Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership: Where Grace Meets Power

This empowering resource engages women in an interactive exploration of the challenges and opportunities on the frontier of women's spiritual leadership.

Edited by Kathe Schaaf, Kay Lindahl, Kathleen S. Hurty, PhD, and Reverend Guo Cheen

6 x 9, 288 pp | 978-1-59473-313-0

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A dynamic conversation on the power of women's spiritual leadership and its emerging patterns of transformation.

“We invite you to come with curiosity into this living community of spiritual women, listening deeply as they share their personal stories of how their spiritual journeys have shaped and honed them as leaders.... We do not offer answers to all of the complex questions facing us as a human family, but we invite you to join us as we surrender to the mystery of being open, present and engaged together in these uncertain times.”

—from the Introduction

This empowering resource engages women in an interactive exploration of the challenges and opportunities on the frontier of women's spiritual leadership.

Through the voices of North American women representing a matrix of diversity—ethnically, spiritually, religiously, generationally and geographically—women will be inspired to new expressions of their own personal leadership and called into powerful collaborative action.

“Outstanding contributors.... Create[s] a ‘dynamic conversation’ about women’s spiritual leadership power.... A comprehensive and invaluable volume with strong mainstream appeal.”

American Library Association’s Booklist starred review

“Showcases [women’s spiritual leadership’s] hallmarks: listening and collaboration. Use the provocative, creative suggestions as a practical guide for sharing the insights and extending the reach.”

Mary Hunt, co-founder/co-director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER); coeditor, New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views

“An essential tool, an exciting read and a gift on the journey toward a transformed future.”

Dirk Ficca, executive director, Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions

“Full of wisdom and speaks the truth on difficult issues.... For people of all faiths—or no faith—it helps spark reflection on how true spirituality for our time can be re-shaped by empowering women.”

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, editor, New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future

“Unique, timely and valuable.... Here is a testament to the power of the word, of women, and above all, of faith.”

Azza Karam, PhD, senior adviser, Culture, United Nations Population Fund

“A powerful plunge into the views, values and extraordinary endeavors by women on the leading edge of spirituality and leadership.”

Roshi Joan Halifax, founding abbot, Upaya Zen Center

“Thought and action provoking ... a resource for women of all walks of life who seek to use the wisdom and knowledge of women to create a culture of peace and well-being for all.”

Mary Wiberg, executive director, California Commission on the Status of Women

“A rallying cry for the twenty-first century, as it highlights the vision and activism of women bridging divides ... of faith, class, race and generation to bring real hope, healing and wholeness to our broken world. Women of deep faith and spiritual conviction everywhere owe it to themselves to read this compelling collection.”

The Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, president, Auburn Theological Seminary

“Many religious institutions still hold to explicit glass ceilings that keep women from formal leadership. This obscures women’s extraordinary spiritual roles, their potential to change what we mean by religion and spirituality, and what a spiritual lens can offer to the world’s leading problems. Exploring vital and complex themes like communication and leadership with freshly defined terms, the editors and contributors look to a world governed by new conceptions of power and success. The personal spiritual journeys of a diverse group of women offer glimpses of the types of transformations that women spiritual and religious leaders might bring to society.”

Katherine Marshall, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University; executive director, World Faiths Development Dialogue

“We all long for inspiration and guidance. With enormous sensitivity, Women, Spirituality, and Transformative Leadership gives us gems that are both joyous and poignant. Prepare to be uplifted and transformed!”

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

“Call[s] us as women to the urgent task of developing a deep spiritual identity, not for our own good but to better equip us to be agents of transformation in a deeply divided world. Rejoice as you read this inspiring book and ready yourself for transformation.”

The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Department of Religion, Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York; author, Living into Hope: A Call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This

“This carefully crafted collection of women’s insights into leadership from a spiritual root goes a long way in connecting the concept of power with the concept of love. Such a linkage stimulates moral courage, encourages social justice and opens one to deeper, more authentic, spiritually grounded relationships.”

Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, author, Faith & Feminism: A Holy Alliance; president, The Sister Fund

“An important book for this pivotal moment. Its collection of voices embody a non-denominational, invitational and inclusive approach to spirituality, while also addressing the nitty-gritty practicalities and challenges that leadership in this transformative time requires of us. It offers a systemic overview of a landscape we’d all be advised to visit, frequently—that of the intersection of diverse women (and men), reinventing leadership to address a pivotal moment of change in ourselves, our communities and the world, while staying connected to the mystery, or sacred, within and surrounding us all. It offers useful practices and perspectives for how we may cultivate ourselves to return to right relationship with ourselves, each other and the Earth.”

Nina Simons, co-founder/co-CEO, Bioneers

“If human civilization is to not only survive but thrive, it will be because of women: radical, gutsy, revolutionary women; women who don’t simply become leaders, but who reinvent leadership; women who don’t simply become clergy, but who reinvent religion and spirituality. We don’t need women taking their place in a man’s world—we need women to topple that world and lead us to a new and better one. The wisdom in Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership points us in the direction of a new world with a new heart and a new mind. This book gives me hope.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, translator/annotator, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature: Selections Annotated and Explained

A Blessing and an Invitation
       Ann Marie Sayers and Rachelle Figueroa xi
Introduction 1
Exploration I:
How Do I Express Being an Empowered Woman of Spirit and Faith? 17
     Becoming a Vessel of Peace
       Lynda Terry 19
     But I Thought You Knew the Way: Lessons in Leadership
       Fredelle Brief 25
     Living My Way into Answers
       Courtney E. Martin 30
     Seeing a World Where There Is No "Other"
       Yoland Trevino 36
     Faith in the Transitions of Not Knowing
       Susan Quinn 40
     Practicing Empowerment
       Karen R. Boyett, MA 45

Living Our Leadership 50
Digging Deeper
     God Our Father; God Our Mother: In Search of the Divine Feminine
       Joan Chittister, OSB 60

Exploration II:
How Do My Spiritual Values Inform Me about Living with the Challenges and Blessings of Diversity?
     Buddhism, Women, and Religious Diversity
       Karma Lekshe Tsomo 77
     Faith's Challenges: The One We Seek
       Jamia Wilson 82
     Living My Values
       Diane Tillman 88
     Where Grace Meets Power
       Reverend Lorenza Andrade Smith 94
     Best Friends Forever
       Jan Booman Saeed 99
     God Said: We Have Created You from a Single (Pair) of a Female and Male
         Shareda Hosein 104
     Remembrance, Witness, and Action: Fuel for the Journey
         The Right Reverend Mary Douglas Glasspool 109

Living Our Leadership 115
Digging Deeper
       Leading from a Whirlwind: Faith and Courage in a Swiftly Changing World
           Valarie Kaur 124

Exploration III:
How Do We Stand for the Greatness of Each Other? 139

     The Wind Is Blowing from the West and Has the Smell of the Sea
       Adelia Sandoval 141
     Mother-Lines of Body, Mind, and Spirit
       Carol Lee Flinders, PhD 145
      Birthing Awake the Dream
       Alisa Starkweather 151
     Kindness Empowers: A Mohawk Skywoman's Journey of Thanksgiving
       Dawn T. Maracle, MEd, EdD (ABD) 156
      In Order to Heal the World, We Have to Stand for Each Other's Greatness, but "First," the Grandmothers Told Her, "You Have to Heal the Wound between Women"
        China Galland 162

Living Our Leadership 168
Digging Deeper
     Where Do We Go from Here?
         Nontombi Naomi Tutu 174

Exploration IV:
How Do We Catalyze Our Collective Transformational Power as Women of Spirit and Faith?
     Living in God's Amazing Grace: The Power of Faith in Leadership
        Musimbi Kanyoro, PhD 188
     Creative Acts of Expression: Catalyzed in Circles
        Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD 195
      A Poetic Response: "The Catalyst"
         Lisa Anderson 201
      The Meta-Civics of Feminine Leadership
          Dr. Barbara E. Fields 204
      Thou Art Goddess: The Return of the Divine Feminine
          Phyllis W. Curott, JD and HPs 211

Living Our Leadership 216
Reflecting on the Pattern 224
     Written in My Bones
           Kathe Schaaf 224
     In Transition
            Kay Lindahl 227
     On Being Advocates, Activists, and Alchemists: Exploring Power on the Way Forward
            Kathleen S. Hurty, PhD 230
     Ever-Evolving Women of Spirit and Faith: Naming, Doing, and Be-ing
Reverend Guo Cheen 234
     Transformative Leadership
           Kathe Schaaf, Kay Lindahl, Kathleen S. Hurty, PhD, Reverend Guo Cheen 237
     Engaging with Women of Spirit and Faith 240
     The Young Leaders Council of WSF 241
     The Mentoring Project 241
     Local WSF Circles 242
     Parliament of the Worldճ Religions 2014 242
     WSF in Canada 242

Closing Blessing
     Rachelle Figueroa 243

Resources and Networks 244
     Circle and Dialogue Resources 244
     Environment/Ecology 245
     Interfaith Organizations 246
     Leadership and Partnership Organizations 248
     Seminaries and Educational Organizations 249
     Womenճ Organizations 250
     Womenճ Organizations, Faith Based 253
     Jewish Womenճ Organizations 257
     Muslim Womenճ Organizations 258
     Young Leaders 258

Acknowledgments 259
Notes 261
Selected Bibliography 264


Lisa Anderson is the director of Women’s Multifaith Programs at Auburn Theological Seminary. She holds masters of divinity and masters of philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary. Currently she is a Union doctoral candidate in systematic theology. She has taught Black, Feminist, and LGBT theologies, Christian ethics and liturgy, and she has designed and led seminars on the connection between faith and social justice. She is a regular contributor at

Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD, is a psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, and internationally known author who draws from spiritual, feminist, Jungian, medical, and personal wellsprings of experience. She is the author of Goddesses in Everywoman, Crossing to Avalon, The Millionth Circle, Goddesses in Older Women, Crones Don’t Whine, Urgent Message from Mother, and Like a Tree. She is a major advocate of a United Nations Fifth World Conference on Women, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco.

Karen R. Boyett, MA, is the executive director of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada. She teaches religious studies at Regis University as well as anthropology and sociology at the College of Southern Nevada. She also serves on the board of directors for the North American Interfaith Network and on the editorial board for the Interfaith Observer.

Fredelle Brief, who works in public consultation and conflict management, has been a social worker, an environmental planner, and a television executive at Vision TV, the first multifaith television network in Canada. Her passion for peace-building and interfaith dialogue has animated her work. In 1998, Brief was awarded the Canada Peace Medallion from the YMCA. She has contributed to Stories in My Neighbour’s Faith: Narratives from World Religions in Canada, and Faith in My Neighbour.

Joan Chittister, OSB, a Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, is a bestselling author and well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women’s issues, and contemporary spirituality in the church and in society. She is cochair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality.

Phyllis W. Curott, JD and HPs, is an attorney, author, Wiccan priestess, and pioneering spiritual teacher of the Euro-indigenous revivals. Described by New York Magazine as one of the culture’s most intellectually cutting-edge thinkers, Curott is founder of the Temple of Ara, president emerita of the Covenant of the Goddess, and a trustee of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. She is the author of the internationally bestselling memoir Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman’s Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and The Magic of the Goddess.

Dr. Barbara E. Fields is the executive director of the Association for Global New Thought and cofounder of the Gandhi King Season for Nonviolence. She was program director for the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions centennial celebration in Chicago and cofounder and director of The Synthesis Dialogues I, II & III with His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Fields is a contributing author to The Community of Religions and Two Hundred Visionaries.

Rachelle Figueroa is founder of the Morning Star Foundation.

Carol Lee Flinders, PhD, is coauthor of the Laurel’s Kitchen cookbooks, and she wrote a syndicated newspaper column on natural foods for twelve years. She is the author of Enduring Grace: Living Portraits of Seven Women Mystics and writes regularly on the places where feminism, spirituality, and evolutionary science intersect. She has taught at the University of California–Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Flinders currently teaches at the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland.

China Galland, an award-winning author, speaker, university lecturer, and former wilderness guide, is the author of Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna, The Bond Between Women: A Journey of Fierce Compassion, and Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves. Recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts, she is also professor in residence at the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education (CARE) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. She is a member of the national Alliance for Truth and Racial Reconciliation.

