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Resources:  Spiral Six, Chapter 24

Materials:  Pens, journals, newsprint and marker, copies of Bumbaugh and Parker statements.

Chalice Lighting:  Light the chalice and read this quote by Raymond Baughan:

Here in the space between us and each other
lies all the future
of the fragment of the universe
which is our own.

Introduction:  Unitarian Universalists and women involved in feminist spirituality are often troubled by our difficulty in explaining to friends from diverse traditions who we are and what we believe.  Faced with a growing ethnic and thea/ological diversity in our society and in our congregations, UUs often wondered what kind of thea/ology could possibly hold us all together.  Classical systematic theology is really about the existential questions we all face as human beings:  Who am I?  How do I know what I know?  What is my relationship to the universe?  What is my relationship to other people?  (Put these questions on newsprint.)

David Bumbaugh has offered a rather elegant answer on pages 158-159.  (Ask participants to turn to those pages; have copies of the Bumbaugh statement available for those who didn’t bring their books.  Then read the statement aloud.)

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. How well does the Bumbaugh statement answer the classical questions?
  2. Does the statement work for you? Why?  Why not?
  3. What changes or additions would you make?

Allow ten minutes for writing.  Put the responses on newsprint and discuss.

Break

Information:  Present the following:  Rebecca Parker suggests that within our diversity we do have a “defining focus” or purpose in life.  (Ask participants to turn to page 160; have copies of Parker’s statement available for those who didn’t bring their books.  Then read her quoted statement aloud.)

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. Does Rebecca Parker’s statement work for you? Why?  Why not?
  2. What changes or additions would you make?

Allow ten minutes for writing.  Then put responses on newsprint and discuss.

Extinguishing the Chalice:  Extinguish the chalice and read the following quote by Sophia Fahs:  “Some beliefs weaken a person’s selfhood.  They blight the growth of resourcefulness.  Other beliefs nurture self-confidence and enrich the feeling of personal worth.”

Chalice Lighting:  Light the chalice and say: Centuries ago the Hebrew prophet Amos posed a question that still haunts us today. He asked, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”

Reflections:  Allow up to five minutes for questions or comments that have come up since the previous session.

Introduction:  Read or put into your own words the following:  The multi-cultural imperative calls us to set aside other unexamined assumptions—that light is better than dark, that bull-dozing the sacred lands of indigenous people does not interfere with their freedom to practice their religion, that it is superstition to believe that the ancestors have become part of the earth, the water and the trees.  What are we assuming here?  That our culture, our religion, our values are the highest, the best that human beings have created.  Our language in its use of light and dark is just one indication of the assumptions carved into our imaginations.

Many of the indigenous spiritual traditions around the world, although patriarchal in many ways, have retained strong elements of honoring woman and honoring the earth.  In the past we have called those traditions primitive but now we find that they have important truths to teach us.  One truth found in many traditions is respect for the old women, the grandmothers of the community.  They are often considered to have special wisdom and are granted the power to make important decisions and judgments for the whole community.  We can no longer afford to romanticize or demonize other cultures.  Our task is to get to know each other as human beings searching in our own peculiar ways for the same creature comforts, fulfillment and satisfaction.

Repeat the question: Can two walk together except they be agreed?

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. Are there diverse cultures in your community? Which ones?
  2. How well do you know them?
  3. What might the old women have to teach us?

Allow ten minutes for writing.  Put responses on newsprint and discuss.

Break

Information:  Read or put into your own words the following:  In the early 19th century Ralph Waldo Emerson and the young Theodore Parker insisted that Christianity was true only to the extent that it was an authentic expression of a universal religious impulse that all religious people share.  Universal, going beyond the boundaries of Christianity.

