“I didn’t even know that gender can be integrated in preaching. First time I’m hearing about it. Thank you SEVA for this initiative.”
This was one feedback received from among thirty five participants representing eighteen dioceses from the Church of South India who gathered CSI Centre for a briefing on “Sermon Outlines from a Gender Perspective” and an introduction to the CSI Social Audit Tool on 24,25 September 2019.
The aim of the two-day workshop was to motivate lay preachers, catechists, missionaries and evangelists of the CSI to integrate gender equity perspective in their preaching and interpretation of the Bible in their ministries. Mission Board directors from every diocese along with a key person dealing with this target group in each diocese constituted the participants at this workshop.
The program commenced with a prayer by Rev. Maxcin John, Director, Mission & Evangelism, CSI Synod, while Rev. Solomon Paul, Director-in-charge, CSI-SEVA, welcomed and introduced participants to the intent and scope of the programme.
Ms. Jessica Richard, Coordinator, Campaigns & Advocacy, CSI-SEVA facilitated the workshop on day one through activities to illustrate the differences between sex and gender and provided inputs on gender stereotypes, gender roles, gender identity, gender expression and gender orientation. Her input also covered intersectionality of oppressions, the difference between gender framework and a feminist framework and the focus of feminist framework being to address justice for all marginalised groups through power analysis of systemic inequality. This was followed by input with group activity on certain texts relating to Jesus and women that touched upon the need to integrate gender into preaching by introducing the context of New Testament times regarding women and pointing out how Jesus challenged the social norms regarding gender in his time in order to affirm the equality, dignity and status of women and the oppressed.
In the post lunch session participants studied in groups sermon outlines on themes like Migration; Sacramental and ministerial inclusion; Communal Harmony; Elders Rights; Land and Agriculture, to understand how gender crosscuts all themes. Participants gave feedback on how these sermon outlines could be strengthened with contextual examples and grass root focus. To strengthen this learning process, Rev. Jyothi Sunder from Medak Diocese who had been involved in the sermon outline development process elucidated her experiences in writing the sermon outline on climate change with a gender perspective.
The participants were then tasked to work out actions plans for debriefing sermon outlines with a gender perspective in their respective dioceses. The participants were also briefed about the CSI Social Audit Tool prepared by SEVA to assess where their congregation stood in terms of various parameters including gender.
On day two Rev. Maxcin John enabled the participants to make an assessment of their Mission departments using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis tool. The participants also gave suggestions for drafting of CSI mission guidelines and prepared for the upcoming CSI Mission Festival in October through group work and presentations.
The final act of bonding together was envisaged through a circle formation holding each other’s hand and singing “Bind us together Lord”. The two-day program was fruitful with loads of inputs, group discussions and action plans. Participants shared that the program had indeed opened their eyes and broadened their perspective regarding gender and preaching as well as inspired them to take this perspective forward in their respective dioceses. It is hoped that these action plans for disseminating the sermon outlines at the diocese level will be carried out in partnership between SEVA and the Mission boards of each diocese.
The program was organised and coordinated by the GEET team of Ms. Glory Thomas and Ms. Merlin Jochebeth along with the Coordinator of Campaigns & Director in-charge of SEVA in partnership with Synod Mission Department.