Posted by: smstrouse | November 9, 2013

Occupy Your Sacred (Christian) Self

This weekend I’m at the “Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self” gathering at the Sofitel Hotel in Redwood City. This is the second event sponsored by Women of Spirit and Faith. There are about 120 women here, from all over the country and the world, representing many traditions, races, ethnicities and religions. It’s also refreshingly intergenerational. There’s a lot of emphasis on indigenous peoples, on our connection to Mother Earth and healing the world. A wonderful Spirit is dancing throughout, a spirit of collaboration, interconnectedness and ways of leadership that claim the gifts of women (as one woman described as “power and grace”).

There have been only two discordant notes for me – nothing that has tarnished the glow of the gathering, but they’ve been causing me to think. The first was during the opening ritual, which included music, meditation, chants and prayers from a variety of traditions. One was a prayer offered by a woman who identified herself as an Episcopal priest and then said that she guessed that many in the room probably didn’t know what that was, that there probably weren’t very many Christian people here. As she looked around, she asked if there were other Christian people out there. Quite a few hands went up around the room, and she greeted us enthusiastically with “Hello, Christian people!”

Now this is not a criticism of this woman. But it did raise some questions for me. One is about the place of Christianity in the inter-spiritual movement. Is it expected that most Christians cannot or will not be open to other ways of belief and/or practice? Must Christians be apologetic about who we are? And if we don’t want to be apologetic, then how do we present Christianity in a way that intersects and interconnects with other traditions?

IMG_0416I was talking about this with one of the conference organizers (who happens also to be a Lutheran) and she had had the same discordant reaction. As she talked about having grown up in a church that honored other religions, she lifted the symbol that hung from the chain around her neck, a drop of water with a small cross  on one side and said, “I am a Christian; that’s why I wear this symbol of my baptism.” My experience has been different. I’ve had to struggle  through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction of what it means to be Christian, while my friend has always been comfortable in her inter-religious Christian skin. But we wondered together how we interfaith-friendly, inter-spiritual Christians are going to learn to speak unapologetically and boldly from our tradition.

The other discordant note has been the attitude among many participants that inter-spirituality is better than belonging to a particular religious tradition. I’ve noted before that there is a divide in the interfaith movement between those who insist that one must first be grounded in a particular religion in order to explore other paths and those who insist that one does not. There seems to be a dualism, an either/or mentality growing in the very movement that espouses interconnectedness, a both/and vision. And I believe there needs to be a conversation about this very soon.
I suppose the two concerns are connected, growing pains of a movement. And even with the discordant, thought-provoking notes, I’m grateful to be part of it.


  1. Dear Susan,
    I don’t believe I met you at Alchemy.

    There was much stress among attendees of the event; no growth can happen without it. I see it as a time of questioning, and then processing toward answers when we get home. I hope the dialog will continue with groups wider than individual circles. I also hope that Alchemy can be a yearly event, as we lose too much momentum when we wait so long between sharing sessions among circles.

    WSF was organized as an answer to our world in crisis. We need to form a plan of action and committees for carrying out the action plan.

    P.S. I love the water and cross symbol. Do you know were I can find one?



    • I agree, Yvette. Questioning is essential. I loved the event; I also love raising questions!
      I’ll ask my friend where she got the pendant. I’ll let you know.


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