There are no right answers, only many possibilities.
The Women’s Sojourn seeks to create a place for women to learn, to speak, and to be heard without contradiction, a place to enhance women’s lives in the spirit of heartfelt and mindful sharing. We bring to our group who we are, drawing from our own experiences. We seek to create a safe, respectful, and sacred space for the women of our group, so that we may affirm and share our experiences and the kinds of women we are.
The Women’s Sojourn meets on the second Sunday of each month from 7-9 PM. From time to time, we may also hold special events (retreats, workshops, etc.). By agreement of this group, we may invite the Women’s Circle to participate in some of these events. Summer and Winter Solstice celebrations will be held jointly with the Women’s Circle. We have no dues, but quarterly we will pass the hat, with half of whatever is collected going to the church and half into a fund to cover the expenses of our special events. The suggested donation is $10.
Barring extraordinary circumstances, membership will not exceed 15 members at any one time. We ask that all members make a commitment to participate actively and to notify the group if they are unable to do so.
Recognizing that diversity enhances our spiritual growth and strength as a community, we invite new members to join us from time to time when a vacancy occurs. In the counterbalancing interests of encouraging bonding and maintaining continuity, we will not invite more than three new members to join us at any one time.
We maintain a waiting list that includes women who are interested in participating and existing members who need to drop out temporarily. Those on the waiting list are notified (on a first-come, first-served basis) whenever a vacancy occurs. If, after we have responses from everyone on the waiting list, one or more slots remain unfilled, we will place a notice in newsletter and on the church website, inviting any other interested women to get in touch with Diane Hyra.
Structure of Meetings
In order to create “sacred space,” we incorporate a few simple rituals into all our regular gatherings. We always gather around an altar, which may reflect the theme of the evening’s program or represent items sacred or important to the preparer or simply create a focus of calm and beauty. We open each gathering by passing the “begging bowl,” into which we symbolically deposit the concerns and distractions that keep us from being fully present in the group. We close each gathering by passing the bowl again, this time in order to take from it the good we have found in the gathering.
The period “between bowls” is the program period and follows these guidelines. Any business or announcements are handled outside this period, preferably at the beginning of the meeting or by email. We encourage the use of readings and guided or silent meditations as part of all programs. While the programs may take many forms and cover many themes, those responsible for a program should endeavor to discover and incorporate into the program the spiritual aspect(s) of their topic.
Program Format and Topics:
There are many possibilities for program formats. Among those we have found meaningful and enjoyable are music, movement, art, other forms of expression, verbal sharing (in which members share thoughts and memories around a specific theme). We may occasionally have informational/instructive programs, and sometimes arrange for a guest speaker. Depending on the wishes of the group, we may adopt a particular theme for several programs.
Ground Rules for Sharing Our Experience in Gatherings
- We observe the confidentiality of all personal information shared.
- We have the right to pass without explanation and without pressure to speak. Each of us has the right to decide for herself her comfort level and the depth at which she reveals personal feelings and experiences.
- One person at a time speaks, in the first person, using “I” instead of “we,” from our own experiences, in order to create a non-judgmental atmosphere. We do not engage in confrontation or advice-giving.
- We respect our differences and our individual opinions. We actively listen to each other without interruption and without agenda. We respect each woman’s right to have the opportunity to speak and accept what she says as her reality; we accept any emotion expressed and allow it to run its natural course without interference. Cross-talk, private conversations, and direct comment on another’s sharing are generally unacceptable during the program. This does not mean that we aren’t responsive. Instead we listen with full attention and are fully present for the speaker. If anything interrupts our listening (e.g., thoughts about what we are going to say), we let the interruption drift away and return our full attention to the speaker.
Member and Group Responsibilities
Although we are not a therapy or counseling group, we acknowledge and support each other in the challenges of our daily lives. We encourage all members to remember that this group has and must have a life beyond our monthly meetings.We strive to make decisions by consensus and to ensure that individual concerns are respected and that options are thoroughly discussed.
Responsibilities for Meetings:
The following are tasks that need to be done for each meeting:
- Planning and preparing the program, including preparing the altar, selecting readings, meditations, and special activities);
- Setting up the meeting space and clean-up/closing-up afterwards. The program planners are responsible for notifying the group of the upcoming meeting (preferably early in the week of the meeting), including requesting members to bring any items necessary for the program, and reminding others to help in the cleaning and closing up.
Responsibility for these roles (as well as for tasks arising from special events) is shared. We encourage all members to participate as actively as they can and to work with others on these tasks. As a general rule, at least two members should take responsibility for presenting programs. We encourage members who don’t know each other well to work together on program planning as a means of forming bonds. Clean-up is a group responsibility.
We strongly encourage regular attendance and participation in our activities in order to create and maintain a sense of community, continuity, and mutual trust. If you are unable to attend a meeting, please notify another member of the group, preferably the current contact person.
Here’s what some members say about what they like about women’s sojourn…