Although women were ordained in certain American Christian denominations during the 19th century, they made uneven progress in American religious traditions until the 1970s when congregations opened to female leadership. Today, a vast majority of religions benefit from female leadership. Women religious leaders challenge stereotypes and break down barriers as they reexamine scripture once used to justify gender inequalities. They clearly show that equality and faith do not have to be separate.
Naperville women have transformed their faith communities. Hasha Musha Perman has served as Congregation Beth Shalom’s Cantor and Music Director for more than 25 years. She is an innovator of Jewish music and prayer and has received numerous grants and awards including the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award. Reverend Cindy Marino joined Grace United Methodist Church as lead pastor in July 2015. She has received several preaching awards for her skill and commitment to preaching, developing personal relationships, discipline, and dedication to theological study.
Women’s role in religious life goes beyond official leadership. Women led small groups instruct religious education for children, organize fundraisers, and volunteer in the community. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the contributions of religious women to the forefront. The Islamic Center of Naperville Sisters manufactured and distributed masks to people who needed personal protective equipment. This is only one example of women responding to the pandemic by using their sewing and organizational skills.