Women & Spirituality

Hildegard Von Bingen Visions

Instructor: Katherine Turpin, Ph.D. (pronouns she, her, hers)

Best first form of contact: kturpin@iliff.edu

The Canvas inbox is kind of a black hole, so if you want to reach me, my Iliff email is the most direct route. If we need to talk directly, we can set up a phone call or video chat by email. I try to stay on top of emails, by which I mean I will try to give you a response within 24 hours.  However, I also try to honor weekends and days when Iliff is closed for my family, which means I stay out of my work email during those times. I realize that you all work a lot...evenings, weekends, all the time while you are in school, and you may want to communicate while you are working in those periods.  But this is a long-term gig for me, which means it is not sustainable for a life-time to be available all of the time for immediate response. I will try not to put you in a difficult position with non-communication as a teacher and will do my best to have the information you need in the site.  Thanks!

Course Description:  An introduction to important themes and challenges for full expression of spirituality and faith formation for those who identify as women, including attention to historical and contemporary women writing about spirituality, introductory feminist theology, and practices of leading and teaching those who identify as women in communities of faith.

Course Overview:



Course Goals:

Students completing the course can expect to:

  1. Participate in the establishment of a learning community, participate in collaborate research and constructive thinking about women and spirituality, and develop and articulate a framework for leadership and spiritual practice with women appropriate to their own vocational path.
  2. Examine the unique struggles of women in communities of faith to grow into full religious and vocational expression in contexts often marked by sexism, classism, and racism.
  3. Explore approaches to spirituality generated by women in historical and contemporary contexts, teaching and learning styles embodied by women, and introductory feminist and womanist theology.
  4. Consider the relationship of spirituality, pedagogy, and ritual practice in the formation of women in religious communities.
  5. Envision new ways that women can inform contemporary religious reflection and spiritual practice.

Required Books:

Farley, Wendy.  The Thirst of God: Contemplating God with Three Women Mystics. Westminster John Knox, 2015.

Eds. Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ. Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality. Harper & Row, 1989.

Townes, Emilie.  In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality As Social Witness. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.

Each student will also choose one book/reading for their historical partner and one book for their contemporary partner. I ask that we try not to duplicate these partners, as there are plenty to go around.

Bibliography/List for Historical Partners and Sign Up for Historical Partner

Bibliography/List for Contemporary Partners  and Sign Up for Contemporary Partners


Recommended Collections (For Historical Partner, if she doesn't have a book of her own):

Ed. Susan Neunzig Cahill. Wise Women: Over Two Thousand Years of Spiritual Writings by Women.  W.W. Norton & Co. October 1997. ISBN: 0393316793

Ed. Shawn Madigan. Mystics, Visionaries & Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Writings. Augsberg Fortress (New Ed) Feb. 2004. ISBN: 0800634209

Ed. Amy Oden. In Her Words: Women’s Writings in the History of Christian Thought.

Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.


Articles/Chapters Available on Course Site:

Chopp, Rebecca. Chapter 3 “Places of Grace: The Practice of Ekklesia” from Saving Work:

 Feminist Practices of Theological Education. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995.

Gafney, Wilda. “Leviticus: The Heart of Torah” from Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne. Westminster John Knox, 2017.

Harris, Maria.  Chapter 2 “Teaching” from Teaching and Religious Imagination. San

            Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987. pp. 23-40.

Hilkert, Mary Catherine.  Chapter 11 “Cry Beloved Image” from In The Embrace of God.

            Ed. Ann O’Hara Graff.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995. pp. 190-205.

           Jaggar, Alison M.  “Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology” from

            Gender/Body/Knowledge: Feminist Reconstruction of Being and Knowing.

            Rutgers University Press, 1989. pp. 145-171.

           Lightsey, Pamela. “Transforming until thy Kin(g)dom Come” from Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology. Pickwick, 2015.

