21 June 2013

Give yourself a moment to transition into summer.
Find a quiet corner to breathe and center. When you are ready, we have a video meditation of the Summer Solstice ritual below:
Or, gather a candle and match. Find a quiet corner to breathe and center. When you are ready, light the candle, and click here for audio only of the ritual.
Or, if you would prefer to read, the ritual text is below.

The Ritual

Find a quiet corner to breathe and centerGive yourself a moment to transition into summer.Light a candle to honor the Summer Solstice.
Candlelight, sunlight, and bonfires reflect the power of the sun. Feel the richness of Earth’s summer colors.
Red: the longest wavelength, the flow of life in your blood, the color of courage.
Be attentive to your courage.
Orange: the action color, the primary ray connected to the womb center, the color of passion.
Be attentive to your passion.
Yellow: the expanding wavelength, the color of transcendence, the color of women's will.
Be attentive to your openness.
Green: the middle of the spectrum, the color of sympathy and emotion, the color of balance.
Be attentive to your harmony.
Blue: the creative color, the color of the sky, the power of decision-making.
Be attentive to your calm.
Indigo: the passive wavelength, the color of psychic knowing, the color of awareness.
Be attentive to your intuition.
Purple: the shortest wavelength, the color of the wise woman, the color of introspection and spiritual development. Be attentive to your spirituality.
Brown: the stable color, the color of security, the color of centering. Be attentive to your center.
Draw in what you need and want from these Solstice colors. Draw in fulfillment, passion, and abundance from the gifts of Earth.
Give thanks to Divine Wisdom. Give thanks to Earth. Give thanks to the seasons for this time. Give thanks for warm days, lazy evenings, and life-giving relationships. Take time to enjoy these treasures!
Happy Summer Solstice!
Blow out or snuff the candle.

© Diann L. Neu,, cofounder and codirector of WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

14 June 2013

Around the WATER Office: Meet Our Summer Interns!

Wondering why WATER has been flowing faster than usual? With 3 new interns in the office along with our year long Loretto Volunteer Wendy Mallette, the pace has quickened, and the possibilities are endless.
So if you’ve been dying to put a face to the voice who answered the office phone, the signature on that letter, or the worker behind website updates, read on!

Wendy Mallette – Maryville, TN

Wendy is the office’s yearlong intern through the wonderful Loretto Volunteer Program. She graduated from Valparaiso University in 2012 and is now headed to Yale Divinity School for a Master of Arts in Religion with a concentration in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Wendy came to WATER because she wanted to learn more about the kind of work being done in feminism and religion in a nonprofit setting. When she’s not leading the summer interns through the numerous projects WATER takes on, she enjoys biking, visiting art museums, and reading anything related to queer and feminist theory. She’s excited to work with so many new colleagues this summer!

Molly Bolton – Winston-Salem, NC

Molly Bolton is a third year at the Wake Forest School of Divinity. As a student and a pastoral intern at Green Street UMC, she found WATER’s resources lovely and helpful, and was inspired to join the alliance! Molly is especially interested in rituals for women, feminist methods of pastoral care, and “queering” worship. She loves art and poetry, but prefers exchanging stories with friends to just about anything. She is looking forward to a summer of learning from the pros and getting to know wonderful women. (Editor’s note: she is one.)

Rebekah Renfro – Melbourne, FL

Rebekah will be a senior at Smith College located in Northampton, MA. After falling in love with alternative biblical interpretations, she declared a major in religion, though still pursuing the pre-medicine track. She hopes her studies in religion will prove valuable for a career in genetic counseling, providing the most holistic and ethical approaches to her practice. Rebekah came to WATER thirsting for feminist perspectives, wanting to learn from the strongest of women, and gain real life work experience. When not at work, she loves swimming and fishing in all bodies of water, and singing with her soul. “I know after this summer I will take WATER with me wherever I go!”

