Celebration of the Light

December 15, 2009

Creative Arts Coach Eileen Mahoney and friends led the group with meditation, music and poetry in a "Ceremony of Light"  based on the Universal Worship Service created by Hazrat Inayat Khan, Sufi Master and Founder of the Sufi Order International. The ceremony drew on readings from major religious traditions and other meaningful expressions on the theme of light.

November 19 - Annual Harvest Celebration led by Satyena Ananda

Introducing Harvest Dishes

Harvest Altar

Moving words were shared at our annual November meeting to celebrate the Harvest. After a bountiful harvest meal, we gathered around a magical altar. The altar held objects which symbolized the harvest of seeds of our personal aspirations. Each woman showed her symbol and then spoke of its meaning. We listened as women spoke of dreams manifested in publications, a CD, community programs, and of inner qualities of greater self-trust, of belonging, of aliveness and authenticity. I came away enriched and inspired.

Havest Gathering

During this gathering we will focus on and experience some of the powerful gratitude & manifestation tools and techniques that change lives.

As a community of women of faith, we will create an altar of gratitude.
As a circle of grateful women we will share with each other the harvest of our blessings.

This program is facilitated by Satyena Ananda, Co-founder and Director of Starseed Healing Sanctuary and Retreat Center in Savoy,MA. Satyena is a Holistic Educator and spiritual counselor who has spent the past 38 years creating and offering programs, retreats and ceremonies with women that transform and restore body mind and soul.

What to Bring:
~An object for the gratitude altar that represents the good that you are harvesting from the seed intentions you have planted.

~A Harvest potluck dish that blesses everyone who shares it.

In addition . . . we will continue our FOOD & CLOTHING DRIVE,in collaboration with BRIDGE. (Berkshire Resources For the Integration of Diverse Groups and Education.)To help those in need, we invite you to contribute an article of clothing or non perishable food item.

Rites of Passage

Youth Alive senior steppers Michelle and Talya at Indashio fashion show

Thank you to Shirley Edgerton and the Youth Alive step team who were the guests at our September 13 Potluck Program. Shirley outlined her vision for a Rites of Passage program for adolescent girls that would include multi-cultural women's studies, health education, support for trauma, and programs that build self-esteem. The Women's Interfaith group would like to be a source of support for this project by becoming mentors or serving on the Advisory Board.
Three talented Youth Alive dancers and choreographers clapped, stomped and danced their original dances for a very appreciative audience.

September Heritage Dishes and BRIDGE

Two themes resonated for me at last night’s potluck: that we are all leaders, and that no one should be invisible. The first is the mission of Women’s Interfaith in the Berkshires--supporting women’s spiritual leadership; the second is the mission of Multicultural BRIDGE. These themes came together last night and were made manifest as we enjoyed lovingly-prepared heritage dishes, and the songs, words and personal sharing by our presenters about how their faith becomes manifest in their daily lives. It was an enlivening evening of warm connection.
posted by Ani Grosser

Gabrielle Cruz shares a heritage dish

Save the Date: Tuesday, September 15
, 2009
Join us for our first potluck of the year as we celebrate our 2009/2010 theme:
Interfaith Interface: Deepening Connection Through Unity and Collaboration

Our scheduled speaker is Gwendolyn Van Sant, co-founder and executive director of B.R.I.D.G.E. Gwendolyn will share the mission of her organization and has invited four women to speak about their faith and how it drives them. An open discussion will follow.
Presenters:Mikka Barkman,Gabriela Cruz,Shirley Edgerton and Kaya Stern-Kaufman.

Reflection Questions: What does faith mean to you and how does it manifest in your life?
What does WII's theme "Interfaith/Interface: Deepening Connection through Unity and Collaboration mean to you personally and in connection to WII?

Please bring a traditional "heritage dish" to the potluck to share.

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

From a July 2009 story in the Berkshire Eagle:

Yazuri Santos, 6, helps other students in the BRIDGE summer youth program count to 10

in both English and Spanish on Tuesday. (Photo by Darren Vanden Berge.)

BRIDGE, short for Berkshire Resources for the Integration of Diverse Groups and Education, was co-founded by WII-B board member Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant. As executive director of BRIDGE, Gwen has been providing cultural competency training to town employees that is designed to familiarize personnel with a growing immigrant population.

BRIDGE's new home in Housatonic, MA has enabled the pilot of a summer program on literacy and tolerance for children ages 2 to 12, and their families. After the summer, Gwen hopes the model can be introduced to local youth centers and schools. The program brings in volunteer teachers to introduce age- and ability-appropriate words, books, songs and other activities in both Spanish and English languages. Other activities include guest workshops with Youth Alive step dance troupe, Norman Rockwell Museum, and staff from the Berkshire South Regional Community Center and Housatonic Playground group.

Reverend Natalie Shiras of Church-on-the-Hill in Lenox, MA, former WII Board member, shows photo of children in India who benefited from the John A. Sellon Charitable Trust grant and Women's Interfaith Initiative

June 16, 2009

Women's Interfaith Initiatives Cross Borders

with John A. Sellon Charitable Trust

Reverend Natalie Shiras and Pauline Dongala's Faith in Action

Join us on a journey to Ghana and the Congo as Reverend Natalie Shiras and Pauline Dongala share their stories and a slide show about initiatives that were funded through the Women's Interfaith Institute and the John A. Sellon Charitable Trust.

