On the Shoulders of Giants

– pausing to give thanks as we begin-

The first time I came was for CSW56.
ELCA World Hunger had graciously invited me to translate for la estimada Irma Rodriguez Leon during the LWF side event. What that actually meant was that I had flown in in the pocket of one of the bravest women I will ever meet. Ask me about Irma. What was framed as a role that I could play was truthfully an opportunity to receive.

Together we exited the elevator to join in the Ecumenical Women orientation. A nun at the registration table handed us little button pins that said “Jesus Loves Feminists.” Irma and I giggled with gratitude. She said bluntly, “Well, he is one!”

That year, the progress hoped for at the CSW was seriously thwarted by religious groups whom are also claimed and loved by Jesus. I have spent the last four years trying to reconcile how this could be. My guide in healing and growing has been to watch the women who have spent their lives marching toward justice, unweighted down by the moments of despair, seeking freedom ceaselessly. What ground could be more holy than these strong shoulders upon which we are invited to stand? Irma, Leymah Gbowee, Cristina Rendon (to name a few CSW Lutherans who endlessly inspire me and whom I think you might enjoy learning about).


Lutheran women group with Kevin O’Hara, Dennis Frado, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee (4th in from left). Delegation: Jeannette Ada Maina, Mikka McCrakken,  Daniele Schmidt Peter, me, Irma, Grischdl Maier, Jessica Arneson, Christine Mangale

My teammates in the wrestling, lead by Mikka and Rozella, form this little group we call the ELCA Young Adult Cohort; a growing group of warriors for equity. (I hesitated there, but indeed the struggle for women’s rights is a war against violence, poverty, disparity, hunger, and preconceived notions about the value of a woman’s human life.)

Members of the cohort return now to the CSW, called to do justice, to listen humbly on this walk with God, with Jesus the feminist. I am at the airport wondering what I will find, learn, and take “home” to my faith communities… wondering what we will be able to do together as the ELCA.

I am no Human Rights lawyer and educator/organizer-extraordinaire like Irma, but I am a sister, and I do have hope. I look to this as a chance to strengthen my shoulders, as I hope to offer them as a place to stand someday.

In peace, yet overflowing with anticipation,
Jen Engquist

@EngquistJen on Twitter


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