Have you ever longed for time and space to step out of the busy pace of your life to reflect with other women about what gives your life meaning and hope?
What is the potential for change in our homes and in our community when women’s voices clearly speak their wisdom and their passion?
Do women make a difference?
Sharing a woman's journey…
I had completed my seminary degree from Loyola Chicago and was embarking on challenging work as a consultant for parishes going through change. I had a variety of ministry experiences to draw from, but I still was unsure as I initiated this new position as Director of Leadership Development at a spirituality center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I found myself in the unique open space of creating work out of my own energy, expertise and skills. Trouble was, I had spent most of my adult working life adapting to other’s expectations. I had developed keen skills at reading system’s informal messages and producing within the limits others defined. I was in the marvelous place of creating something new, but was unsure how to define the expectations for myself or trust my own feminine wisdom. In fact, I would not have even used the term feminine wisdom as something I was seeking to understand, let alone guide my work.
As the world welcomed a new millennium in 2000, I sought a resource of support for my new work. WITNESS, a nonprofit organization supporting the partnership of women and men in ministry, was offering Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI). WLI was a satellite program of the Women’s Leadership course created by Miriam Therese Winter offered at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. It offered me an extended process (nine months) to study, reflect and learn to articulate my own definitions and understandings as a woman. If I was going to help others develop leadership, I needed to understand my own leadership.
I must confess that I had never done much with feminism. I had not studied the history of the women’s movement and lacked awareness of basic historical events and movements in terms of women’s rights. I didn’t have a problem using “man” as a generic term for humanity. I prided myself in having primarily male friends – women were just too catty and chatty. I was more comfortable in a male environment, at least with men I knew what to expect.
Women’s Leadership Institute introduced me to a rich history and to challenging questions in a safe environment. I never felt pressured or shunned, but was welcomed to examine the stories of women and how my story was woven with similar threads. I remember reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd and discovering old anger that had been stashed away from the light of day. After sessions, my reflection deepened into awareness of a voice that had patiently waited within me to be articulated and heard.
During the nine months I gathered with dynamic women who ranged in ages from their late 20s into their 70s. Women who came one weekend a month from diverse life experiences as physicians, therapists, homemakers, ministers, students and teachers. The stories of these women became woven with my story and together we discovered the power of a circle of women gathered for support and encouragement, gathered to hold one another’s sorrows and to rejoice in one another’s blessings. We each brought our unique spirituality and perspective to the circle, trusting a diversity of gifts and wisdom.
As I prepared to leave Michigan, returning home to Indiana, the WLI director inquired, “Barbara, perhaps you are to take this experience to the women in Indiana.” As I responded with laughter, I tucked this seed of wondering into my heart.
It is with joy that we received Miriam Therese Winter’s blessing to create a similar process for women in Indiana ~ a process led by a nonprofit organization, Indiana Voices of Women. A dynamic group of women committed to creating this resource and the first circle of women was held in Indiana in 2010.
I am convinced that this transformative experience has deepened my approach to leadership and reflects my unique gifts. It is my delight to create a process that offers the potential for women to fully live with passion and hope. Promising to pass on to the next generation the stories and wisdom of the women who have gone before us, we trust that as women claim their voice we will remember how to live in community and to lead with wisdom.
Life is truly a journey!
Michigan Circle 2000/2001
Voices of Women invites you
to gather to explore the voices of the past,
to claim your own voice and to lead with wisdom.