Reverend Natalie Shiras, pastor of Church-on-the-Hill in Lenox, MA, recently traveled building interfaith and cross-cultural bridges in Russia, Turkey, Ghana, Nepal and India. WII funds helped re-build a church roof in Accra, Ghana and funded medical and food supplies for disabled pensioners and their families in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Pauline Dongala, former WII board member, reaches out to the Republic of the Congo with her WII Initiative funded by the John A. Sellon Charitable Trust

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


May 14, 2009

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.

Eileen Quinn and Ani Grosser greet participants of “WOMEN, the ARTS and the SACRED” at the Church-on-the-Hill Chapel in Lenox, MA

Katharine Houk and June Wink initiate "Women, the Arts and the Sacred" with the lighting of a candle and a prayer

“WOMEN, the ARTS and the SACRED”: A Thank You Note

WII Program March 19, 2009, at Church on the Hill Chapel in Lenox

Thank you for your participation in this inspiring evening, for being a part of the Women’s Interfaith contribution to the First Annual Berkshire Festival of Women in the Arts. Thanks to the artists who presented, women who helped develop the theme of the event and those who carried out important details.

Through the written, visual and performing arts, we experienced the intricacies of personal relationships; the source of dedicated service to others; creative approaches to healing; the beauty and power of our natural environment; the Cosmos revealed through color and form, rhythm and movement.

So many of you shared your intimate personal beliefs and chosen art forms. Presenters and audience often became one being in the showing or performing of a piece. I received many emails from women expressing their appreciation for the entire evening’s experience and highlighting individual moments.

Thank you for bringing your art work, food for the Reception, your promotional material, and for making the arts a “common ground” where we can all meet.

With gratitude and blessings,

Shirley Paukulis, Event Producer

Shirley Paukulis


Katharine Houk persenting her artwork

Menorah and sculpture by Harriet Joffe


For news about the fire at Women's Interfaith Institute in Seneca Falls: www.Seneca Falls fire
Retreat and Renewal
The Women's Interfaith board spent an inspiring and productive retreat day at Hawkins House in New Lebanon, NY. Thank you to Peggy Hawkins for her hospitality and beautiful 'full circle' home and retreat space.
Maggie creating her heart
A Path with Heart and a Different Kind of Valentine
were themes for February's WII Potluck/Program. Twenty six women came out on this cold February evening, first for a pot-luck feast, and then together we transformed our three large round dining tables, bedecked with roses and red cloths, into altars. Expressive Art Therapist, Eileen Mahoney guided us with poetry and guided imagery. She placed on each altar-to-be a wide variety of pink/ red and pastel tissue paper and an assortment of paper napkins with roses, and flowers, and other nature images. Her simple instruction: let your hearts become your hands. Voila: within 15 minutes we created collages, and each table indeed became a sacred altar. As one woman said: "we all had the same materials, and each creation was totally unique: tiny hearts, big open hearts, wings with hearts." At my table, before she began to work, Maggie shared that she had heavy and sad heart. She told us that driving to our gathering she heard a report on NPR about a woman who died in the recent Buffalo plane crash. This woman had lost her husband on Sept 11. She was in Buffalo to honor what would have been his 58th birthday. Moreover, she had been a leader among the families who had lost loved ones. As Maggie talked she found herself using the tissue paper to create a heart with wings. Her Creative Source led her hands to create a perfect symbol to honor the woman who died in the crash - a heart with wings. Susan Jameson summed up the evening: "magic was in the air; the divine in our hearts."

"Heart with Wings" by Maggie

Women's Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires co-sponsors "The Power of Women in the Arts" at Bard College at Simon's Rock March 6-7

The First Annual Berkshire Festival of Women in the Arts http://www.thewomenstimes.com./which will kick off March 1, 2009 and run throughout the entire month, now boasts more than 60 events at 30-plus venues throughout Berkshire County. Presented by The Women’s Times, the festival will feature exhibits, film, music, performance, talk and more, and will include diverse programming that ranges from historical to contemporary, traditional to radical, political to apolitical. Venues run the spectrum from the Berkshires’ most established cultural organizations to new and improvised locations. There are opportunities for festival-goers to examine the role of women in the arts, celebrate the achievements of women artists or simply enjoy a diverse cross-section of artistic work.

Two signature events will mark the Festival: The Power of Women in the Arts, the Eighth Annual International Women’s Day conference will be held on March 6-7 at Bard College at Simon’s Rock College; and She’s Got Moxie!, the First Annual Festival Awards to be presented at a March 13 gala at Shakespeare & Company.
Follow this link to find presentations and performances by Pauline Dongala (Collaterally Damaged, March 7-8), JoAnne Spies (Norman Rockwell Museum, March 10) and others:
Pauline Dongala will present a talk after "Collaterally Damaged"
Upstairs at the Triplex
Saturday, the 7th at 8:30pm and Sunday, the 8th at 3pm.

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.
location: The Church on the Hill Chapel in Lenox, MA
see below for presenters and location info