The Sisters Center for WISDOM, or Women in Spiritual Discernment of Ministry, has been described as a place of reflection, a nurturing space, and a cornerstone that “nourishes the spiritual and ethical development” of Spelman College students.

In recognition of its 10th anniversary, the WISDOM Center will kickoff a yearlong series of initiatives under the banner, “A Legacy of Women in Transformational Ministry,” Feb. 1-3, 2013, with the release of an anthology, a one-day women’s ministerial conference, and a worship service featuring Spelman alumnae.

Launched in 2003 as the programmatic and administrative infrastructure of Sisters Chapel, the WISDOM Center, funded by the Lilly Endowment’s Theological Exploration of Vocation Program, quickly evolved into an intrinsic and influential spiritual activist voice at Spelman. “For 10 years, the WISDOM  Center has been on the cutting edge of creating a legacy of women in transformational and progressive ministry,” said the Rev. Lisa Rhodes, D.Min., dean of Sisters Chapel and director of the WISDOM Center. “It has been a theological and intellectual space for reflection on what it means to be called by God and to live out one’s faith.  From a tridimensional womanist perspective on race, gender and class, the center has helped Spelman College graduate generations of women who are pursuing traditional and nontraditional ministry, scholarship, and community and public service.”

The center’s anthology, “If I Do What Spirit Says Do: Black Women, Vocation, and Community Survival,” includes essays by theologians, religious scholars, and preachers and community leaders who participated in the WISDOM Center’s 2006 global conference.  Essay topics correlate with themes from that event, “Sisters of African Descent: Connecting Spirituality, Religion and Vocation,” which addressed issues disproportionately affecting women of the African Diaspora such as HIV/AIDS and sexual violence. Several of the anthology’s contributors are expected to attend a book signing during the anniversary celebration in February.

Meredith Coleman-Tobias, C’2005, is one of the more than 20 authors included in the anthology. Her connection to the WISDOM Center runs deep. She joined its chapel assistants program during her sophomore year, at a time when she said her faith was being “restructured.” “Rev. Rhodes and everyone on staff were very good about saying ‘bring all of who you are here. You can come with uncertainty and doubts and still be a faithful person,’ recalled Coleman-Tobias. “I never felt they demanded I be a certain way. If you had questions about your faith, they could be brought [to the WISDOM Center] because it was an open, nonjudgmental space.”

Coleman-Tobias, a religious studies major at Spelman, is now a full-time doctoral student at Emory University, focusing on American religious cultures. The center has remained an integral part of her spiritual journey as she currently serves on the Sisters Chapel Advisory Council and has returned numerous times to preach at the chapel, most recently at Palm Sunday service this past April.

The anniversary conference, “Finding Your Way Home: Transitions, Transformation and Triumph, set for Feb. 2, 2013, will concentrate on issues that have been at the center of discourse and thought for Spelman students, faculty, staff, and community leaders during the past decade.  Among the workshops planned are: “Is God a Patriarch: Religion as Oppressive or Liberating”; Balancing the Women, Wife, Mother, and Worker in Me”; “I’m More than My Hair”; “Overcoming Brokenness, Betrayal, and Bitterness”; and “Dream a Bigger Dream.” Several conference panels will bring together a diverse group of women pastors, clergy wives, lay leaders and students for intergenerational discussions.

As an interfaith living and learning community housing 10 students annually in Bessie Strong Residence Hall, the WISDOM Center intentionally connects students’ academic focus, faith choices and professional endeavors. Camille Henderson, C’2015, a political science major and lead chapel assistant, plans to pursue academic studies at Spelman and the graduate school level that integrate her interest in theology and public policy.

“We’ve all come to this one place to find refuge, peace and direction and it is reserved for everyone.” said Henderson. “I’d like to let others know that the WISDOM Center is not just for devout Christians, but also for those looking to better themselves.” — Audrey Arthur is a senior communications specialist for the Office of Communications.