Two blogs that I enjoy reading—Bishop in the Grove and Love, Joy, Feminism—both recently wrote about their personal experiences attending Unitarian Universalist Churches and the sense of community/value they found there. It made me think about the role of the UU Church in my own life and I decided it was time to give a shout-out to the UU Church and how it introduced me to the Goddess and to religion in a form that I not only could find palatable, but also deliciously meaningful and enriching. My first cause in life was feminism—a sense honed by my experiences as an agnostic homeschooled teenager amidst mostly fundamentalist Christians. I could not help but stand up for women’s rights and challenge the rhetoric my peers often shared about a “woman’s [lesser] place” in life and society. Because my developing sense of feminism burgeoned in response to patriarchal religious beliefs about women—the only religious beliefs I had yet encountered—I also developed a sense that feminism was not compatible with religion, period.
In college in the 1990’s as a psychology major, I always chose “women’s issues” as my main area of focus and I went on to graduate school in clinical social work, doing my internship at a battered women’s shelter (I also volunteered in one during my undergraduate years). My sense of the Goddess that later emerged is very intertwined with my deep beliefs about the inherent value and worth of women. After finishing graduate school in 2000, I started to have lots of “searching/seeking” conversations in the car with my husband–trying to find something to “plug into” and saying, “maybe I need to get religious?” But, there was no religion I could find that fit me/matched me and I decided it probably didn’t exist. As time passed, I continued to seek/discuss/ponder and a different friend mentioned her UU church and it being a “perfect spiritual home for her”–I dismissed it because of the word “church,” but in 2005, I took the infamous Beliefnet quiz and got a 100% match for Unitarian Universalism. Lo and behold–my beliefs about social justice and about the inherent dignity and worth of each human being, as well as about the deep mystery and wonder of the natural world were “pluggable” after all! By this time, we had moved and so I started attending my very, very tiny local UU fellowship.
In 2003, my good friend had taken a women’s studies class in college and lent me the books When God was a Woman and The Chalice and the Blade and we began to have discussions about the Goddess and to explore our feelings about religion and meaning. She was the first person I was ever able to speak to deeply about spirituality. I was raised as a fourth generation “non-religious” person—my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all had/have no religious or church affiliation. My friend and I talked a lot about Wicca and paganism and as I read more books, I realized something was missing for me in most pagan literature. I eventually discovered the “missing” element, for me, was the Goddess emphasis of feminist spirituality.
After beginning to attend the small local UU church that I jokingly refer to as the Church of Democracy and Evolution, I discovered the fabulous Women and Religion subgroup within the larger UU world and started to realize that my strong draw towards Goddess actually had a place and a home under the UU “umbrella” and that I didn’t have to self-identify as pagan or Wiccan in order to explore a relationship with Goddess. I trained as a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator in 2008 and discovered something every powerful in these resources. At the conclusion of the training, I had profound sense of THIS is what else there is for me! It was a pivotal moment.
After the empowering and transformative births of my sons in 2003 and 2006, I became deeply enmeshed in birthwork—expanding my senses of women’s issues and social justice into birth activism and birth education. Then, in 2009, my third son died during my second trimester of pregnancy. My birth-miscarriage experience with him was a powerful and transforming experience as well and I was left with a sense of openness to change. A receptivity to larger forces and powers in the world. Indeed, it felt like a spiritual experience of sorts. After his birth and in my journey through grief, I experienced a sense of myself as inherently worthy and valuable—that I didn’t need to do anything special to be a worthwhile human being. I also had the revelation shortly after his birth that the power of women that is so present in birth, is present in women, period. I realized that this sense of “birth power” could be found in women’s spirituality and I found myself irresistibly drawn to more and more reading and study of feminist spirituality and Goddess thealogy. However, reading wasn’t enough. I felt the thread of Goddess that had danced at the edges of my life for so long, had finally become a distinct and extremely important presence in my life and I felt a call to more formally dedicate myself to a Goddess path.
On my son’s due date on May 3, 2010, which was also my 31st birthday, I did a small, private ceremony in the little stone labyrinth in my front yard in which I formally declared to myself and to the nature around me that I was now committed to practicing the presence of the Goddess in my everyday life. In May of 2011 and May of 2012, I renewed that commitment in another private ritual. Also in May of 2010, I went to a healer for “somatic re-patterning” (or, as I call it, “reprogramming my brain!”) and let go of the remaining neural pathways doubting my own worth and value. During our session, she told me that my healing gift is in words (not in physical touch or treatment) and that I live my spirituality, I don’t have to explain it. She also told me that something big was shifting inside of me and that I was opening up it a new direction. She asked if I perceived that shift in my life and I said, YES, knowing that it was this new sense of connection to the feminine divine.
In November of 2010, I attended at women’s spirituality retreat at a UU church in St. Louis and we did an exercise in which we each wrote a “gift” on a piece of paper (following a guided meditation) and then put them into a communal bowl and each drew out another’s woman’s gift–she was sharing it with us. I drew out “sacred words.” My friend told me she thought it was perfect for me because talking to me about her own experience of spirituality had been deeply meaningful to her. When I got home, I started looking for study programs/schools online because I knew in my heart that the time had come to deepen my personal study/experiences. After this retreat, I also started planning and facilitating quarterly women’s spirituality retreats locally. And, in January 2011, I gave birth to my own baby girl. She was born at home into my own hands, alone, under my own power and with my heart full of hope and joy and the promise of new beginnings.
In March of 2011 I started working on my D. Min degree in Thealogy/Goddess Studies at Ocean Seminary College and in July of 2012 I became ordained as a priestess with Global Goddess. Without my tentative steps into the UU church, I do not know that I’d be where I am right now. As is kind of the tagline of the program, I can honestly say that, “Cakes changed my life!” 😉