One hundred years later Sophia Fahs made important contributions to our awareness of other traditions.  Her multi-cultural perspective prepared the way for our Unitarian Universalist acceptance and celebration of diversity.  Her book Beginnings of Earth and Sky, a collection of creation stories from around the world, was published in 1938.  It includes the biblical story as one among many.  Her book From Long Ago and Many Lands was first published in 1948.  In the introduction she writes that an important principle in selecting the stories for this collection “has been to choose stories from a wide variety of different cultures, races and religions so that early in life children may begin to feel some of the human universals that bind us together in a common world kinship.  Our finest moral and spiritual ideals have been shared by many peoples.”

In the 20th century we were challenged when large numbers of humanists joined our churches, non-theists, people who did not believe in a supernatural deity, but did believe in our human potential for goodness and ethical living.  The civil rights movement called upon us to acknowledge the racism deeply ingrained in many of our old assumptions.  The women’s movement urged us to root out the sexism in our theologies, our language and our organizational structures.  Gay and lesbian and transgendered people, rejected by so many other traditions, came into our churches hoping we really meant the acceptance we proclaimed.  We have continued to affirm that yes, we can walk together and respect not only a variety of views but a variety of persons.

The curriculum Rise Up and Call Her Name attempts to take us on a journey into the indigenous religions of many lands and peoples, but that effort is a very risky enterprise.  We Unitarian Universalists are after all predominantly white middle class Americans.  How dare we claim these native religions as our own?  As one Native American woman said, “I feel as if you are invading my religion just as you invaded my land.”

Journaling: Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. Have you explored other traditions on your spiritual journey? Which ones?
  2. What did you learn?
  3. How did you feel?

Allow ten minutes for writing.  Put responses on newsprint and discuss.

Extinguishing the Chalice:  Extinguish the chalice and read the following quote by Luisah Teish:

“I will not wear your narrow racial jackets as the blood of many nations runs sweetly thru my veins.”

Resources:  Spiral Four

Materials:  Journals and pens; newsprint and marker; a plant, flowers, or sea shell on the chalice table.

Chalice Lighting:  Light the chalice and read the poem by Homer on page 95.

Reflections:  Allow up to five minutes for questions and comments that may have come up since the previous session.

Introduction:  Read or present in your own words the following:  Spiritual traditions which honor the earth—our second imperative as we continue into this new century.  Our problem with the earth has much to do with our fear of death.  In the old agrarian traditions death was a natural part of the life cycle.  The dead became part of the rocks and the trees and the rivers.  As male gods took over in mythology and men took over in society, they perceived the old Goddess of transformation and death to be the most dangerous aspect of the old religions.  She was the crone, symbol of the fierce old woman.  She had to be destroyed so that death could be conquered.  Recycling was no longer good enough.  We had to escape the cycle and live forever in some supernatural realm.   Earthly life became but a preparation for eternal life.  Gradually the earth, this life, our physical bodies, all became denigrated, compared unfavorably with the life of our so-called immortal souls.

Our challenge is to reclaim this earthly, bodily life as sacred, as the only precious life we have.  We need to reclaim the image of the Old Woman who brought transformation and death as a part of the cycle of life.  We need to stop seeing ourselves as immortal souls separate from the rest of life.  That means we have to stop pitting ourselves against nature because we can’t win that way.  To destroy the resources of the planet is ultimately to destroy our own life support system.

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. What does it mean to you to perceive the earth as sacred?
  2. What is your favorite connection with the natural world—mountains, ocean, animals?

Allow about ten minutes for the writing.  Put responses on newsprint and discuss.

Break

Information:  Read or present in your own words the following:  Perceiving the earth as sacred means taking seriously our own seventh principle: that we affirm respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  Sophia Lyon Fahs was a woman who stood on the threshold between the old world-view of patriarchy and violence, and an emerging scientific world-view of cooperation and peace.  Well-known as a leading Unitarian religious educator, she created a renaissance of wonder for many hundreds of children and teachers of religion.  She was also a major thea/ologian, perhaps not recognized as such because she was a woman.  Fahs was a woman who was not afraid to question.  If you read Chapter 7, you will see how she challenged the biblical tradition.  She also did something else: she looked to the sciences for help in understanding her world.  She discovered and wrote about interdependence decades before we proclaimed our seventh principle. In 1952 Fahs wrote, “Scientists are developing a growing respect for all living things, and have discovered that cooperation with nature rather than ruling over it leads to humanity’s larger good.  We live in one world where not only are all people related but the total cosmos is one interdependent unit in which all the smaller units from human to animal, from vegetable to mineral, and on down to the tiniest particles of electrons and protons, mesons and photons in the cosmic rays, are of one kind.  Altogether we are a unified cosmos.”

