At the Christian Feminism Today Gathering in St. Louis, Ashley Cason gave an outstanding presentation titled “Human Sexuality and Women in the Church: Past Policies and Future Prospects.” Among the current trends she noted is that one in three U.S. Catholics are leaving the church because of their disagreement with church policies, especially those related to women’s rights, abortion, and sexual orientation.
Ashley Cason graduated from the University of Central Missouri in 2013 where she earned her B.S. in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on human sexuality. The time she spent organizing events and rallies on campus to address topics of gender, class, and sexuality gave her the tenacity and tools to branch out of advocacy work and into academia. Ashley is currently earning a M.A. degree in Sociology and is using the discussions between Sociology and Feminism to develop sexuality education programs. Ashley’s passion for social justice and progress drives her dream to become a director of a non-profit organization.
Ashley wrote this reflection on the Gathering for Christian Feminism Today.
A Beautiful Day
by Ashley Cason
When I was asked to write a reflection about my experience attending the Christian Feminism Today 2014 Gathering, I was more than thrilled to do it, but I found myself asking several dozen times, “What do I want to write about?” Do I want to talk about the thrill of stepping into a room full of strangers to deliver my first conference presentation? Do I write about the overwhelming academic support I received from a group of professionals who saw me as a peer?
I decided to write about the love that was sent my direction in waves. I decided to write about rediscovering my faith in God. I decided to write about experiencing beautiful moments in which I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, something I had not felt in years! Thinking about all of these good times is fabulous.
But as strong as the feelings of love, support, and happiness were, I still spent a good portion of my time crying from pain and sadness. Discussing topics such as homelessness, racism, economic disparity, hate crimes, oppressive social structures, and numerous other challenging topics for an entire weekend can be taxing on even the most emotionally steadfast individual, and I am not an emotionally steadfast individual. I wear my heart on my sleeve and speak sometimes before I can think better of it. But the tears I cried served to remind me why I am now a “Sister of Summer.”
My empathy for life allows me to be passionate about the work I do but also highly cynical of the world in which I live. Small town Missouri is not exactly a mecca of social activism, and my support system is small. But in EEWC-CFT I have found a whole new group of wonderful, like-minded people to work with in the quest to achieve social justice and equality.
In St. Louis, I woke every day and shared my mantra with my sisters: “Isn’t today a beautiful day?” I share that mantra daily for the benefit of myself and others for two reasons:
(1) To remember my blessings with gratitude, including: the opportunity to receive a wonderful education, my supportive family, and the privilege to begin a career doing what I love while trying to make a difference in the world.
(2) To remember how very few people share in this kind of privilege. For a lot of people in this world, their day means surviving bomb raids, finding a place to sleep, or figuring how they are going to make it until tomorrow with no groceries and very little money. It humbles me as it breaks my heart.
I owe my best efforts to my fellow human beings, and that means trying to make a difference even when it feels like a losing battle. Every day, I think about the people who have to struggle to get by and I tell myself that it can be, and is a beautiful day.
Those who work for justice know that, while having the ability to make a difference in this world is incredible, it is also heartbreaking and exhausting. It ultimately impacts every aspect of your life. Every woman and man I had the privilege of meeting at the gathering understood the internal and external strength needed to do the work that I want to do. My tears were not only understood but also whole-heartedly supported.
The memories of my first EEWC-CFT Gathering will always be filled with the joy and love that I shared with countless beautiful people. But I will also remember the tears that led me to commit to work harder than ever to make a difference in the world. Christian feminism and EEWC-CFT have helped bring about amazing changes over the past 40 years, but there still so much more that can be done!
I loved my experience attending the EEWC-CFT 2014 Gathering and I look forward to my future with the organization, but I also dream of a world where organizations like ours have become unnecessary because the unconditional love that Christ shared with humanity prevails at last.
Until the “Sisters of Summer” meet again, I’ll keep asking myself and each one of us, “Isn’t today a beautiful day?”
Originally published on Christian Feminism Today: http://www.eewc.com/Conferences/2014#ashley. Reposted with permission.