Last weekend I went to the Midwest Pilgrimage, a non-church sponsored retreat for LDS women. Eh, I’ll just say it — it’s a Mormon feminist conference. And it rocks. Next year’s conference is May 15-16, and it’s going to be sponsored by the Pittsburgh folks. No word yet on whether it’s actually going to be in Pittsburgh, or in Illinois again. Stay tuned.
The keynote speaker this year was Chieko Okazaki. Her first talk was about friendship, and her second about centering your life on Christ by sharing your life with him as a companion. It wasn’t until I got home that I heard that Okazaki has just come out with a new book, What a Friend I Have in Jesus. I’m guessing that her talks rely heavily on the book’s content.
The comment she made that has stuck with me the most was in talking about her attitude towards Christ since her husband’s death sixteen years ago. She said, “I told Jesus, ‘You took my partner away, so now you have to be my partner in life.'” She spends her time in conversation with the Savior, knowing that He understands her experiences and can guide her through them as a partner and friend, not just a deity.
The other notable part of the conference was a presentation on Sacred Dance. That’s right, liturgical dance. There were many skeptical raised eyebrows when this was announced, because it does kind of Reek of Lameness, but to tell the truth, it was very well done, and rather beautiful. (And hey, why not? We have sacred art, music, and writing — why not dance?) The troupe is an Evangelical Christian group, but — amazingly — they were happy to share their art with LDS women. (After writing this, I spent time looking up Christian sacred dance ministries to see if I could find the group, but I wasn’t able to. However — you would be STUNNED to know how many Christian hip-hop troupes there are in the world. STUNNED.)
The best piece was a solo to “Lord of the Dance” a very old Christian text set to the tune of “Simple Gifts.” The dance was folk-inspired (the dancer was a woman in her mid-50s) and portrayed the life of Christ, and the need to celebrate his life (in this case, through dance). She used a simple white scarf as a prop during the dance — as a fisherman’s net, or winding burial cloths. Incredibly striking; I loved it.
Anything else about the conference I enjoyed? Well, I did get to spend a lot of time talking with very smart women, reading as much as I wanted, and sleeping in the afternoon. Saturday evening was spent talking with a friend at the side of a pond, watching swallows dip in and out of their reflections. I had no babies with me, and I didn’t have to cook a single meal. Refreshing? You bet.
Okazaki didn’t plug her book once the entire weekend (what a classy dame!) but I will:
What a Friend We Have in Jesus. I haven’t read it, but I’m sorely tempted to.