The past two summers I have attended The Edel Gathering, a women’s shindig organized by Jennifer Fulwiler and Hallie Lord. The hundreds of women who attended wore fun shoes, dressed up, put on lipstick, enjoyed some fine libations, karaoked, danced to music by Flo Rida, and most importantly, faithfully connected with and supported one another. Edel was so unique, unlike any other women’s conference I’ve attended. Plain and simple, it was full of Good Times!
On the flight back home to Des Moines after the first Edel Gathering in 2014, it felt like something was missing. As the plane departed from Austin to Des Moines, I tried to put a finger on what was nagging at my heart. As I pondered, an image from the Vigil Mass I attended during the gathering came to mind.
During Mass I sat behind a group of women. It was clear these women knew each very well, and I was envious of them — envious of their hugs, laughs, shared experiences, and spiritual friendships. I sat solo in my pew and longed to have my sisters, biological and spiritual, sitting next to me as well. The nagging feeling I couldn’t put my finger on was rooted in wanting my sisters there to enjoy all that fun with me.
I really missed my friends.
Upon returning home, I shared those feelings with a group of Des Moines friends, and for two years now, we’ve prayed and discussed and prayed some more on how to make an Edel-inspired gathering a reality here in Des Moines. I’m still amazed that we’ve gotten to this point given we’re all active moms with young kids, but here we are. And what a journey it has been!
As I’ve prayed about this gathering, the Holy Spirit has given me the following message over and over:
Everything you need to accomplish this gathering is right here in Des Moines. Everything and everybody is right under your nose.
He placed (and continues to place) just the right women along my path, and The Well would not be a reality without the women listed here. As you explore and learn more about The Well, you’ll discover it’s all being planned, implemented, and delivered by local women, and our primary goal is rooted in building up the Body of Christ right here in Des Moines. Now that’s a grassroots movement at its finest!
Pope Francis uses the phrase “culture of encounter” quite often in his homilies and talks. What does a culture of encounter even look like? As Pope Francis shares, it is in this culture of encounter where we are all encouraged to do as Jesus did: encounter others in community through our participation in the Body of Christ.
This phrase “culture of encounter” precisely sums up The Well. This gathering, I fervently pray, will offer women an opportunity to experience a culture of encounter, one that fosters spiritual friendships and builds up the local community. It’s what I call “incarnational time” – spending time with one another, in the flesh, sharing our gifts and who we are, including our highs, lows, and in-betweens.
Think about it this way — we are an incarnational people. Meaning, as sensory beings, God knew that it was best to send his Son in the flesh to live among us, to be a real historical figure. God’s love is not just some theory or idea. It is a flesh and blood reality that can be seen, heard, and wow, even touched. For if Jesus came in the flesh, if the Word became flesh, then so also must our faith and friendships be in the flesh. Certainly friendships may grow through phone calls, online correspondence, and text messages, but in one way or another, we must be “present” to our friends. After a while, “I’m there with you in spirit” rings hollow. This is why events like The Well are a gift to us.
One more thing regarding the name, “The Well.” In Samaritan villages, the water well was an important gathering place. Often centrally located, the well provided the basic sustenance for life. It was a place where women encountered one another to draw water and share their lives. It is in that spirit that this gathering is called The Well. But it’s also more than a symbol for community; the well is a symbol for Jesus. Just as the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at the well, I pray The Well will open doors to deeper and sustained encounter with Jesus for all who attend.
…whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14
I eagerly look forward to sharing this experience with you. Save the date — Saturday, July 16, 2016! See you there?
Written by Lisa A. Schmidt, The Well Founder