The Right Reverend Mary Douglas Glasspool was elected eighth bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in 2009, the second woman to be elected bishop in diocesan history. Her areas of specialization include ecumenical and interreligious ministries, diocesan schools, LGBT ministries (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), and overseeing one-third of the congregations in the diocese. Before her election, she served nine years as canon to the Bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Shareda Hosein is a graduate of Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, with a master’s degree in Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations and a certificate in Islamic chaplaincy (equivalent to a master’s in divinity). She is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and serves as a cultural adviser for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Musimbi Kanyoro, PhD, is the president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, an international grant-making foundation that supports women-led groups working to advance the human rights of women and girls throughout the world. Formerly she served as the director of the Population and Reproductive Health Program of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and as general secretary of the World YWCA. She is the author of In Search of a Round Table: Gender, Theology, and Church Leadership and Introduction to Feminist Hermeneutics: An African Perspective.

Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, advocate, and public speaker. Her critically acclaimed documentary film Divided We Fall (2008) on the rise of hate crimes after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, has inspired national grassroots dialogue. She has clerked on the Senate Judiciary Committee and traveled to Guantanamo to report on the military commissions. She teaches visual advocacy as founding director of the Yale Visual Law Project. She is also director of Groundswell, a broad-based initiative to spark and empower the multifaith movement for justice at Auburn Theological Seminary. The following is drawn from Kaur’s keynote speech delivered at the Alchemy conference.

Dawn T. Maracle, MEd, EdD (ABD), is a Mohawk from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Southern Ontario, Canada. She is currently an artist, muse, writer, educator, trainer, editor, consultant, and doctoral student writing about Haudenosaunee relationships with tobacco. She was formerly the national director of professional development for the National Centre for First Nations Governance and the National cochair of the Post-Secondary Education Working Group for the Assembly of First Nations and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Courtney E. Martin—author, blogger, speaker, and “freelance mystic”—is author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists and the award-winning Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection Is Harming Young Women. A recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, she is coeditor of the anthology CLICK: Moments When We Became Feminist, editor emeritus at, and formerly a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. She was a resident with the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre and has also been a TED speaker.

Susan Quinn, born and raised in the Jewish faith, has also practiced Buddhism since the early 1990s. She leads a meditation group in Poinciana, Florida, and teaches several types of meditation. The author of The Deepest Spiritual Life: The Art of Combining Personal Practice with Religious Community, Quinn also publishes a monthly newsletter. She has owned and operated training and consulting businesses since the 1980s. Her specialties are managing conflict, helping organizations and individuals deal with change, and facilitating team building and problem-solving workshops.

Jan Booman Saeed is the director of spiritual life at Westminster College. She served as chair of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and was a founding member of the Utah State Martin Luther King Human Rights Commission. She was instrumental in the publication of and additions to the Olympic version of World of Faith by Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kathleen Peterson and edited the section on the Baha’i faith.

Adelia Sandoval is cultural director for the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, the indigenous people of Orange County, California. She is also an ordained minister of Lifesblessings Ministries in Descanso, California. Her ministry is called Song of the Earth, a Native American Healing service in an outdoor sanctuary. Sandoval is a Trustee for the United Religions Initiative, a global interfaith organization and an adviser to SARAH (the Spiritual and Religious Alliance for Hope) and to Orange County Interfaith Coalition for the Environment.

Ann Marie Sayers is the tribal chair of Indian Canyon Nation in Hollister, California, and the founder of Costanoan Indian Research, Inc.

The Reverend Lorenza Andrade Smith is with the Ministry for the Poor and Marginalized in the Rio Grand Conference of the United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas. She describes herself as “a five-foot Hispanic/Latina born in the U.S./Mexico border town of Brownsville, Texas.” She has been described by others as an ultra-radical, feisty,muckraking rabble-rouser, prone to calling injustice for what it is, and generally creating chaos and mayhem in the most peaceful way.

ALisa Starkweather is founder of many bold and unique initiatives to support women’s healthy leadership, including the Red Tent Temple Movement, an international grassroots initiative honoring our womanhood journeys, Daughters of the Earth Gatherings; the Women’s Belly and Womb conferences; Priestess Path; She Loves Life, an Internet TV show; and cofounder of Women in Power. A keynote speaker, writer, coach, as well as a certified facilitator of ShadowWork, Starkweather is featured in the documentary Things We Don’t Talk About: Healing Narratives from the Red Tent.

