In 1985, the Women and Religion Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Thomas Jefferson District (now the Southeast District) conceived of the idea of hosting an all-women’s spiritual retreat. Through the efforts of these visionary women, the first Gathering was held over the weekend of May 15, 1987 at The Mountain Retreat Center in Highlands, North Carolina. These women were inspired to explore the Feminine Divine after taking the course Cakes For The Queen of Heaven, created by Rev. Shirley Ann Ranck. The writings of Starhawk also served to inspire many of our founding mothers.
Due to the success of the first event, additional Gatherings were held in June 1988 and May 1989. It was then decided to create a formal, not-for-profit organization to continue planning these events and in November 1989, the Articles of Incorporation for Unitarian Universalist Womenspirit were formalized. Our organization was approved for not-for-profit 501c(3) status in 1990.
The popularity of the early annual spring events led to the addition of a second event in the fall of 1992. Since 1993, two events have been held each year in the spring and the fall. From the first event to the present, all events are created and planned by members who volunteer their time and talents. Our events provide opportunities to explore the Divine Feminine in her many forms. Worships services are held daily and commence with the creation of sacred space by calling the directions (east/air, south/fire, west/water, north/earth) and the Spirit Center. Our events also provide the opportunity to explore new subjects and learn new skills. Volunteering for positions of leadership in the organization provide additional opportunities for growth and self-exploration. We use consensus as the basis for decision-making to ensure all voices are heard and all points of view are respected.
Many of our members first discovered the Feminine Divine through two courses that are still available through UU Women and Religion, a UUA-related organization. Cakes For The Queen of Heaven (Volume I – In Ancient Times and Volume II – On The Threshold) by Rev. Shirley Ann Ranck was first taught in the 1980s and was an introduction to the concept of the Feminine Divine. For many, this course was a life-changing experience and connected women with a deep sense of spirituality they had not experienced. This amazing course was followed by Rise Up and Call Her Name by Liz Fisher, a dynamic course that explores the Goddess in many world cultures. We are so grateful for the efforts of the women who created these courses and the women who were willing to put their time and effort into teaching Cakes and Rise Up. For more information about these courses, visit UU Women and Religion.
In 2012, we celebrated our 25th Anniversary with two wonderful events, Gather the Women in Celebration (Spring 2012) and Come Again, Come (Fall 2012). We are extremely proud of our rich heritage as an all-women organization run solely by volunteers. As we stand on the cusp of celebrating our 30th Anniversary in 2017, we are as inspired and committed to our organization and the exploration of the Divine Feminine as we were at the time of our inception.