Harrowing Of Hell
November 14, 2023



Dear Women of Epiphany,

Our November meeting was a four-hour retreat, an in-depth exploration of the topic “On Influence”. It was beautifully presented by Epiphany’s own Lisa Ozaeta, Associate Rector, and Susan Pitchford, parishioner, former professor at UW, and frequent teacher in our adult formation.

After introductions, and a prayer by Karen Jackson Forbes, Lisa presented a clear definition and scholarly understanding of “Influence” measured by impact as an agent of change in people’s perceptions or behavior. In everyday language, what is the “ripple effect” of an influence? Did the changes “snowball”? In the Bible, Jesus encourages his followers to be as “the salt of the earth”. Salt changes whatever it touches.

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Susan Pitchford presented on the Influence of the Mystics. After an overview of several mystics and the special challenges of female mystics, Teresa of Avila’s experiences were described. In the historical context, Inquisition Christianity did not allow mental prayer that connected a person to God’s presence, only Church prayer. Teresa suffered a debilitating illness that forced her to be bedridden for two years. As a fallow field uses the quiet time to regenerate its fertility, Teresa used that experience to explore and develop her prayer life. Her masterpiece book, The Interior Castle, describes the soul’s journey through deep prayer to the presence of God. The influence of that deep connection to God can be seen and felt in a person’s changing perspective and choices.

A lively sharing and discussion took place when Retreat Participants could reflect on Teresa’s values:

  • I pray as I’m led.
  • I learn to trust my own experience of God.
  • I follow my own experience.

Before completing the Mystics presentations, Susan described the dismissive male unbelievers who characterized female Mystics as “Women who hear voices”, or women who may be attentive to the affective and erotic senses instead of intellect.

The final presentation was by Lisa about Sacred Influences, her personal/ professional journey and the modern historical journey of The Philadelphia Eleven. These women were fully prepared to become priests, and three male bishops agreed to follow the Canon and ordain them as Episcopal priests on July 29, 1974. It was two years before the Episcopal Church’s US General Convention voted to allow their ordination. These 11 women chose ordination in the face of physical threats, hatred, years of institutional delays by the Episcopal church, and actual violence. There were references made by males in responsible positions of power of burning witches at the stake as a response to the efforts of these priest candidates. Lisa later discovered she is related to one of these women of courage!

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During group discussion, each table of participants shared aspects of their own journeys on spiritual paths; including determining sexual orientation, facing strong cultural external opposition, being shown great kindness and encouragement, finding voice as women, as professionals, family members, and spirit filled women seeking God.

After sharing with the larger group, lunch was ready. Some women chose to linger in longer conversation at their discussion tables. Hugs, smiles, a lovely lunch, Holy Spirit filled conversations, and deeper connections filled the air before tables were cleared and participants headed home.

-Mary McGuire

Save The Date

An all-parish screening, The Philadelphia Screening on Thursday, November 16, 5:00-8:00 pm.

Refreshments, pizza, salad, popcorn, and snacks will be available from 5:00-5:30 pm 

The movie will begin promptly at 5:30 pm followed by table & discussions. 

Suggested donation is $5. Please take a moment to register to assure seating.