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The Divine Feminine Emerging, Embodied, and Emboldened

By Kathe Schaaf and Kay Lindahl for The Interfaith Observer


Circle of Wise Women Candlelamp – Photo:

We can’t help but notice that the world seems to have suddenly ‘discovered’ the value of women. After thousands of years living in the shadow of the masculine, after being pushed into the margins of power and leadership, after being silenced in every cultural institution – including most of the major world religions – the media today is full of messages that it is time to listen to women’s wisdom.

Women’s leadership styles are being acknowledged widely in diverse segments of the global media:

  • Research articles from the field of neuroscience suggest that women’s brains do indeed work differently than men’s, giving us more capacity for the kind of functions required to address the complex issues facing our planet: multi-tasking, integration, cooperation, and contextual thinking.
  • A headline during the recent budget impasse in the U.S. Congress declared “Women Lead While Men Bicker.”
  • Micro-lending programs in Africa and Asia frequently identify women as key to their success; not only are women more marginalized in poor countries but they are also more likely to make decisions that will benefit both family and community.
  • Even the world of religion has begun to acknowledge the importance of women’s voices and leadership. Pope Francis recently called for a “more incisive female presence” and a broader application of “feminine genius” in the life of the Church.
  • Sojourners recently launched a Campaign for Women and Girls that supports the equality of women in ways that are both practical and theological. The cover of their January 2014 Sojourners magazine boldly states, “Twisted Theology: Churches that still treat women as inferior are distorting the image of God.”

The Divine Feminine Rising

While all of this sudden attention on women, leadership, and feminine spirituality is exciting, it is important to pause a moment and listen deeply for the heartbeat of the Divine Feminine guiding, informing, and inspiring this complex global movement. The Divine Feminine is indeed rising, despite all the jagged history which repressed Her and despite the reality that women have been offered little legitimate space in which to practice feminine ways of being and doing. She rises in individual women and in the thousands of organizations they have created around the world. She rises as women struggle to bring a different style of leadership – and a new matrix of assumptions and values – to the institutions, initiatives, and corporations which shape our culture. And many believe She rises now on behalf of this troubled planet.

Continue Reading…

Kathe Schaaf is a Trustee Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women of Spirit and Faith. Kay Lindahl is on the Ambassador Advisory Committee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Co-Founder of Women and Spirit and Faith

Meaning Making: An Inter-generational Collaboration

by Honna Eichler
from State of Formation

While interfaith dialogue attempts to increase understanding between groups of people from different traditions, too often the work itself occurs in silos. Barriers exist between people of different ethnic and cultural traditions, generations, socioeconomic classes, gender, and education backgrounds between the most open minded conversation partners.

Part of the work of State of Formation is to deconstruct silos and dismantle barriers to foster conversation where it once was challenged to survive. Over the past few months, State of Formation (SoF) staff have been in conversation with those at The Interfaith Observer (TIO) to produce an inter-generational conversation around meaning making within different religious and ethical traditions. With a shared writing objective, fifteen contributors from both organizations wrote about Meaning Making from their own backgrounds.

The Interfaith Observer is an electronic journal created to explore interreligious relations and the interfaith movement.  View supporting documents from The Interfaith Observer on Meaning Making by clicking the highlighted text.

Click here to read the full article

Getting the Interfaith World Connected

by Paul Chaffee

Ray Downs taught a captivating confirmation class at International Church in Bangkok in 1957. But I was stunned at the end of the year when the pastor asked if we were ready to confirm our faith and join the church. I went straight to Dad, a Presbyterian missionary: “I’m just beginning to understand what you believe, and I haven’t any idea what the Buddhists all around us believe – and now I have to join?!” Dad said, “Not at all. No requirement.” The next day he put a thick tome surveying the world’s religions in my hands, a gift that helped shape my life.

More than half my career has been spent working on grassroots interfaith activities. So, at 65, retiring from the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, my motive question had long ago become, How can we do better at building healthy, vital relations between, among, and within the world’s many spiritual, religious, indigenous, and convictional communities who share a passion to heal a wounded world?

