Rachel Pence, a Master of Divinity student at SFTS, helped organize the event last year and was also a performer this year. Pence noticed “The Vagina Monologues” weren’t being performed at seminaries on a regular basis like they were on college campuses, prompting her and classmates to plan a production at SFTS to be a voice for women who find themselves surrounded in silence when it comes to violence, rape and oppression.
“There is no better place to bring this voice than into the church, especially since the church has been a place where women have not always been uplifted,” Pence said. “And at times, the church has been the source for the oppression against women. We want to change that.”
Pence said it took a lot of effort to put on the first production because people didn’t fully understand what “The Vagina Monologues” were about. However, enthusiasm quickly built among the women who were performing, and by the end, all participants experienced a shared hope in bringing a voice to other women all across the world who are often suffering in silence.
Faith McClellan, a Master of Divinity student, said the monologues are important to hold on a seminary campus because it gives a sense of inter-connectedness -- how one person can affect another. “The monologues remind us how women who are different ages, backgrounds and cultures have been silenced,” McClellan said.
Marissa Danney, a Master of Divinity student at SFTS, saw the monologues as a way to make others aware of the many issues women across the world deal with on a daily basis.
“I think in a lot of ways ‘The Vagina Monologues’ helps people hear and understand the voices that have been silenced,” Danney said. “Some parts of the performance can be uncomfortable, but it helps people become aware of voices that they haven’t heard before. And hearing these voices not only helps others change their own behavior and how they interact with women in the world, but it also helps them to support these voices to help lift them from their silence.”
Danney said the monologues are a manifestation of SFTS’s deep belief in social justice and community.
“We received immense support from a community that enjoys having dialogue and growing together, and we have a shared passion for stopping violence against women. It’s really a great experience for this community.”
“The Vagina Monologues” has received lots of support from the seminary. In fact, SFTS President Jim McDonald mentioned the production in his inauguration address in February, and faculty and staff were among the performers this year. Students supported the production by serving as ushers and shuttle drivers, and by helping with post-performance refreshments.
“The monologues really helped the seminary engage the community,” said Charles Wei, a Master of Divinity student who helped with a bake sale following the performance. “It shows the relevance and importance of the issue among the community.”
Leading up to the 2012 performances, SFTS students and professors exchanged emails, posted blogs and used social media to discuss the role of the monologues in responding to the call to proclaim the Gospel as Christians.
“The hard part is to realize we are invited ‘to come and live,’” Talitha Phillips, a SFTS graduate and performer, wrote in her blog. “To live, to breathe, to not apologize for the space we take up, to hunger, to demand justice, to want, to create. Christ came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We embody our faith – that God loves us, heals us, sets us free, and wants us to have that life abundant. We claim it now and step into it now.”
Eun-Joo Choi, a Master of Divinity student, said performing and preparing for the production had a great impact in her life. “Being a part of this production is an empowering experience not only as a woman, but also in claiming human rights,” Choi said. “It is a universal right and also a duty as human beings to make efforts to make sure voices are heard.”
SFTS students believe it’s important to introduce these issues to the seminary and the larger community, and hope to build on recent dialogue and exchanges to ensure future performances at SFTS.
“This is something that needs to be done, especially in seminaries,” Pence said. “Not all seminaries feel comfortable with it, but it’s something that SFTS stands behind. I hope it will stand on its own and grow year after year in support and understanding.”