yourself or change it so that it can be applicable to everyone? Do you ever wish that like, “I wish I could just preach to Black women, period?” You know?

Session: Yeah.

Like, “why do I have to make it accessible?” I mean, accessibility has been a huge fight for a long time for a lot of people, but sometimes, when you are in a minority, or an oppressed community, it’s like, “why is that burden on us, that we have to make it accessible for everybody?”

Session: Yeah.

That should be the other way around, that’s why we have to have our own community! That’s why we have a womanist church because we’ve not been made to feel welcome in the traditionally white male Church. I guess that was the real question behind that.

Session: Okay yeah, I get it now!

[Laughs]

Session: The answer to that is nope, nope. [Laughs] And that is the beauty for us. And I think for others, for the white people, for the Asian people, for the Black people who come to The Gathering is that we don’t censor what we say it. I mean, we preach, and we lead and we do ministry authentically. And so we don’t feel that pressure to censor what we say, because we don’t want to hurt white people’s feelings who are sitting in the congregation, you know, the white women who are in the congregation. Look, [these] are what our social justice priorities [are]: we have three, and the first one is racial equity. So that means we’re going to be talking about racism, we’re going to be talking about and preaching about white privilege, and…

Sharp: White fragility

Session: …white fragility, right. We’re going to be preaching about white nationalism and white supremacy. All those are evils

Sharp: And they exist in the Church!

Session: Yes! So that is the freedom Nadine, that we have. And that’s one of the reasons for me why I knew the traditional Church is no place for me. In terms to pastor, I’ve done it. And I didn’t feel that freedom to speak truth to power as I sensed I needed to. Reverend Kamilah?

Sharp: Yeah, I agree. Um, I think the naming of it, like she said, makes a big difference. Because for me, anybody who comes across The Gathering, however they come across The Gathering on social media and things like that, if you go to our website, or if you come to our things, like, we’re very clear, there’s no sleight of hand of what you’re going to get.

Session: [Laughs]

Sharp: Like, you know, upfront, what this is going to be about, how we’re going to be. But when people come, they all say, you know, they never felt more welcome, they feel so welcome. We have quite a few white people who come to The Gathering and come faithfully every week.

Session: Every week. Frankly it’s amazing to me, because [laughs] I’m so appreciative of it and grateful for it. And it gives me so much hope for the Church.

Sharp: Right.

Session: If they can sit there and listen to this, what we’re saying, and then have conversations about it when they go home, read the text before (because every week, we send out the Scripture and a little snippet about what we’re going to preach about)… Oh, the other thing that has really been helpful Nadine, after every sermon that we preach, we have what we call ‘talk back to the text.’ So, we’ll preach, we’ll sit down, moment of reflection, then the preacher will come back and entertain comments and questions from the congregation about what they just heard. Oh, we have some rich conversations, you know? And so that helps people to feel like their voices matter, all people, everybody who’s in there. Because everybody can say something and ask something. And is respected, and is not judged, or made to feel like their question was stupid, or something of that nature. And sometimes the questions are a critique of what they heard us preach. But that’s welcomed as well.

Sharp: Right.

Yeah. I was led to the Disciples, (I was raised Roman Catholic), because there was a local congregation where I was living a few years ago, that had that similar structure, where there’s an open floor, and you can respond to what the pastor said, and she was a woman, she had a shaved head. So that was huge for me initially. And she dyed it according to the liturgical calendar, which is great.

Session: [Laughs]

Yeah, I mean, just having that ability to, like you said, break down that hierarchical structure so that you can have that one-on-one in a space, you can respond. Because a lot of times a lot of people’s experience is: you sit there passively taking this information, and then you kind of, “Okay, I’ll go now,” you know, unless you’re the kind of person that’ll go to Bible study. And a lot of people don’t do that because that’s a little much. So I want to build on that…

Sharp: Before you go on, with a lot of these churches, you’re only allowed to go by that pastor’s interpretation. So the interpretation that he or she may say, and then when they come to Bible study, this is the interpretation. And this is the one that a lot of people are trained. And so the difference in The Gathering is we are upfront that this is the way we’re interpreting it. There are other ways to interpret text. As she said, sometimes it’s the questions or comments, may be a critique because maybe the person does interpret it differently than we do. And that’s okay. And so to welcome that kind of freedom is different.

Session: Yeah.

