This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Allow space for women

Every moment of the Anabaptist women’s conference Feb. 20-22 was filled with opportunities to share insight, theology, stories and friendship. It was exciting and energizing; it was exhausting and confusing.

And so when, on the final day, three women shared their most vulnerable stories of searching for love in the midst of violence, something had to give. The moment culminated in a song, bodies moved toward each other to help ease the palpable pain, and a wordless decision was made to join together by hand and face one another.

“Take this in. Look around you,” said Hilary Scarsella, one of the conference planners. “This is church.”

For a church rocking with unavoidable hurt and misunderstanding, it was an important moment of unity. For women — who have borne the brunt of so much physical, emotional and sexual violence — it was necessary healing.

Many talented, passionate women worked hard for the conference to be a success. But Scarsella’s name came up again and again. Her love, sweat and tears seemed to be the glue that held the conference together so firmly.

So it was disappointing when an offering was taken to raise $5,000 to keep her quarter-time position as the Women in Leadership Project co-coordinator for Mennonite Church USA. Church finances are often a struggle. Staff positions can be the first to go. But when the church bears some responsibility for so many of its women’s wounds, the position’s $15,000 a year is a small price to pay for a space where healing can begin.

Clarification: An earlier version of this editorial implied the quarter-time position cost $5,000 total. The $5,000 goal would complete a $15,000 salary.

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