“Inheriting the Promise”: Finding Women’s Voices
For three days in March, PTS held its 10th biennial Women in Church and
Ministry (WICAM) conference offering exploration of many dimensions of
women’s leadership in the church—past, present, and future.
The theme of the conference was “Leadership from Within,” referring to
individuals’ stewardship of gifts from within God’s church and call to
ministry, and ultimately from within God’s promise.
The conference kicked off with the WICAM dinner and lecture. Dr. Freda
A. Gardner, PTS’s Thomas W. Synnott Professor of Christian Education
Emerita and moderator of the 211th General Assembly of the
Church (USA), was the lecturer. Her topic for the evening—“So: Who Says
You Can Speak?”—addressed finding one’s own voice within the church.
Freda Gardner (left) and Miriam Therese Winter
She explored women’s history, or, as some would say, herstory. She
outlined her own beginning footsteps at PTS, starting in 1961 when she was
the only woman faculty member. Rich in photographic memories, Gardner’s
stories described students and colleagues she encountered during her
tenure at Princeton, other experiences of women (well-known and not), and
their struggles, their abilities, their passions, their right to be heard,
and their finding and keeping their voices.
Conference activities included a variety of workshops, times for worship,
communal song, and small groups.
PTS’s minister of the chapel Kristin Saldine preached a sermon titled
“Girl Talk.” Based on the Scripture reading from the Book of Exodus,
Saldine focused on the story of Hebrew midwives Shiprah and Puah, opening
her sermon with “So, who told them they could speak? Who told them they
could stand before the pharaoh and speak?” She paralleled their story with
the story of God telling Moses to “Go speak.” God told Moses to speak to
the Egyptian pharaoh and to confront him about the cruelty he was
subjecting the people of Israel to. And Moses questioned God: “Who am I?
Who told me to speak? Who am I that I should go to pharaoh?”
Saldine’s sermon drew comparisons between different nations and
cultures, describing how some dominate; she explained how often men are
powerful and women are not. But, she concluded, there is always a Shiprah
or a Puah somewhere in the world speaking “when no one tells them to. They
Other conference speakers included Miriam Therese Winter, director of
the Women’s Leadership Institute and professor of liturgy, worship,
spirituality, and feminist studies at Hartford Seminary in Hartford,
Connecticut; Nancy Lammers Gross, PTS’s associate professor of speech
communication in ministry; Deborah McKinley, pastor of Old Pine
Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Martha Jane
Petersen, a minister serving Siloam Presbyterian Church in Old Fort, North