This past weekend I was on a wonderful Advent retreat. It is exactly what I needed this time of year. Fresh snow had fallen, the women I journey with and retreat director were wonderful.
The last day I took a peek into the retreat carriage house where one of the towns Christmas annual Christmas tour was held. Some of the women had taken a peak the night before and remarked on its beauty. The rooms were beautifully decorated poinsettia, trees, nutcrackers of all sizes, family photographs and a large assortment of crèches. I soon realized that every Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus were white, along with all the assorted family photos. It has taken me a while in my spiritual path to recognize my version of the Holy Family. It is certainly not Mary, meek and mild and blond hair blue-eyed Jesus. My Mary questioned what her role was. My Joseph questioned his relationship with Mary. My baby Jesus was born in less than comfortable surroundings, and yet this was all softened in this beautiful Christmas backdrop, presented to make us coo instead of reacting with a “wow this is deep, there is something profound happening here, to make me sit up take notice, take stock of my relationship with God”
I am feeling this in connecting to some spiritual communities in the my sphere of resources.. I feel that there is no place for those women whose spirituality is rooted in the urban. Those of us can find spiritual solace on the streets of New York, Boston, Detroit or the country.
The spirituality in these communities and retreats are presented with a touchy, feel good, CD playing, bell chiming, speak softly to the Spirit quality. I have a relationship with my God, as Dolly Parton so eloquently said “we both see other people”. Being in relationship means experiencing an entire range of emotions, with my God and with other people, all people.
Both women of color and women without solid financial security are rarely invited to the spiritual direction model table, we are rarely included in retreat catalogues as presenters. If we are it is for a Women of Color Weekend at a center where the costs spiraled upwards of $2,500.
I have noticed that there are very few spiritual director of color in my area of Boston. Obtaining spiritual direction training involves attending classes held during the day and cost for many women is out of reach, perfect for those who have financially secure resources.
It is as if a price tag and a visual expectation on who is called to be a spiritual director or a retreat leader is already determined. The sign reads “You are welcome to join us, if you think like us, have resources like we do, can take the time to fly here and there for programs. Women who do not meet this model should not apply and invitations shall not be extended.”.Women of color are on the outside, we are the other. In scripture we are always reminded who Jesus’ companions were. Not the Temple priest who sat in their fine robes, but those who were on the outside, the poor, the lame, the everyday person just trying to get by.