Monday, October 23, 2006


It has been a while since I have premiered a "Week With..." series. So I decided that this is the week. A couple of years ago I spent a couple of days at Penuel Ridge Retreat center in silence. While there my prayer focus came out of journaling reflections while reading a wonderful book, To Pray and To Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church by Roberta Bondi.

In this book she weaves stories from the Desert Fathers and Mothers along with her own thoughts and study on prayer. Bondi became a great prayer companion and teacher through that book.

She is one of many voices that I'm not too sure a mass audience has heard of but her work in the area of prayer, practices and the Early Church Tradtion is an amazing contribution to the Church.

In the late 70's, when she arrived on the Emory campus to assume a tenure-track position in the Candler School of Theology, Roberta Bondi was the first woman who'd ever done so. And when she earned tenure at Candler some years later—and later still earned promotion to full professor—she was the first woman who’d done those things, as well. The first. But not the last.

For where she goes, Roberta blazes a trail for other women to follow—right into the heart of the decidedly male-dominated theological world. Both in the academy and in the church itself, Roberta has modeled the life that women can lead, the work that women can do, even when the unenlightened fail to welcome them with open arms and attitudes. At Candler, Roberta has given persistent, eloquent and effective voice to women's issues. And she has encouraged the increasing number of female colleagues and students drawn to the program in Women, Theology, and Ministry --which she helped to found—to speak (and write) their minds (and hearts), as well.

Of course, such a feminist endeavor is perfectly suited to a church historian who has spent much of her professional career seeing to it that the remarkable but all-too-little-known women of the early church, the fourth and fifth century women ascetics, for instance, or such later figures as the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, have a chance to speak again, a chance to have their voices heard today.

She has "developed innovative pedagogies, finding ways to combine careful instruction in ancient texts with a focus on contemporary appropriation of those texts by her students." She believes passionately that knowledge of the fourth and fifth century women ascetics, can "provide a lens for reflection on the experiences of contemporary women and . . . suggest and model ways in which women's experiences—tribulations and joys—can be transformative and generative of strength and courage."

I hope you are nurtured, challenged and angaged with a Week With... Roberta Bondi.

1 comment:

gmw said...

thanks. looking forward to the week.