Lynda Terry is a writer, meditation teacher, and founder of Vessels of Peace, the international spiritual network for women that, from 2002 to 2010, nurtured and supported women subtle activists in service to humanity and the earth. Subtle activism is the use of spiritual or consciousness-based practices for collective benefit, such as certain forms of meditation, prayer, arts and media, healing practices, or ritual. She also has served as a communications consultant for humanitarian organizations, including the PRASAD Project and Children’s Hunger Relief Fund. Terry has offered service to a number of women’s spiritual organizations. Her areas of professional interest include nurturing the feminine spirit in women and girls, the evolution of women’s spiritual leadership, interspiritual practices and initiatives, peace-making, and subtle activism. She is author of The 11 Intentions: Invoking the Sacred Feminine as a Pathway to Inner Peace.

Diane Tillman is a licensed educational psychologist and the primary author of the Living Values Education (LVE) book series. Currently a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Association of Living Values Education International, she has coordinated content for this global educational endeavor since 1997. She has written nine educational resource books for educators of young people at risk. Tillman teaches meditation and has been involved with several international initiatives and global conferences over the past thirty years as part of her involvement with the Brahma Kumaris.

Yoland Trevino is principal of Transformative Collaborations International and the former executive director of the Vaughn Family Center, which became a “living lab” for testing out innovations based on spiritual and ancestral values. Involved with international interfaith and intercultural efforts for the past thirty years, she is cocreator, coordinator, and a faculty member of the international program Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics, based in India. Trevino is also founder of the Indigenous Global Initiative and the Women’s Global Initiative within the United Religions Initiative.

Karma Lekshe Tsomo is an associate professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego, where she teaches Buddhism, world religions, and comparative religious ethics. She is a past president of Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women and the director of Jamyang Foundation, an innovative education project for women in developing countries. Active in interreligious dialogue, she is the author of Buddhist Women and Social Justice: Ideals, Challenges, and Achievements and Into the Jaws of Yama, Lord of Death: Buddhism, Bioethics, and Death, among other publications.

Nontombi Naomi Tutu is founder and proprietor of Nozizwe Consulting (Nozizwe means Mother of Many Lands and describes the philosophy of the organization, which is to bring together the people of many lands). She has served as a coordinator for programs on race and gender and gender-based violence at the African Gender Institute in Cape Town. Formerly the associate director of the Office of International Relations and Programs at Tennessee State University, she is coauthoring a book on race and racism with Rose Bator, titled I Don’t Think of You as Black. This essay is drawn from Tutu’s keynote speech delivered at “The Alchemy of Our Spiritual Leadership: Women Redefining Power.”

Jamia Wilson—feminist activist, organizer, expat-brat, networker, truth seeker, cartwheeler, and storyteller—is currently vice president of programs at the Women’s Media Center in New York, where she trains women and girls so they are media-ready and media-savvy, exposes sexism in the media, and directs the WMC’s social media strategy. Formerly Wilson served in several roles related to youth leadership development, grassroots organizing, and communications at Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, and New York University.

How did the four of you come together around your shared passion for women�s spiritual leadership?
We met at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. Sessions on any topic related to women, such as the Divine Feminine, women’s spiritual leadership, and honoring the voices of women, were buzzing with energy. Something was emerging, and the four of us decided to carry on the conversation when we returned back home.

What began as friendly conference calls has grown into Women of Spirit and Faith, an organization designed to invite existing feminine leadership into relationship and to support emerging transformative practices. While we each come from slightly different life experiences we found we had so much in common: from a deep commitment to honor and lift up the voices of women to the belief that women have a major responsibility in transforming our social and economic culture for the sake of the whole human family, to education, to having a religious faith or spiritual connection that shaped our lives, to longing for justice, to valuing collaboration. We saw in each other a passion to make a difference, a willingness to take risks in shaping something new, a commitment to be creative as women leaders together.

We didn’t know exactly where this would lead, but we knew that we could find that way together by being attentive to the Spirit, by listening to each other, by gathering others with us to explore what it means to be women leaders today. We had no intention of forming an institution. Rather, we wanted to shape an open network where women could come together in locally grounded circles for mutual discernment and collaborative deliberation. We wanted to model collaborative leadership by practicing it ourselves and by inviting others to join us in this transformative process.

