Undergraduate Research: Prophesying a Feminist Story

Dr. Sarah Kornfield and Ms. Lindsay Hayes working together on their research.

Research is the process of asking questions that have yet to be answered and then discovering the answer. Hope College is excited to welcome students into this process, teaching students the methods of research and supporting students as they discover answers to their own questions. Hope’s Women’s & Gender Studies students engage in research—studying how sexism affects people, examining and developing strategies for challenging sexism, and theorizing new models for social interactions that are free of oppression. Hope is ranked 4th in the nation by US News and World Reports for undergraduate research and we prize our research collaborations between students and faculty. Indeed, the Women’s & Gender Studies faculty delight in preparing graduates to generate new knowledge and to make that knowledge accessible to our local and global communities.

This summer, Ms. Lindsay Hayes and Dr. Sarah Kornfield collaborated to study how Sarah Bessey preaches Jesus Feminism to the evangelical church in America. This research began in the classroom where Lindsay Hayes learned the methods of critical research and applied them to study Sarah Bessey’s featured sermon, “Bearing the Image: Jesus Feminist.” Then Hayes and Kornfield decided to collaborate over the summer, developing this project further and preparing it for publication.

Ms. Lindsay Hayes presenting at Hope’s Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences Summer Research Showcase.

Analyzing Bessey’s sermon, Hayes and Kornfield demonstrate how Bessey weaves together historic modes of speaking, creating a tapestry that draws upon and reinvents the styles and strategies women have long employed when preaching in the church. Ultimately, we argue that Bessey is an evangelist to the church: rather than preaching a message of salvation to those lost in sin, Bessey preaches a message of Jesus feminism to Christians lost in patriarchy.

Bessey concludes her sermon with a prophetic prayer. “I pray for women who are dreamers and schemers. That women here would live just a little bit outside that ‘good Christian Lady’ box and I pray somebody would clutch their pearls over you. I pray for spiritual midwives in your life: Women who will breathe alongside of you as you are giving birth to the new you, over and over and over again. I pray that you would have friends and mentors and pastors and leaders and preachers and policymakers and poets and prophets, moms and a few saucy aunties.” 

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