former board member Pauline Dongala at "Sounding the River"
at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center July 2008
photo credit: Paul Paukulis
Harvest Celebration
Last night (November 20) the Women’s Interfaith Institute’s annual Harvest Celebration ended in a crescendo of sound which we offered up to our world and to our own hearts. Starting with the simple sound “ah,” we chimed in with prayers, words of thanks and hope . The chorus of voices continues to resonate within me.
At all of our gatherings, the stories we share and kindnesses we give each other deeply touch me. Last night Rev. Natalie Shiras spoke about her trip to Accra, Ghana where she was to give a sermon and present WII’s gift to a church to build a roof. Natalie was anxious that she was arriving late to give the sermon. She was amazed to be greeted by church members who were just elated that she’d arrived safely, and only wanted to make sure for her and her children’s comfort, insisting that they eat breakfast before any sermon. Natalie spoke of the gratitude of learning to receive. Pauline shared pictures of the group of women in Congo, also recipients of WII assistance, who are starting a sewing cooperative, and spoke of her gratitude in being able to help the women of her country of origin. Reading the first Proclamation of Thanksgiving from just after the American Revolution, Pauline expressed her gratitude and amazement that we live in a country where Thanksgiving is honored and is actually part of our legal system. She helped us all remember something I, for one, have taken for granted. JoAnne created a song with us on the spot: " Gratitude Road," which became a co-creation as we all spontaneously and joyously contributed our personal gratitudes. Many of us spoke of being happy “for life itself. ” Very touchingly, one woman spoke of having always hated her body, and through her serious illness has learned to love it: “ I’ve died and been reborn.” Words of wisdom, honesty and thoughtfulness. I feel tremendous gratitude to be part of our courageous group.
One Woman in Gratitude
The Women's Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires is comprised of women of different faiths and diverse backgrounds who practice their religious and spiritual beliefs through dedicated action. We provide the impetus for a wide variety of interfaith activities through which women of spirit can express their beliefs and form a community for action. We seek to provide an understanding atmosphere and a forum for women to realize their expanding role in bringing an age of unity.

Potluck Program Dates

May 14
The Feminine, Sufism and Islam
Join us for an enlightening talk about the Feminine in Sufism and Islam. Zumurrud Butta from Vienna, Austria, is a Senior Teacher in the Sufi Order, Retreat Guide and European Head of Universal Worship. She will discuss the role of the feminine in the mystical traditions of Sufism and Islam. She is a member of the Ibn'Arabi Society and fluent in Arabic and Urdu. In addition to her many accomplishments, she is a delightful, warm person who is sure to leave us with a deeper appreciation of being women on the spiritual path.

April 14
LETTERS TO THE WORLD is the first anthology of its kind—a feminist collaboration born from The Discussion of Women’s Poetry Listserv (Wom-po), a vibrant, inclusive electronic community founded in 1997 by Annie Finch. With an introduction by D’Arcy Randall and brief essays by the poets themselves reflecting on the history and spirit of the listserv, the book presents a rich array of viewpoints, and poems ranging fm sonnets to innovative forms. 259 contributors, 19 countries, 5 continents

In this presentation, Berkshire writer and artist Rosemary Starace will share the words of poets from Iran, South Africa, Australia, Europe, and India, as well as work that comes from within the diverse constituencies of the U.S. and Canada.
Here is a link to Rosemary Starace's website that tells about the book she co-edited with two other authors:

March 19
Women, the Arts and the Sacred
Moderated by Shirley Paukulis
Reception: 6 -7pm
Program: 7 – 9pm
Join us for this inspirational event as women in the written, visual and performing arts share their intimate spiritual experiences, how their lives were changed, and the journeys they took to unveil and reveal the sacred through their work.

Saphira Linden is a senior meditation teacher/guide in the Sufi Order International and Artistic Director of Omega Theater, in Boston.
Linda DeHart is an integrative artist whose overall passion is “to create art that carries the viewer beyond the object, to a place of transformation through the power of color."
Belle Fox-Martin is an artist and religious leader in the Berkshires. She is a published playwright, poet and a visual artist--working on canvas with religious themes--and owner of Fox-Martin Fine Art Gallery in Housatonic.

As artists, we study, practice and express our art, until the inner becomes the outer and the heart a swinging door. When we become intimate to an experience, our images have direct connection to the whole. Spirit mysteriously reveals itself when we transcend our individual selves. Both artist and audience experience moments of illumination when present and aware. The arts inspire us to see more clearly, with freshness and depth.

February 17
A Different Kind of Valentine
"A Path With Heart"

Join Eileen Mahoney as we pause to explore our deeper hearts and what it means to live more fully from that place of love.We will use music, chanting and creative visualization to learn about the unfolding of our hearts into the Unity of the heart of hearts.
Eileen Mahoney is an Expressive Arts Therapist whose love of creativity is informed by her love of Sufism. She has been a student of the Sufi path for 15 years and is just completing a 4 year program of Sufi Esoteric Studies.

January 15
Portraits of Peace

Jane Feldman is an award-winning photo-journalist, social activist and author who has created photo portraits of the Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela, among others. She will present a slide show and a talk about art and activism on Thursday, January 15, 2009 as part of the Women's Interfaith Institute of the Berkshires' theme "Women's Visions and Voices for Peace and Understanding.
Where: Church on the Hill Chapel
55 Main Street
Lenox, MA

(The brown building is down the street from the main church, and across the street from Nejaime's Wine Cellar. Please use entrance on right side of building.)

When: 5:45 - 8:45pm

5:45 Gathering with food

6:00 Welcome circle

6:15 Potluck supper

7:15 Program

8:45 Closure and clean up

Save the dates!
Future potluck events:

May 14

June 16

We actively seek input from new members and are excited about fashioning new programs collaboratively with our growing membership and leaders.

Themes for Monthly Programs:
2008-2009 Academic Year:
Women's Voices and Visions for Peace and Understanding
2007-2008 Academic Year: Our Sacred Earth

Some Initiatives Funded by Women's Interfaith in 2008:
Reverend Natalie Shiras, pastor of Church-on-the-Hill in Lenox, MA recently traveled as a "Good Will Emissary" from the US to Russia, Turkey, Ghana and India.
WII funds helped re-build a church roof in Accra, Ghana and funded school supplies and medicine for Trinity United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.

Pauline Dongala is supporting two projects in the Congo: rebuilding a church and supporting a skills-training center for women in Kinkala Congo.

Photographer/teacher Peggy Reeves and Ann Jon of "Sculpture Now" led a day-long workshop hands-on sculptural experience with Taconic Hills high school students working with natural materials and writing poetry at Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center in Craryville, NY

Continuing Programs:

1. Monthly Meeting Programs

Theme for 2008-2009 Academic Year:
Women's Voices and Visions for Peace and Understanding

2. Conferences, Retreats and Celebrations in Nature, for individuals and groups

North County: Starseed Healing Sanctuary

South County: Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center

3. Programs, sponsorships and collaborations that are becoming traditional

International Women's Day at Bard College at Simon's Rock
International Day of Peace
Annual Native American Pow Wow
Earth Day Celebration in the spring
Harvest Celebration in the fall
Celebration of Light in December

Join a diverse group of spirited and spiritual women, and become a member of the Women's Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires.
Learn about different faith traditions
Strengthen your ties to the community
Explore your own faith in action
Support women's initiatives

Women's Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires
P.O. Box 443
Lenox, MA 01240

If interested in membership please call Ani @ 637 2869
or email us:

annual membership is $35

To add your post send an e-mail to: