Thoughts from Katelyn Kenney
It’s the first Friday of the month. You check your phone to make sure you’ve got the address, then head out. You pull up to what you think is the correct house, but you know you’re in the right place when the door is opened and you’re greeted by a chorus of hellos and the smell of something tasty. Perhaps it’s pizza, tacos, or, if you’re lucky, homemade tamales. Grab a plate, find a seat, and get settled in, because it’s Ladies’ Night.
We begin our time together with introductions–a tradition we still uphold, no matter how well we might know each other–because almost every week, we have a new mix of people. In addition to stating our names and what we do, we usually respond to a guiding question to shape our time together. It’s fun to see how the room reacts, because sometimes we get really big, thought-provoking questions. At Ladies’ Night, we tend to center our discussions around feminist or womanist interpretations of scripture, which are not always the norm. I love hearing stories of Biblical women told in ways I’ve never heard before, and it’s affirming to know the church indeed placed value on the work of women when we so often see a lack of women’s representation today. I feel blessed to know that because the majority of the clergy I interact with closely are women, and that they, too, draw inspiration from these Biblical figures.
But what I’ve come to love the most is the friendship we’ve made. I think, at first, each of us wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes, we’d met each other from church or camp or Canterbury, but some of us hadn’t had opportunities to really dig deep into the word or our lives with each other yet. I remember a turning point for me, and probably some of the other girls, was our second Ladies’ Night. What I didn’t know until I got to the apartment where we were meeting was that Eileen had fallen ill, so it was up to Maria to lead the group. I walked into Idania’s house with the books we had received from the previous month in hand, ready to talk about more feminist theology. For me, I was excited about the content of our studies, so I didn’t think about much else. A lot of these girls had long-standing friendships, so sometimes I felt like I participated more in the Bible study than I did in their casual conversations.
The night ended up taking a different turn, and we spent our time sharing our spiritual testimonies. I cannot express enough how hearing about the lives of the women in our little group significantly transformed our relationships. Where before, these were the people I saw at church and at Skeptics Supper Club or Grace Hour who I sort of knew, after, these were my friends, my sisters in Christ, women I looked forward to seeing every month. Where before, I would say hello, ask about school, and maybe move on, after, I would run up to them screaming and laughing and hugging whenever I saw them, excited to hear about their day. That night taught me the power of seeing others and letting yourself be truly seen, even when you feel like you stick out. I remember we joked about me being the first white person in Idania’s apartment, but to my surprise, some of the girls said they were actually curious to hear my story. We each had different backgrounds and were in different seasons of our faith journeys, but in that holy moment, we were all at the same place, opening our hearts and deepening our relationships.
We have a running joke that the unspoken end time for Ladies Night is actually 9 pm (really, it’s more like 9:15) because we get so caught up in our discussions. I’ve seen how this group, in this short period of time, has grown and become more invested in our monthly meetings and each other. Spaces like this for women, especially young women, are rare, but oh so necessary. As I move into a new chapter of my life in a new city, I will work hard to seek out those spaces, or create them if need be, but every first Friday night of the month, my heart will be in Houston.