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Recent graduate Lindsey Mullen (MDiv ’15) has been selected as a recipient of the ninth annual Elizabeth Phillips Award for the Best Essay in Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies. It is awarded by the University’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS) program.
Mullen was nominated by Michelle Voss Roberts, associate professor of theology, for her senior project at the School of Divinity, Being Natal: The Theological and Pastoral Significance of Labor and Birth for Christianity. Under the advisement of Voss Roberts, Mullen developed a thesis that birth is heavily “ritualized” in the context of a modern hospital, but these rituals do not always benefit the person who gives birth. Ministers can help to provide an alternative, empowering experience.
Over the last year Mullen has received training to become a certified doula, a nonmedical person who assists during childbirth by providing emotional support. She volunteers as a doula through the YWCA in Greensboro, N.C. and is currently training to work with pregnant women who are receiving methadone therapy as result of opioid addiction.
“Christian religious leaders should recognize the theological and pastoral significance of each birthing event, and attend to the event with the same level of care with which we attend to death,” Mullen said. “The work of doulas is a useful model for pastors and priests who seek to engage labor and birth as a moment with religious significance.”
In April, the WGS program solicited nominations for the award, which pays tribute to the late Elizabeth Phillips, professor emerita of English, for her scholarly commitment to the advancement of the mission and values of the WGS program. Awards are given in recognition of two students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Mullen was recognized at a reception hosted by WGS on Sunday, May 17.
“Lindsey’s work as a doula-pastor-theologian recovers dimensions of ministry that women have historically provided to one another but have been lost or run underground due to the medicalization of U.S. birth practices,” Voss Roberts said. “With this work, she joins an exciting and growing conversation that values the everyday, embodied, and miraculous power of bringing new life into the world.”
Mullen will soon complete her doula certification and continue to work as the Minister to Children and Families at Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. In addition, she will serve as an interim program director for child care services at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina.