The New Testament boldly proclaims “there is neither male nor female: for are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), but for so many people, gender difference is a cause for much social and political conflict — and spiritual questioning. What is a healthy way for people of faith to approach gender issues in our time? What is the place of transgender persons in the church, let alone society? Is there a contemplative way of understanding concepts such as gender fluidity or nonbinary gender, where the old idea that everyone is male or female is challenged by a sense that gender is a spectrum — a rainbow, rather than strictly black and white?
Our retreat day will seek to meet these challenging and fraught questions with a heart of silence, trust, and appreciation for our diverse world. We will not seek to answer all questions or promote one particular social or political point of view. Our inspiration will come from Christian saints and mystics of the past who did not always “fit in the box” of societal expectations regarding gender and sexuality. We’ll look at Julian of Norwich’s fascinating teachings about the Motherhood of God, St. Wilgefortis’s suprising image as a miraculous “bearded” woman, and Pauli Murray, the 20th century Episcopal Priest whose own identity blurred the lines separating male and female.
Our goal will not be to debate or argue about the many different ways we can approach the mystery of gender, but rather to reflect on how gender (and sexuality) are essential elements of what it means to be human — and therefore are inescapable elements of spirituality. However God created us, we are all invited to grow deeper in prayer and faith by presenting our entire selves to God through prayer, meditation and contemplation. As a day of reflection and silence, our time together will be an opportunity to grow in faith as we reflect on the mystery of being created in God’s own image.
This is a contemplative quiet day (day of reflection). The presenter will offer several brief talks followed by invitations to prayer and time for silence and personal reflection. We’ll have some opportunity for shared group reflection at the end of the day. Lunch is included. Guided by Carl McColman.
Carl McColman is a contemplative author, speaker, and teacher based in Atlanta. His books include The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Eternal Heart and Unteachable Lessons. His essay exploring the spirituality of gender, ”God’s Pronouns” was published in Soul Food: Nourishing Essays on Contemplative Living and Leadership (published in 2023 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shalem).