So, again, going to skip ahead, because I feel like this dovetails really nicely. I noticed on your website, and then also, based on what you said, Kamilah, on trying to get away from this traditional hierarchical structure. So your website refers to members as ministry partners. I’m wondering if that’s intentional, has your church done away with formal membership, as some other churches have done? If so, why? And then has it created better community for the people at The Gathering or of The Gathering?

Sharp: Yeah, we were intentional not to have members. We have ministry partners, because we say we believe that we are partnering in the work together. And so to be a ministry partner at The Gathering means that someone comes regularly, whether they’re in the sanctuary, or… we have quite a few ministry partners who do not live in Dallas, but they watch us online, faithfully, and they engage online. Also, we ask that our ministry partners share their gifts with the community. Now that comes in a wide range, it could be someone making communion, it could be someone singing, it could be someone writing litanies, it could be someone working the technology, but it’s us all working together for our community. And then we ask that they give regularly to support the ministry of The Gathering. So those are the three things we ask our ministry partners to do. Now, another thing about The Gathering, which is unique, as you know, we meet on Saturday. There are a lot of people, quite a few people, who come to The Gathering every week, who are ministry partners, but still go to a traditional church on Sunday.

Session: Yeah.

Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp

Sharp: And that’s fine, but there are quite a few who only go to The Gathering.

Session: Mhm.

Sharp: And to be clear, not all churches are okay with you having a dual membership, let me say that. [Laughs] They may not be okay with you saying you’re a member here, but that’s not why we don’t say we’re members, because membership, it’s a different thing than what we’re trying to build. We’re trying to build community. So to partner is to do something different. But see, our ministry partnership goes beyond just individual peoples, we also partner with other organizations and things because we recognize that this is a small gathering of people, and although there are a lot of issues in the world, we can’t address them all. Some of the things that we want to do, people are already doing that work, so we don’t have to start from scratch. So we can partner with other churches, other organizations and do things together. For example, when we were doing our food justice sermons, Friendship-West [Baptist Church] has a community garden that gives out fresh fruits and vegetables to anybody. Anybody who wants to, just come with a bag on the second or the third Saturday of the month. So we partnered with them to go volunteer and hand out those vegetables and work with them and those type of things. That’s work that needs to be done, but we don’t have to start from scratch. So ministry partnership, for us, it goes beyond just the individual people.

Session: Yeah. I would add this about the ministry partnership: we’re discovering that people need to learn how to be in ministry partnership, right, because as you said, so often they’re used to coming to the church, joining like a club, giving their money, maybe, and going home.

Sharp: Mhm.

Session: So they’re not accustomed to this notion of partnership. And so we, Reverend Kamilah and I, I think we model partnership, quite beautifully.

Sharp: [Laughs]

Session: And so they see our partnership, they see that this is not a hierarchy, they see that the different roles that Reverend Kamilah and I have sort of grew organically. We discovered, “Oh, I do this well, and I like doing that,” you know, that kind of thing. And so it’s a slow process of helping people feel comfortable with availing, recognizing and availing, their unique gifts to this partnership. Also, there is this added component of partnership of responsibility and accountability, right? Membership doesn’t necessarily put you in a situation of accountability, and responsibility, right? And so when we invite people to ministry partnership, we also give them, like, an online sort of questionnaire, where we’re asking them, what do you, you know, bring to the table that you would like to share with The Gathering with this community, with the larger community. And then it causes them to think about that, you know, because up front, we want them to know, you know, we don’t want you to just show up and just open your brain and have us pour stuff in it. We want community, and you are important and what you bring is important, and what God has gifted you with is important and necessary for community, for the survival and wholeness of this entire community, which is a womanist tenet.

I’m going to switch gears a little bit and kind of go back to, I guess, why we’re having this conversation. So Women’s Equality Day is on August 26. It was established to commemorate the passing of the 19th Amendment, which was supposed to grant American women the right to vote in 1920. Obviously, this largely applied to white women, as women of color had to wait years before they could cast a ballot. How do you think womanism contributes to equality, or let’s say equity or inclusion in the 21st century?

Session: I think womanism is a way of saying or not waiting for someone to invite you to the table, but to create your own table. So this idea of being able to create your own space and to privilege your own way of thinking about life and thinking about ministry, is what it means to be free. And equality is about being free. It’s about being free to exercise your rights as a human, as a human being. And so I think womanism is a way for Black women to experience freedom – freedom to be… all that God is created and crafted us to be. I can’t see equality without freedom… Just one thought.

