World Student Christian Federation - Asia-Pacific Region (WSCF-AP)
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Regional Programme

Women Doing Theology 2002

September 1 to 10, 2002
Aotearoa New Zealand

Women Doing Theology (WDT) 2002 was held in Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand on 1-10 September 2002. 17 young women leaders from all National Movements of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Aotearoa New Zealand participated in this programme. The programme consists of sessions on Gender Analysis, Bible Study and Skills Training which were in conjunction with WSCF AP Regional Women’s Programme’s mission and vision of empowering young women leaders in knowledge as well as in skills. The following is a short report on the programme.

Exposure
Visit to Rapaki and the Treaty of Waitangi

As part of the exposure in Aotearoa New Zealand, the participants went out to visit the local Rapaki marae which aimed to give the visitors to New Zealand some insight into Maori culture and history. After the exposure, the participants were given an orientation to Aotearoa/Pacific and indigenous people of Aotearoa/Pacific on the history, population, economy, and government.

The Treaty of Waitangi gave an outline of the history and development of the Treaty in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand that was signed between Maori people and representatives of the British Crown in 1840. The Treaty was a hurried document and this was reflected in its translation. Therefore both the Maori and English versions had different meanings for the two parties. The different interpretations of the Treaty created many conflicts between Maori and the Crown. Some of these conflicts led to the New Zealand wars in the 1860s, which was mainly over the sale and ownership of land.

Gender Analysis I

by Rev. Sylvia ‘Akau’ola Tongotongo

Sylvia introduced this session by talking about the development and change in the role of women in Tongan culture. Traditionally it is the women who hold highest rank in Tongan family structure. This is called the `Fahu’ system where the father’s sister/s have a high status in the extended family. However, there have been missionary influences on Tongan culture especially with the roles of women. Today in Tongan culture, men are perceived to be the head of the family; however it is women who will make the household decisions. There is no acknowledgement of the contribution that women make to society and its economy.

Sylvia then put forward a statement for the participants to discuss in small groups. `A woman that fights for equality with man is looking for demotion’. Comments and questions that were raised around this statement looked at the meaning of promotion, partnership, justice, power, equality, and voice. There were also questions of what are women aiming for? What standing/authority do women have in church and society? Sylvia summarised the session in commenting that hearing stories/views help us to shape our work/aims/focus towards justice.

Gender Analysis II

by Bishop Penny Jamieson

Penny explored with the participants their situations, their skills they have, and what they bring to leadership. She also focused on the vision and how to get there. Penny commented that the life of women in private (home) and in public are integrated through various dichotomies such as family and community/work/school/society. In small groups Penny asked participants to list 3 or more skills each bring to their roles as a leader.

Bible Study

Women in the Bible
by Judith McKinlay

Judith is a lecturer in theology at the University of Otago, and she began by asking the participants to name their favourite woman in the bible and state why. Some of the names that came up were: Deborah who was a leader, Miriam who was tactical, Jochebad the mother of Moses and had faith, Hagar who understood oppression, Mary Magdelene who knew forgiveness, Ruth who was determined to do what she thought was right, Esther who had faith and courage.

Judith then challenged the participants to consider some pertinent questions:

Skills Training I

Creative Methods of Conducting Bible Studies
by Kath Rushton

This session was about new ways to read and interpret the Scriptures. It was also a session to explore ways of conducting Bible studies. Kath explored the importance of reading the Scriptures for prayer and for faith/spiritual life. There are three worlds that exist around reading text. They are:

Text is not innocent. It is powerful and challenging and it is important to continue to access the Christian myth. The great Christian myth is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Kath mentioned earlier in the session that the Bible is only a book until we pick it up, read it, and apply it to our life. The participants thus gained an insight to the many various ways in which the Scriptures may be read and interpreted to living life as Christians, as women, and as leaders.

Please see Women’s Space for the full session on Creative Methods of Conducting Bible Studies by Kath Rushton

Skills Training II

Creative Methods of Writing Liturgy
by Susy Carryer

Susy began the session by introducing four elements of a worship service. One of the aims of this session was for the participants as a group to create liturgy for the closing worship on the last day of the programme. Essentially, creative liturgy is spoken and not written thus it is important to think about the rhythm, use short phrases and repeat the images while maintaining a central metaphor. The participants were encouraged to of liturgy as a movement, silenced, colour and music as well as a spoken word.

Susy introduced the Elements of a Service of Worship that would guide the form of a liturgy. The elements include:

All these elements can be done in different ways through spoken words, songs, dance, drama, silence or music.

Closing Worship

by WDT participants

All participants through their small groups each took part in the closing worship using what was taught in the session on skills training for writing liturgy. It was a moving and strengthening experience that brought everyone together in the spirit of community.