Journaling:  Have the following question on newsprint:  How have you been influenced by the sciences?  Allow about ten minutes for writing.  Put responses on newsprint and discuss.

As part of the discussion tell the group that the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans was organized in 1987 to affirm and celebrate pagan or earth-based spirituality.

Extinguishing the Chalice:  Extinguish the chalice and read the following:  “Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe: I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.  For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.  From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.  Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold—all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.  Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.  And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not unless you know this mystery: If that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.” (in Starhawk, 1989)

Resources:  Spiral Three, especially Chapter 9

Materials:  Pens and journals; newsprint and marker, a goddess figure on the chalice table.

Chalice Lighting:  Light the chalice and read the following quotes:

We do not want a piece of the pie.
It is still a patriarchal pie.
We want to change the recipe.

– Rosemary Matson

I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder.

– Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Reflections:  Allow up to five minutes for comments and questions that may have come up since the previous session.

Introduction:  Read or put into your own words the following: The feminist imperative is the one that says that women and men are created equal in value.  If wise old women were visible and powerful, perhaps we would all be well-educated about the female half of our human history.  Whatever attitude or belief you may hold about God or the divine, it is a symbol that is a powerful part of our human heritage.  In our dominant culture we grow up hearing this symbol spoken of only in masculine terms such as Lord and King and always referred to with masculine pronouns.  In the last thirty years a growing number of women and men have been trying to change that by using inclusive language.  But even today many worship services slip back into sexist language by using familiar old songs and readings in which the language has not been changed.

Many people do not notice sexist language because most of us still don’t know that for many thousands of years  human beings, men as well as women, imagined the divine as female.  In later times human beings imagined great pantheons of gods and goddesses.  Eventually as we know from recorded history the male gods grew more and more powerful and became the chief deities in the pantheons.  In our Western tradition, however, the Great Father replaced the Great Mother.  Even if we are humanists we need to understand what that has done to our thinking, our language, our institutions, all of which reflect this assumption that the male is God.  The mythology of a culture reflects its social arrangements.  When you have a myth of God the Father and God the Son with barely a mention of any female, even the humanists in that society will carry an assumption of male supremacy.  We need to keep examining our behavior and the assumptions which are still carved into our imaginations.  Unexamined assumptions can affect our behavior even when our conscious intentions are good.

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. Who are the old women in your life?
  2. How well do you know them?
  3. Are they powerful?

Allow about ten minutes for writing.  Then ask for responses and put them on the newsprint and discuss them briefly.

Break

Information:  Read or present in your own words the following: A picture of the earth taken from the moon may be the longed-for symbol of a world-view as new as the space age yet as old as the earth itself.  If so, what religion will recognize the psychological, sociological and cosmological potential in that symbol?  The picture has sometimes been centrally and prominently displayed at women’s conferences.

Among a growing number of women there may be a new religion in the making.  In recent years many women have been saying that the Great Goddess is re-emerging.  That statement appears to have several meanings:

  1. Women have discovered the Goddess within and are asserting themselves in the expression of their full human potential.
  2. Through the findings of modern archeology women have been researching their pre-patriarchal roots and discovering that female images of divine power pervaded the entire ancient world. This research grounds us all in a religious history which spanned thousands of years and was based upon female creativity and life stages.
  3. Goddess religion reminds us that we are all born of woman.
  4. The Goddess also reminds us that we are all born of the earth. She is a symbol of the life-supporting delicate ecological balance of the earth.