Moore, Mary Elizabeth Mullino.  Chapter 2 “Midwife Teaching” from Teaching from the

            Heart.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.  pp. 27-58. ISBN: 0800624971

Moore, Mary Elizabeth.  “Inclusive Language and Power: A Response” Religious

            Education, Vol 80, No. 4. Fall 1985. pp. 603-614.

Ng, Greer Anne Wenh-In.  “Toward Wholesome Nurture: Challenges in the Religious

            Education of Asian North American Female Christians.” Religious Education,

            Vol. 91, No. 2. Spring 1996.  pp. 238-254.

Ross, Susan A.  Chapter 6 “Extravagant Affections” from In The Embrace of God. Ed.

            Ann O’Hara Graff.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1995. pp. 105-121.

            ISBN: 1570750297.

Weems, Renita. Introduction, Chapter 6 & 7 from Just a Sister Away (rev. ed). New York:

            Warner Books, 2005.

Assignments(Detailed guidelines will be posted on the due date of each of these assignments to supplement these descriptions where needed.)

  1. Active Weekly Participation: Based upon: participation in discussion forums; contributions to collaborative learning; evidence of engaging course readings; evident effort. Assignments in this category generally receive full credit if they are completed by the deadline for the course, half credit if they are completed later than the deadline. (20% of final grade)
  2. Reflective Reading Journal Entries: Each person will keep a typed reflective journal in which they respond to at least two of the readings for a week of class (or two chapters if the reading for the week is a single book). Students should create five entries, each 1-2 double spaced pages in length (in other words, I’m giving you 5 weeks off for when you are doing other things for the class, but you can decide which weeks to do this in light of your own schedule). Entries may analyze, respond to, build upon, or wrestle with the primary ideas of the readings. They may build off of your contribution to a discussion forum on the materials, though they should not duplicate your posting in its entirety. The journals should demonstrate thoughtful engagement with course materials on an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your in-depth engagement with readings throughout the quarter. Although the writing style may be formal, informal, poetic, fictional, or creative, academic citation should also be utilized to give credit for your sources (20% of final grade).
  3. Engagement with A Contemporary Woman Writing About Spirituality

You will sign up to engage and share your learning of a contemporary woman writing about spirituality (20% of final grade). You will want to read at least one book written by this woman. In about 2-3 pages, you will share answers to the following questions (though not necessarily in this order or in a numbered list):

  1. Who is she and what is known about her life? (Basic biographical data-- religious tradition and upbringing, ethnic and cultural background, geographic location, nature of her education both formal and informal, vocational path, a picture if available, etc.)
  2. On the basis of her work, what would you say her working definition of spirituality is?
  3. What is her basic theological orientation? How did she utilize her religious tradition in her work?
  4. What were some of the key religious/spiritual/historical issues presented by her context and how did she respond to them in her work?
  5. What spiritual practices does she advocate or demonstrate/model in her work?
  6. What impacted you personally in reading her work?
  7. What are some of the strengths and limitations of her offering?

4. Presentation on a Historical Woman:

Each class member will chose one woman as a “historical partner” to work with throughout the quarter.  After reading something biographical and something written by this woman (when possible), the class member will introduce her work to the rest of the class initially with a calling card, later with a more involved presentation.  Each presentation will touch on the central theological and spiritual assumptions out of which she operated, something of the key religious and historical issues presented by her context and how her work responded to them, the methods she employed in her efforts, feminist/womanist themes that may emerge in her work, a critique of the strengths and weaknesses of her educational/spiritual formation philosophy and practice, and questions/insights for contemporary religious practice. (20% of final grade based on presentation)

  1. Visual Presentation or Final Letter to your Historical Partner

The final project will be a visual presentation or an integrative letter to your historical partner. In the visual presentation, you will capture some of the key insights that you have garnered about women and spirituality over the course of the quarter in a way that is accessible to your colleagues in the course. You may move deeply into one theme or insight that is particularly important to you, or capture a range of learnings in an integrative fashion. This could be a poster, painting, sculpture, image/photo, collage, fabric art, or slideshow. Visual presentation should include the guide notes to the piece that you would find if it were presented in a museum and there was a 3-4 paragraph explanation of it hanging beside it or in self-guided tour notes. If you choose the integrative letter to your historical partner, it should demonstrate a significant 3-way interaction between your understanding of the life and commitments of your historical partner, your engagement with course readings and materials, and your own perspectives and insights. Although the writing style may be appropriate to a letter format, academic citation should also be utilized to give credit for your sources (4-5 pages, 20% of final grade).