Elizabeth Lancaster – Dover, DE

Elizabeth is beginning her senior year as a Religious Studies major at Hendrix College in Conway, AR. She came to WATER to learn more about feminist theology, specifically in relationship to body theology. She also wanted to get involved in the administration of a nonprofit organization, to learn by doing. Outside of the office you might find her training for the upcoming field hockey season. She recently returned from a four-month study abroad experience in Pondicherry, India, and now constantly craves Indian food. Elizabeth hopes to take a mental bibliography of feminist theologians back to Hendrix at the end of this summer, expanding her religious studies as she continues her education.

July 10 Teleconference with Grace Ji-Sun Kim

Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit” 
Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 
1 pm – 2 pm EDT 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s theological interest is in the area of Constructive Theology, Feminist Theology, and Asian Theology. Her teaching and research center on giving a voice to the marginalized and those on the underside of history. Her new book Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot) examines how globalism, colonialism, and consumerism have caused unjust suffering (han) for the earth’s exploited peoples and lands.

Born in South Korea and raised in Canada, Dr. Kim obtained her M.Div. from Knox College (University of Toronto) and her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. She is an Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program at Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem PA.

Grace is the author of three books: Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot); The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan); and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press). She has also written over fifty journal articles, book reviews, and book chapters. Presently, she is working on a biblical commentary on First and Second Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah for the series Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible (Westminster John Knox Press, forthcoming).

Dr. Kim serves on the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) Research Grants Jury Committee. She is also a co-chair of the AAR’s Women of Color Scholarship,Teaching and Activism Consultation and is a steering committee member of AAR’s Comparative Theology Group and Religion and Migration Group. She sits on the editorial board for the Journal for Religion and Popular Culture.

Recommended resources related to this teleconference include:

Skype Interview on the Korean Church with 

“Journey Towards Reimagination: Society of Race, Ethics and Religion” Feminist Studies in Religion

“White and Yellow: Overcoming Racism” The Feminist Wire 

“A Global Understanding of the Spirit” Dialogue & Alliance 

Email “Register Me Teleconference” to by Tuesday, July 9, 2013 in order to receive dial-in information.

Volunteers in Global Service—The First Volunteer by Mary E. Hunt

The first Volunteer in Global Service fulfilled the group’s mission with generosity, skill, and style. The Rev. Dr. Ann-Cathrin Jarl of Uppsala, Sweden served as a Volunteer in Global Service at the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, for three differ stints during 2012-2013. Her responsibilities included helping with programs and projects at WATER, mentoring interns, and being involved in an ecumenical collaboration on climate change issues between the Episcopal Church USA and the Church of Sweden.

Dr. Jarl’s interests are focused on human rights and economic well being. She brought a wealth of theological and pastoral experience from her years as chaplain to the Archbishop of Sweden, as a director of a church retreat facility, and as a campus as well as parish pastor. Formerly, she was both a Frontier Intern and a Bi-National Servant so being the pioneer Volunteer in Global Service was natural for her.

WATER is a small non-profit educational organization that brings feminist religious commitments to the service of social change. The goal of VGS is to match experienced, skilled people with projects around the world that could use their talents. It is a way for people who are retired or of retirement age to continue to provide service in the international solidarity community. Peace, justice, and non-violence are hallmarks of VGS work. The fit between the two organizations was natural and seamless. A generous WATER family provided hospitality for Ann-Cathrin during her stays in Silver Spring, and the office community was a comfortable place for her to work. All of this was accomplished in a modest, simple living style to which VGS is committed.

Ann-Cathrin wrote, “I came to WATER in suburban Washington, DC right after I retired from the position as chaplain to the Archbishop of Sweden. My objective at WATER was to do some research on how feminist economics is developing as well as how LGBTIQ people fare in the world. Part of my goal was to exchange wisdom with interns at WATER. Our churches are not always welcoming of all persons. Interns on the other hand are a total joy!” She was able to share the fruits of her own ministry with seminary interns and to discuss current theological topics with a soon-to-be graduate student. WATER was able to provide her with some technical assistance in her work on feminist economics.

