Tapping the Global Might of the Feminine Spirit

Article excerpt

As hope wrestles fear for a grip on our imaginations, conversations with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors circle the violent juggernaut that we feel increasingly unable to influence. What, in God's name, we ask one another with each day's headlines, can ordinary people do as our leaders plan to unleash destruction?

As the spiritual leader of a small congregation near Santa Fe, N.M., who found her calling late in life, I'm keenly aware of both my influence and my limits. But even as I feel far from the decisions that may transform my world, I see a ray of hope, a place to begin.

On Monday, I will join several hundred women religious and spiritual leaders at the United Nations in Geneva for the first Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders. This is a direct outgrowth of the 2000 UN Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, which inspired a commitment to build a network of women religious and spiritual leaders who can support UN activities aimed at eliminating conflict.

As an American rabbi, I'll go with a freshly cleansed and hopeful heart. In the Jewish tradition of Yom Kippur, I have just asked forgiveness and I have given it. I have looked deeply at myself and found ways that I can do better. I am ready, indeed eager, to act differently.

Despite grim news on war with Iraq, I pack my bags with hope. The results of such a gathering have profound potential: As nurturers, healers, and educators, women leaders of all faiths have a special role to play in bringing the universal values of religion - not the beliefs that divide us - to the fore.

While the feminine dwells in everyone, women's expression of it is distinct. Followers of women spiritual leaders say that women tend to listen better, are more empathetic, less hierarchical, and more approachable in their style.

While women of faith have for centuries worked for transformation at the grass-roots level, we've been denied or have shied away from leadership roles.

Now, our skills and attributes are desperately needed to build a more just, caring, and peaceful world. I hope what we can create in Geneva is a tent where we have gathered - first, to be honest, and second, to seek commonalities.

While there have always been representatives of the divine in feminine form, never have so many women entered the realm of religious and spiritual leadership as today. …