In looking back over 2019, by far the most meaningful and exciting project we undertook was the Fellowship for Leaders of Moral Courage. In partnership with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Faith in Women designed and piloted a 12-week intensive course of study to explore the meaning of “moral courage” at the intersection of religion and reproductive health, rights, and justice. Together with our first cohort of Mississippi- and Louisiana-based fellows, we tackled sacred questions like:
What does it look like to embody courage in the struggle for justice?
How do we care for ourselves and each other in the work of uprooting oppression?
In what ways does self-examination bolster our efforts to create a society that values the common good?
How do we create brave space together?
Eight fellows from a range of professions including religious leadership, education, public health, social work, and advocacy, gathered over the summer to learn from one another and share their individual expertise. Grounded in reproductive justice, the fellowship centered on the history of reproductive oppression in Mississippi and how this past informs our current day struggles for freedom and dignity. Learning from activists and experts including Cherisse Scott of Sister Reach, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Highland Center, and Sean Saifa Wall, we recognized the strengths and the limitations of the current framework of reproductive rights and imagined a more expansive and inclusive vision around the idea of reproductive dignity for Mississippi.
Through a combination of in-person retreats, self-study, and virtual meet-ups, our fellows worked collaboratively to navigate the leadership challenges they face in the field and to gain a deeper awareness of themselves, their faith, and their calling. Together we discerned and discussed the particular skills and gifts that we each bring to the work of justice, realizing that though our intervention styles may differ, each is an essential part of the overall fabric of justice work.
One of the biggest areas of practical skill-building for the fellows was the art of storytelling. Together we explored what makes a story powerful, and over the course of the fellowship each fellow worked to craft a personal narrative of how their faith has shaped their understanding of reproductive freedom and dignity.
Looking ahead, we at Faith in Women feel called in 2020 to deepen our contribution to shifting the narrative around reproductive freedom and dignity in Mississippi. Over the coming year, we will be exploring the stories that we tell and how our vulnerability can be our greatest strength in these challenging times.