The major focus of Rev. Jarl’s work was help in the preparation of a unique bi-lateral conference entitled “Sustaining Hope in the Face of Climate Change: Faith Communities Gather,” (May 1-2, 2013 at St. John’s Lafayette Square, Washington, DC). In a report on her VGS experience Dr. Jarl stated: “Another fruitful endeavor was the summit of the two primates Anders Wejryd, Archbishop Church of Sweden and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church USA. For this event I worked at WATER twice before the actual event that took place in the beginning of May 2013.”

Ann-Cathrin’s task for the gathering was the spadework necessary to turn a good idea into a good conference. It is subtle work that requires insight, patience, and finesse. Her hand was evident in the high quality of what transpired during two days of lectures and conversation. Scientists, activists, leaders, and staff of the two communions along with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) colleagues were able to make good use of their time.

Ann-Cathrin knew the players on both sides of the ocean; she knew the issues and problems. She was able to speak both languages, as it were, when it came to Lutheran and Anglican theo-political approaches, not to mention Swedish and English! She handled certain logistics, interfaced with staff on the visits to Congress, the White House, and local agencies that were part of the official program. She met with the Swedish Embassy personnel to arrange what turned into a memorable, celebrative dinner at the beautiful House of Sweden on the Potomac River in Washington, DC, a festivity that cemented much of the good work.

This is the kind of unsung, behind-the-scenes work that makes such projects go. Only very uniquely qualified people like Ann-Cathrin can carry it out with grace, not needing to be front and center but always keenly and skillfully involved. It makes all the difference in the world in terms of outcomes when such bridging occurs for people of different backgrounds and cultures. This is what VGS offers.

Swedish Archbishop Anders Wejryd observed: “When Ann-Cathrin served as my chaplain she led the project of convening an inter-religious climate meeting, which was a combination of a small summit of profiled experts and a large popular gathering of concerned individuals. After her retirement she was also very instrumental in bringing about a small climate-conference together with the Episcopal Church, combined with lobbying on Capitol Hill and the White House administration.” He referred to Ann-Cathrin’s “very special talent” at “matching professional people, researchers at the forefront and volunteers,” a talent she applied so adeptly to this very successful meeting in Washington.

In a joint statement affirming their hope, signed by the two Lutheran churches and the Anglican one, religious people agreed to join in “leading a conversion of epic scale, a metanoia, or communal spiritual movement away from sin and despair toward the renewal and healing of all creation.” Climate change is a reality that shapes our common context. “As international churches with congregations in many nations, we can and will use our global networks to promote a political framework to limit climate change, while in a unified voice we speak to the world about the urgency of committed climate work.” ( 

Volunteers in Global Service is off to a wonderful start with this completed project. Ann-Cathrin modeled VGS values and style: faith-based commitment to justice, personal commitment to social change, community-centered collaboration with people of good will all over the world. The outcomes are measured both in large-scale efforts to involve people of faith in responsible citizenship on a changing planet and in the seeds planted with interns, young people who are anxious to carry on this work in ways pertinent to their generation.

Ann-Cathrin said it best for VGS: “I recommend everyone with energy enough to seek new adventures and useful work with all the experiences we have from a long life in service. And at the end of the day there is so much to be thankful for.”

Celebrating WATER’s 30th Anniversary 1983-2013

Women's Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual- 
Celebrating 30 Years
Created by Wendy Mallette and Rebekah Renfro

May 2013 Notes for Teleconference with Marie M. Fortune, Jeanette Stokes, Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu

Teleconference with Marie M. Fortune, Jeanette Stokes, Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu 
“A Century of Creative Feminist Leadership in Religion” 
Moderated by Emily Cohen and Wendy Mallette 
May 22, 2013 

Marie M. Fortune of FaithTrust Institute, Jeanette Stokes of the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South (RCWMS), and Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) gathered for a conversation on “A Century of Creative Feminist Leadership in Religion.” Together, these non-profit organizations have logged more than a century of progressive feminist religious work for justice. During this teleconference these colleagues reflected on their founding visions, their struggles and challenges to keep small organizations flourishing, and their strategies to create the platforms necessary to expand this justice work.