Why did you write this book?
In January 2011, Women of Spirit and Faith was broadcasting news of its first large conference, The Alchemy of Our Spiritual Leadership: Women Redefining Power, when we received an exciting email in response. An editor at SkyLight Paths wrote to say “This conference sounds very exciting. Have you ever considered writing a book on this topic?” There were so many reasons to say YES! to that invitation. We already knew from experience that women across North America from all spiritual traditions were hungry to have an authentic conversation about women’s spiritual leadership. We had seen the powerful synergy created when women of faith from various religious backgrounds came together with women of spirit who were unaffiliated with any religion but deeply spiritual.

Because we had spent the previous year listening deeply to the stories of so many diverse women, we knew that women had powerful spiritual wisdom to share and we believed strongly that wisdom has the potential to transform our world. So many women told us about feeling marginalized and devalued by the patriarchal structures of their religions; many also told us of their deep longing for a feminine language for the Divine. It felt vitally important to help the voices of women be heard and to magnify the potential at the intersection of women�s leadership and feminine spirituality. And so this book was born as an anthology, weaving together the prayers, wisdom, stories and voices of more than seventy diverse women.

What was your process?
As in all of our work together, the process for this book was collaborative. We knew that we wanted the book to engage women in an interactive exploration of the challenges and opportunities on the frontier of women’s spiritual leadership. We knew we wanted a rich diversity of women’s voices—spiritually, ethnically, generationally and geographically. We knew we wanted to create a book that was welcoming, engaging, creative, spacious, like sitting in a circle together.

We knew the questions we wanted to explore, so our first task was to create a list of women to invite to participate in responding to the questions. The four of us each made a list, and because we each came from different backgrounds there were very few duplicates. We prioritized that list and began to send letters, asking women to choose which question they wanted to write about. As the responses came in we noted which questions were being covered and we kept a diversity matrix. While we were waiting for the first drafts to come in, we began to write the introductions and questions for each section. It is hard to say who wrote what as there was so much back and forth on each. We also started collecting poems, quotes and short stories to insert in the final drafts as well as the circle practices, leadership tools, blessings and models of women leading. And we started lists of resources and books to include.

After we had finished editing the essays by our authors, we sat down one day and just spread out all of the items we had collected, said a prayer, and began to insert them in the various sections of the book. It was a joyous collaboration, filled with laughter and miracles. Divine guidance led the way. Was it hard work? Yes, and grace-filled. Our relationships were deepened by this process; we became something greater than our individual selves.

What do you hope readers will gain from reading this book?
We hope readers will be inspired:

  • By the stories of the women in the book
  • To start their own circles, or to bring new questions and practices to existing circles
  • To connect with other women�s circles
  • To better understand the power of their own voices and their connection with Spirit.

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Exploration I: How do I express being an empowered woman of spirit and faith?

  • How might we animate ourselves to claim our voices or roles as spiritual leaders?
  • How do you embody a spiritual expression as a woman in a position of leadership?
  • What are some of the practices that keep you grounded or centered?
  • Who are your role models, and whom or what do you draw on for inspiration?
  • What is the special contribution of women to leadership? What is the feminine approach to leadership?

Exploration II: How do my spiritual values inform me about living with the challenges and blessings of diversity?

  • How do we create safe spaces to ask questions, explore issues and attend to our own souls?
  • What are the obstacles to genuine listening to and learning from each other?
  • How do we embrace and encourage diversity without it seeming contrived?
  • How do our cultural and religious backgrounds influence our spiritual choices?
  • How can we make each another feel truly seen, heard and valued?

Exploration III: How do we stand for the greatness of each other?

  • How do you balance feeding the positive wolf while fighting away the negative wolf?
  • How do we strengthen the soul of our leadership?
  • What does women’s equality really look like?
  • What are the barriers and challenges that prevent us from standing for each other’s greatness?
  • How do we create genuine friendships and support for each other?

Exploration IV: How do we catalyze our collective transformational power as women of spirit and faith?

  • How do we create more friendships across demographic boundaries?
  • How can feminine voices of compassion, unity and hope become more real and compelling than the voices of fear and separation?
  • What does it feel like when we give voice to our strength as women of spirit and faith?
  • Where are the naturally arising opportunities for partnership and synergy?
  • What are the next questions that want to be asked?