The conference “Anglican Women at Prayer: Weaving Our Bonds of Affection” brought about 120 women to Virginia Theological Seminary and connected them to another 17 women in Tanzania.
Jointly sponsored by the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (SCHC) and the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at VTS, the gathering offered a diverse group of women opportunities to share their experience of prayer, especially as they told their stories and prayed in small groups.
Phoebe Griswold, a member of the SCHS and conference chairwoman, encouraged participants to “expand [their] capacity to pray and respond to our God” and seek “to connect with God in even deeper ways.”
Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent greetings to the conference, which met March 14-16. Archbishop Justin Welby said that he received news of the conference “with much joy,” noting that his first priority as archbishop is a commitment to the renewal of prayer and religious life.
The Center for Anglican Communion Studies arranged a web connection so 17 women seminarians at Msalato Theological College near Dodoma, Tanzania, could participate; the center has an established partnership and exchange program with Msalato. The Tanzanian women introduced themselves on screen, sang together, and were led in prayer by the first woman ordained in the Diocese of Central Tangyanika.
The conference keynoter, the Rev. Eleanor Sanderson, is vicar of St. Alban’s Parish, Eastbourne, in the Diocese of Wellington, New Zealand. Drawing on both Celtic and Oceanic weaving customs, she envisioned God weaving together the lives and prayers of participants with threads of affection, creating the fabric of community. In her experience, “women gathered in small groups to pray … is one of the consistent expressions of the Church.”
Anglican women around the world, though their purses may be empty, offer what they have — their prayers — to the Church.
Participants also heard Sanderson in dialogue with Zeyneb Sayilgan, a Muslim Luce Visiting Scholar at VTS, on the practice of prayer from an Islamic woman’s perspective.
Conference videos are available through the VTS website.