Sharp: I agree with Irie.

Session: [Laughs]

Sharp: [Laughs] Like really. [Laughs]

Session: Right? It is about dismantling, resisting, every oppressive structure that prevents people from flourishing. And so it has everything to do with equality. That’s why it was birthed. That’s why Katie Cannon and Jacqueline Grant and Dolores William and Kelly Brown Douglas risked putting forth this notion, this idea, this methodology, this framework, this way of being, you know, years ago, 20, 30 years ago, because of this lack of equality… right. You know, as Reverend Kamilah said earlier, womanism is not just about Black women’s freedom.

Sharp: Mhm.

I wanna… go to something that you said that stood out to me. So you said, womanist theology allows Black women to create their own table, their own space… because you’re not waiting to be invited to the table or to the space. But then how does that tie in with Disciples identity, where it’s “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world,” and they have such a stated commitment or dedication to this idea of unity?

Session: Mhm.

That’s something I personally struggle with, because I wasn’t born and raised a Disciple. It seems to be such a pattern that repeats itself over and over again. How do you reconcile those two?

Sharp: Well, I’ll say two things: that is part of the Disciples thing, a movement for [wholeness], but the other thing that many Disciples love to bring up is the fact that each church has its own autonomy.

Session: Yes!

Sharp: [Laughs] And that’s a real big thing with Disciples churches. But here’s the thing: The Gathering is no longer waiting for space to be created, but creating space that we believe is necessary, so people can hear this type of preaching and experience this type of worship community. So you create this space, which is a womanist move, however, we’re still tied with Disciples, we still… We come to the table every Saturday, just like, you know, all the other things. You can still be having your own table at a picnic. So, we got our own table, but we’re still part of the party.

Session: That’s right. Well said!

Sharp: [Laughs]

Session: We got our own table, but we still part of the party. Yes. We were intentional about remaining Disciples.

Sharp: Right. Yeah.

Session: Disciples profess to being a pro-reconciling/anti-racist Church. We are definitely anti-racist/pro-reconciling, right, but there’s some things that we understand as Black women about reconciliation… that… inform what we do. I’ll just leave it at that, right. So what makes us Disciples – we’re still connected, and we were intentional about that, about remaining thus. We participate, we’re engaged in the larger Church, you know. We attend General Assembly, we attend National Convocation. We… We come on and we talk to you…

[Laughs]

Sharp: We go to these events, we’re part of committees and things of that nature. So yeah, I think the way Kamilah said it is just, it’s perfect.

You know, it’ll make for a great tweet at some point.

Session: Yeah!

[Laughs] But I’ll credit you, don’t worry about it. [Laughs]

Sharp: [Laughs] Thank you. Thank you. Please give me my credit @kamilahmh. [Laughs]

Registered like, [laughs] trademark.

Session: Yeah! Absolutely.

[Laughs] Okay, so I’m going to keep on going. I think that actually this is the last question. So from your perspective, what is the future of womanism?

Session: I see womanism expanding. I see a lot of innovation and increased creativity in its expression. Womanists aren’t monolithic. There are all kinds of ways that womanists express our identities and who we are in our ethics. And so I see more of that, particularly as it relates to Millennial womanists, and I see… I see people becoming more and more enlightened and educated about womanism… particularly as we see, you know, as we look around and we see Black women period, in key places. I mean, we’ve got an African American General Minister and President of our denomination. Now I’m not saying she’s womanist, I don’t know. But there are more womanists holding key positions in our world, in various churches and denominations. I see expansion, innovation and creativity when I think of the future womanist.

Sharp: I agree. You know, womanism started in theology. However, in [academia], womanism has spread way past theology and is into all types of fields, and there are people who are identifying womanism in psychology and nursing, in so many other fields. Yeah, because it’s informing thought, I think it’s going to expand. Like she said, I think there’s going to be some expansion in how it comes to play out in people’s everyday life, because it’s not just going to be a quote-unquote, academic term. There are people at The Gathering now who understand themselves to be womanists. But also, I think we’re going to see a shift in the way people think on certain things, as more people start to take their own experiences seriously. I think it’s also a way of empowering people. So I agree with Irie, I think we’ll see some more creativity. You’ll see some more expansion. And with all of that, you’re going to see more people trying to push back because of the way it’s going to impact the work.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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