Jan 08, 2019TueIntroducing Ourselvesdue by 06:59AM
Jan 08, 2019TueWelcome Videodue by 06:59AM
Jan 09, 2019WedReadings: Traditions: Accept, Recover, Adapt, Refuse?due by 06:59AM
Jan 10, 2019ThuWhat to do with patriarchal traditions?due by 06:59AM
Jan 11, 2019FriSign up for Historical and Contemporary Partnersdue by 06:59AM
Jan 12, 2019SatFriday Devotions- Jan Richardsondue by 06:59AM
Jan 15, 2019TueWeekly Reading: Meeting the Mystics and Mechthild of Magdebergdue by 06:59AM
Jan 16, 2019WedMeeting the Mysticsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 18, 2019FriHistorical Partner Calling Cardsdue by 06:59AM
Jan 19, 2019SatFriday Devotions-Julian of Norwich and Meg Barnhousedue by 06:59AM
Jan 23, 2019WedReadings: Marguerite Porete and Julian of Norwichdue by 06:59AM
Jan 24, 2019ThuDiscussion of Marguerite and Juliandue by 06:59AM
Jan 25, 2019FriMeeting Contemporary Partners, Part 1due by 06:59AM
Jan 26, 2019SatFriday Devotions- Sweet Honey in the Rockdue by 06:59AM
Jan 29, 2019TueReading: Moorings of Womanist Spiritualitydue by 06:59AM
Jan 30, 2019WedDiscussion of Townes 1-3due by 06:59AM
Feb 01, 2019FriMeeting Contemporary Partners, Part 2due by 06:59AM
Feb 02, 2019SatReading Journals, First Part duedue by 06:59AM
Feb 02, 2019SatFriday Devotions: Alice Walkerdue by 06:59AM
Feb 05, 2019TueReading: Townes 4-6due by 06:59AM
Feb 06, 2019WedDiscussion of Townes 4-6due by 06:59AM
Feb 12, 2019TueReading: Images of God and Inclusive Languagedue by 06:59AM
Feb 15, 2019FriDiscussion of Images of God and Inclusive Language Readingsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 16, 2019SatFriday Devotions- Kaylin Haughtdue by 06:59AM
Feb 19, 2019TueDeciding When to Talk About Historical Partnersdue by 06:59AM
Feb 20, 2019WedHistorical Partner Presentationsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 26, 2019TueReadings: Bible/Sacred Textdue by 06:59AM
Feb 27, 2019WedDiscussion: Sacred Textsdue by 06:59AM
Feb 27, 2019WedParticipation in Historical Partner Conversationsdue by 06:59AM
Mar 01, 2019FriMeeting Contemporary Partners, Part 3due by 06:59AM
Mar 02, 2019SatFriday Devotions: Christine Valters Paintner and Father Teri Harroundue by 06:59AM
Mar 05, 2019TueReadings: Embodiment/Sexualitydue by 06:59AM
Mar 06, 2019WedDiscussion: Embodiment and Sexualitydue by 06:59AM
Mar 08, 2019FriEngagement with Contemporary Partnerdue by 06:59AM
Mar 08, 2019FriMeeting Contemporary Partners, Part 4due by 06:59AM
Mar 09, 2019SatFriday Devotions: Carrie Newcomerdue by 06:59AM
Mar 12, 2019TueReading: Working for a different futuredue by 05:59AM
Mar 13, 2019WedFinal Visionsdue by 05:59AM
Mar 16, 2019SatReading Journals, Second Halfdue by 05:59AM
Mar 16, 2019SatFinal Projectdue by 05:59AM