My dear spouse’s business acumen meant we could retire in San Francisco and I could become an ‘amateur,’ as in doing something for the love of it. Freed from agency responsibilities, I dove into the internet to better discern the scope of a burgeoning interreligious culture, grassroots and global. I’ve been stunned again, this time by the magnitude and diversity of people in countries everywhere spontaneously deciding to develop friendly relations with ‘the other,’ the stranger. Interfaith culture is emerging unplanned, largely self-funded, and proliferating like spring flowers on a hillside.

That discovery led back to a notion many of us ‘in the vineyard’ have talked about in recent years. We need to be better connected. We need a transpartisan arena where every group’s best interfaith efforts has a platform, a place to share stories, learnings, and connections, a place to begin collaborating around shared concerns.

How to do it? So far, very few financial resources support interfaith work. However, interfaith veterans everywhere repeat the same mantra – “The most valuable thing for me personally has been the amazing relationships I’ve enjoyed. So many, so close.”

Once upon a time I dreamed about writing a blog. But connecting the different parts of the interfaith world is infinitely bigger than any one-man-show. So I started inviting friends, seasoned interfaith veterans and young adult leaders, to contribute to a new venture. A core group accepted the responsibility of formal decision making, and the larger group has grown to 75.

The core group, armed with an anonymous $20,000 startup donation, came up with agreements about The Interfaith Observer, or TIO for short. We decided to be as lean as possible financially. The Interfaith Peace Project agreed to serve as fiscal sponsor during our time of formation. And a number of our advisors contributed their digital expertise to constructing a website and mass-e-mail capabilities. Here are some of the policies which guide us for now.

  • All writing and editing is volunteered.
  • TIO is free to subscribers and encourages readers to reprint and utilize what they find useful. (We would be happy to know how you use it.)
  • TIO strives to develop collaborative rather than competitive relationships.
  • TIO aggregates the best stories and resources we can find as well as publishes new content. Expect dozens of links in each issue for deeper exploring.
  • TIO is happy to join groups which share its concerns and has already built relationships with North American Interfaith Network and United Religions Initiative, whose purpose is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”
  • TIO will address the interfaith universe subject by subject, starting, in September 2011, with ‘deepening interfaith dialogue.’ The next 12 issues address: history, institutions, celebration, making meaning (spirituality, theology, and…), young adults, women, indigenous traditions, the Earth, peacemaking, refreshment, funding, and, in September, 2012, education. (Current and back issues will be available at TIO’s homepage.)

In the recent words of Ebrahim Rasool, the religious world needs “to move beyond the ‘compare and contrast’ model of interfaith engagements, and build solidarity across our markers of difference to achieve shared goals that both signal the relevance of religion and faith as well as demonstrate its capacity to build coalitions, campaigns and unity in action around values and principles we hold in common.” (Claremont Lincoln University inauguration keynote, September 6, 2011) Amen.

The TIO Adviser/Contributor braintrust continues to grow. We began as a group of friends, near and far, creating a new kind of interfaith publication. We’re becoming a global network that we hope will be as fruitful as the publication we promote. Because we can’t afford to grow unmanageably, guidelines are being developed for joining TIO’s braintrust. As it grows larger, we’ll have subgroups focused on the themes TIO explores each month. As a virtual community develops, new possibilities will emerge.

In a world so dark with despair and violence, interfaith work is a candle casting hope far and wide. TIO hopes to reflect the light.

How the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions Changed My Life

by Kay Lindahl, CLP
from the Interfaith Observer

The 1993 Parliament was a watershed event in interfaith history, following in the footsteps of the first Parliament in 1893. Both events forged new ground and introduced new interfaith possibilities. In addition to making history, the 1993 Parliament transformed my life.

My love affair with the Parliament began before I had even heard of it. In 1989 my husband and I moved to a community where almost everything was new – the oldest buildings had been around for less than 20 years. We became involved in the founding of a church, holding the first service in our living room. We soon found a space to meet in the community room of a local bank.

Within a few months our community became an incorporated city. During this time we met people from other new congregations, of many traditions. Together we lobbied the City Planning Department to include zoning for non-profits and houses of worship in the new city plan, which we accomplished.

We made some wonderful friends during that time, and when that project ended we continued to meet. I invited the group to a conversation asking, “What would it be like to have a strong spiritual base in our community?” By the end of that meeting, we had formed a local interfaith organization, the Alliance for Spiritual Community. Its main focus was interfaith dialogue and being present at community events.

Click here to read the full article