Students' efforts receive supporting grant
Louisville Seminary | Sep 02, 2003
Students’ efforts for women of color is recognized with supporting grant money.
The Office of Evangelism and Racial/Cultural Diversity of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has awarded Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS) a grant in the amount of $1,000 for the initiation of a multicultural program that will benefit women of color who are students at the Seminary.
The Rev. Raafat S. Girgis, associate with the Presbyterian program who encouraged schools to submit project proposals, congratulated the Seminary for its initiative in promoting multicultural ministry among seminarians in Louisville and in the surrounding community. Louisville Seminary was one of four Presbyterian seminaries to receive grants.
The program, called Women at the Well, is the brainchild of two women of color who are Master of Divinity students at LPTS. “Women at the Well serves a two-fold purpose,” said Lauren Randall, a Native American student from Horton, Kans. “It is a support group and it is project-orientated.” Lauren said that she thought about the need for such a group during a recent campus project to collect and send care-kits to Malawi, where HIV/AIDS is epidemic.
“During many of the Seminary’s Women's Center events, I found myself sharing information about my culture and listening to other women of color share their own experiences, noting how our seminary experience can be different from other students’,” said Randall, who also serves as one of the Women’s Center part-time coordinators, a field education opportunity.
Randall organized a lunch meeting for all the women of color who are students at LPTS. The meeting was intended to be a one-time-only meeting to talk about how the Women's Center could be more inclusive to women of color. But as the meeting progressed and more and more issues were discussed, the one-time-only meeting became a monthly commitment, then bi-monthly, until the women became an established group, calling themselves "Women at the Well."
Women at the Well was inspired from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, in which Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. “She comes to the well alone and ostracized. Yet, she leaves with eternal water and with the desire to help her community by telling others what Jesus has done for her. We are women at the well. We have had experiences like the Samaritan woman, and we wish to respond, as she did, for the good of our communities,” said Randall.
Angela Cowser, a first-year African American student from Tennessee helped to write the grant proposal that seeks to recognize, celebrate, strengthen, and preserve a woman of color’s identity that is as “deeply rooted in one’s heritage as it is in one’s gender.”
“Women of color experience a dual-citizenship in America: Living as a minority in a majority culture and society is sometimes joyful, sometimes painful,” she said. “This program is one way to further the work of educating, in an interesting way, the broader LPTS community about the minority experience as it affects how one sees the world and the larger society. It’s more than being sympathetic to the issues of minority and diversity; it’s about knowing and understanding the experience of the 'other',” Cowser explained.
Women at the Well has as its goal to help “promote the strength of women (everywhere) and to assist other women of varied diversities economically, spiritually, and in overall total well being.” The members hope to contribute to local and global issues through frequent service projects; attending, creating, and leading multicultural worship experiences; establishing a prayer/Bible study on campus that addresses both exclusion and inclusion; hosting roundtable discussions; and bringing experts on campus to speak about denominational commitments to multicultural ministry.
“Some of the events planned will help encourage informal conversation and reflective thinking on multiculturalism as a way to put into practice (or as an outgrowth of) the more formal and theoretical classroom teaching,” said Dean of Students Donna Melloan.
“Women at the Well signals an important turning point in the life of the Seminary,” added Dr. Stephen Ray, associate professor of theology and philosophy, who has been enlisted to serve as the group’s faculty advisor. “This is the first organization of women of color which has organically grown on this campus. The initiation of such a group represents not only a hope for the future, but also the realization of a multicultural presence at LPTS. The investment of these women in our community means that we have realized some success in creating an environment in which minorities can feel that they have a part in building the future.” As advisor, Ray will assist the students in developing the program, which will be a collaborative organization supported by the Seminary’s Gender in Ministry and the Cultural Diversity Committees.
Women at the Well will meet monthly, beginning in September, and is open to individuals who share a commitment to provide an open, safe space where “women of various legacies and cultures can bring and discuss concerns about LPTS and its dominant culture” Among last year’s 148 Masters-level students, 94 were women; 17 were women of color, who represented African American, Native American, Hispanic, and international backgrounds.
The mission of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is to serve the church and the world by educating men and women for participation in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ. Founded in 1853, the Seminary offers an inclusive and diverse community, welcoming individuals from wider ecumenical backgrounds. The Seminary is an institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).