The conversation opened with these feminist leaders reflecting on why they chose to create new organizations instead of joining established ones. Marie explained, and others agreed, that at the time there was nothing like their organizations to join. The women’s centers that did work in feminism and religion were connected with seminaries, but part of the work of organizations like FaithTrust, RCWMS, and WATER was to bring feminist theology resources out of the seminaries and into other communities. Furthermore, because churches were so often part of the system of violence against women and sexism, it was important to form spaces outside of these institutions to work. Jeanette shared that she founded RCWMS based on what women in ministry said they needed at the time, which was to know that other women in ministry existed and to connect with them. Similarly, Mary explained that she and Diann founded WATER to create new spaces for women to do work in religion without the demands of academic or religious institutions. Diann agreed and furthered that WATER was formed as an ecumenical and later interfaith space where women could do theology, ethics, and ritual on their own terms.

The conversation shifted towards discussing what justice-seeking looks like in these three organizations. Jeanette began by explaining that her organization and the others were interested in justice for women in the church and world. Because her work responded to the needs of women at the time, its focus has changed vastly over the years. Mary spoke of WATER’s preferential option for marginalized women, so issues of women of color, lesbians, older women, and poor women have been central. Diann spoke of her early and continued work in responding to the lack of liturgies that met women’s need for ritual. All the colleagues named numerous groups and organizations—women’s organizations across denominations, Catholic women religious, progressive religious organizations, women’s music and artist collectives—whose work shaped the field and whose support has been essential for these organizations.

The next topic addressed how these women who have privileges with respect to race, class, and education do work in the field. Marie mentioned the privilege that she and Jeanette access due to their ordination status. However, Marie pointed out that gender continues to prevent women from gaining access to funding and noted the systemic underfunding of programs for women and girls. Jeanette spoke of the importance of the financial support she had from her family early on in the founding of her organization before they learned to fundraise. She also spoke of her organization’s coalition building, first with African American women, and today with Hispanic and Asian women as well, so as to operate in an antiracist way. Mary spoke of the lack of privilege that Catholic women have with respect to the church, but that WATER’s antiracist commitment plays out through WATER’s collaborative work that promotes the work of women of color and poor women in the US and around the globe.

The conversation was opened up to the listeners. The first person to speak voiced that these three organizations had been a life-thread for her as a Catholic woman. Jeanette turned to the question of the new directions for this kind of feminist work. She spoke about how she was influenced by seasoned scholars in the field who encouraged her to start something new and challenged young scholars to do the same. Mary continued by speaking about WATER’s history of having more than 45 interns over the years who have gone on to do their own work in the field. Diann followed-up with the image of passing on the torch and her interest in what the next generation of feminists would create.

The conversation closed with a discussion about the challenges that these four entrepreneurs faced in their early years and how that differs today. Marie expressed that much of their success came from not being aware of the challenges ahead, which allowed them to jump into the work and also being able to stand on the shoulders of women who came before them. She noted that women who follow now have many more shoulders to stand on. Jeanette explained how starting a nonprofit today is more challenging than thirty years ago due to college debt, higher expenses, and more strict regulations. Mary agreed with Jeanette’s analysis and put forth an additional challenge of “the work has been done” myth needs to be countered, especially in the academic world. On the other hand, the technology that is available today makes new work and communication possible, allowing for a global alliance. Diann brought up the importance of archiving the work of feminists and encouraged participants on the call to preserve their work so that women’s histories can be researched in the future. The conversation closed with a discussion of the changes that these organizations have seen over the years with respect to their acceptance in secular feminist organizations.

More needs to be said by these four colleagues, but this was an excellent start. WATER thanks everyone who joined this call and helped to make this conversation so informative, especially Marie, Jeanette, Mary, and Diann for their sharing of fascinating histories. The next call will be with Monica A. Coleman from Claremont School of Theology in southern California on June 12, 2013. She will be speaking on the topic of “Third Wave Womanist Religious Thought” which is the subject of her most recent edited book.