The rituals and celebrations of the Goddess religion focus on two universal themes: the life stages of woman and the beauty and wonder of the natural world.  The symbols for a contemporary and future world-view may already be at hand in the re-emergence of the Goddess and in that photo of the earth taken from the moon.  Is feminist spirituality articulating the religion of the future?

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. Has feminist or Goddess spirituality been meaningful to you? In what ways?
  2. How do you feel about its possibilities for the future?

Allow about ten minutes for writing.  Then put responses on newsprint and have the group discuss them.

Extinguishing the Chalice: Extinguish the chalice and read the following quote by Barbara G. Walker:  “Thealogy is both new and old: a new view of Woman, her spirituality, and her achievements, plus a much-needed return to her roots.  Underneath the surface of our patriarchal society, there are female voices calling out for this—more and more of them each year…Suppose we were free to recognize deity for what it really is, an archetypal symbol in some sense evolved by the mind of every individual born of woman: a human phenomenon only, but an important and powerful one.  That would be thealogy, and it would be new.  And it would lead us back to the Mother.”

Resources:  Introduction and Spirals One and Two of the book.

Materials:  Small notebook and pen for each person; easel with newsprint and marker; chalice on small table; name tags; refreshments.

Chalice Lighting:  Light the chalice and read the following quote:

The wonder of being together, so close yet so apart—
Each hidden in our own secret chamber,
Each listening, each trying to speak—
Yet none fully understanding, none fully understood.

– Sophia Lyon Fahs

Introducing the Course:  Ask participants to say their names and tell briefly why they are interested in this class.  When all have spoken, say to participants:  We will be reading and discussing parts of The Grandmother Galaxy, but the class is also about your spiritual journey, your responses to some of the ideas presented in the book.  We will take time during each session to write in our journals and to discuss our responses.  The first two spirals or sections of the book are about the author’s early life.  But let’s begin with your early life.

Journaling: Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. Who was the person in your early life who influenced your spiritual growth the most? How?
  2. What event in your early life most affected the direction of your spiritual growth?
  3. What personal or social issues became important to you as you became an adult?

Allow ten minutes for writing.  Then ask participants who wish to do so to share responses to the first question; then allow the group to discuss the responses briefly.  Do the same for each of the questions.

Break

Information:  Gather the group again and read or present in your own words the following:  Poets always see their world and their times with a vision that their less observant contemporaries lack.  They often see the connections between disparate events, or the overall trends of the culture long before others are aware of them.  Or at the very least, poets often gather up the experiences, the fears or the hopes of a generation and give them expression.  T. S. Eliot, writing in the 1920s and 1930s described the breakdown of all the old securities and beliefs.  He saw people struggling to find meaning in a wasteland of broken images.  He wrote:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish?  Son of man
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images…

In the decades since then many writers have suggested that a whole new world-view was needed, a completely different way of perceiving our world and our place in it.  Some theologians even declared that God was dead, a concept no longer relevant to modern life.  But how should we find our way to a new world-view and what would it be?  Unitarian Universalists used to have a statement we made to the world in the form of a bumper sticker.  It said, “To question is the answer.”  That statement baffled most people.  And if we were to write down our own interpretations of it, we would surely have a great variety of meanings.  And yet when we saw it on a bumper we would smile a smile of recognition.  We knew.  What did we know?

Journaling:  Have the following questions on newsprint:

  1. What did we know?
  2. What does that bumper sticker mean to you?

Allow about ten minutes for writing.  Then ask those who wish to do so to share.  Put the responses on newsprint and discuss.  Emphasize that we must question in order to discover a new world-view and new issues.

Information cont’d.  Have on newsprint the three large issues or imperatives described in the introduction to the book:  feminism, environmentalism, and multiculturalism.  Explain that we will spend one session on each issue, one session on a possible new world-view and a final session on the symbols and stories that might support and reinforce such a worldview.

Extinguishing the Chalice:  Extinguish the chalice and read the following quote:

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

– Adrienne Rich

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