Through the course of the weekend, as prayer, events, talks, workshops, meditation, and conversation took place, I got to know about a dozen women, nearly all of whom are leaders within their respective spiritual contexts. We represented UCC, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian, Thean, Buddhist, and Pagan faith traditions, and we listened to one another and talked lovingly with one another about how those traditions shaped us, and how we in our own ways shaped and reshaped them. The tone of the weekend was neither hierarchical nor dogmatic. We were many spiritual journeyers sharing leadership that we might learn from one another while journeying side by side.
I spoke with a dear friend about it afterward, and one of the comments she made was that she forgot that Arizona is a relatively conservative place overall, religiously/spiritually speaking. That is part of what makes Pathways so special, especially to me. It is a safe haven for exploring what is often forbidden (anathema sit) or frowned upon by mainstream religion. It is a place where, for example, prayer to the Divine Feminine can happen in the feminine voice, without critical, dismissive, or glaring glances from others in the room. It is a place where, for example, women can speak up and out freely without being talked over by male clergy (or men in general). It is a place where every person's voice and body and experience is recognized as a bearer of deep wisdom and limitless value--not just those of male persons.
I laugh a little, remembering that my spiritual director, a female Episcopalian deacon, began recommending that I attend workshops at Pathways a year and a half before I finally decided to set foot there. As it turns out, I probably wouldn't have been ready to accept the graces of Pathways when my spiritual director first mentioned it to me. I am ready now, however, and I find myself filled with gratitude for this oasis in the desert.
This weekend I sensed the stirrings of new life preparing to burst forth, not only in the individual experiences of me and the others who took part, but in our shared experience of giving birth to community this weekend. I believe that Pathways of Grace, and other small, welcoming-without-requirement spiritually oriented communities like it, are a model of what spiritual community will look like in the future. There will be options more than demands. There will be exploration more than assimilation. And those who choose spiritual practices and concepts will do so in freedom and love, not fear and guilt.
I look at Pathways of Grace, and I see a lovingly worn labyrinth with many twists and turns, all leading to the Divine one who is at the core of the universe, at the center of each of us.
Blessed be. ♥