Thursday, February 11, 2010

indigenous tables and the prayerful art of gentle space-making

The phrase

gentle space-making

belongs to Sarah Coakley (from her Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (Challenges in Contemporary Theology), page 35. She is wrestling with what to to with the kenosis, the word found in Philipians 2 and used to discuss the vulnerability and self-emptying of Jesus.

For Coakley, Christology is “what rightly distinguishes Christian feminism from various secular versions of it” (3) and so the question she wrestles with is how to lose one’s life in order to save it, particularly in light of feminist anxiety around themes of fragility, vulnerability, self-emptying.

In other words, if I am vulnerable, won’t I then be taken advantage of? If I’m a minority, what hope is there in the notion of losing one’s life in order to find it?

Earlier in the week I blogged about the privilege of sitting with Covenanting Committee, a group set up to maintain relationships between indigenous Aboriginal people and the Uniting Church. It seemed to me that some of the same questions and anxieties were present – how, as a minority, might we find voice, be heard, be part of change, yet in ways that are distinctly Christian?

Coakley offers a number of suggestions.

Firstly, there is her approach. She is a careful, exacting reader, looking back through history to argue that the Christian history is rich and complex. Thus various notions of kenosis have existed and when rightly understood, are not in fact demanding complaince, but a strength made perfect in weakness and in a way that does not replace one form of secular power with another form of secular power.

Second, there is her conclusion, prayer. In particular, wordless prayer. The regular habit of responding to God. This is not pietism, a withdrawal, a silencing but rather “the place of the self’s transformation and expansion into God.” (36)

If anything it builds one in the courage to give prophetic voice. (35)

It’s a fascinating place to conclude: that each and any of us, no matter how marginalised, have power: are invited into a spiritual way of living, in which space is made for the other that is not us. In so doing, we let God be God.

Posted by steve at 02:44 PM


  1. Good stuff mate. Sounds like I need to read more Coakley.

    Comment by Paul Fromont — February 11, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  2. Thanks so much for posting this which I found enormously helpful. for reasons I won’t go into for now. I keep meaning to buy this book so now I will – I’m also looking for a reviewer for her new book which keeps being promised “soon” would you be interested?
    Anyway thanks

    Comment by jane — February 13, 2010 @ 7:02 am

  3. Jane,
    love a review copy. send to 34 Lipsett Tce, Brooklyn Park SA 5032, Australia.

    in terms of the book mentioned in the blogpost, i was commenting on just one chapter of about 10. in the footnotes to the chapter I commented on, she said her work was more developed in God, sexuality and self. So you might want to go there first.

    praying for you, the quiet strength, dignity and Christ-likeness to inhabit practices of gentle space-making


    Comment by steve taylor — February 13, 2010 @ 10:14 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.