Dr. Allison Stokes, Founding Director of WII,Guest Speaker
  Women’s Interfaith Institute Kicks Off Its 20th Year in the Berkshires Wednesday, September 19th
New Location at the First Congregational Church of Stockbridge

On September 19, the Women’s Interfaith Institute will kick off its 20th year with a pot luck celebration entitled “Women in Interfaith: Then and Now, Here and Beyond.”  The evening will be hosted by JoAnne Spies, current Board President of WII with special guest Dr. Allison Stokes, founder of Women’s Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires and later of the Finger Lakes. JoAnne explains the significance of this celebration in light of where the organization has been and where it is going.  “We are thrilled to have Allison here to help us celebrate our 20th year.  Her perspective in looking at where we’ve been will be both informative and helpful as we re-define what interfaith means in today's world."  In the September meeting, Allison will talk about the roots of the Interfaith movement in the Berkshires, as well as what is happening worldwide.  Allison explains, “Having partnered with others in organizing these groups, first in the Berkshires and now in the Finger Lakes, I want to encourage women to connect with their sisters everywhere in efforts to bridge the boundaries that divide us. I am interested in helping women learn how vast this movement is so that they can feel a part of it.  Just as we are meeting in the Berkshires to engage in interfaith dialogue, cooperation and action, women throughout our nation and world are sharing the same path.”

This gathering kicks off a whole season of potluck gatherings around the theme of peace. The evenings will include interfaith celebrations that have become traditional for WII: Annual Harvest Celebration, Celebration of Light in December, and Easter/ Passover.  In other months the focus will be on practice related to peace – whether spiritual practice or a creative exercise such as writing.  “We have noticed that our most popular events are those focused on participation and learning,” explains AnnE O’Neil, the Board member responsible for programming.  “In October, we will have Hope Fitzgerald introducing us to a powerful meditation practice. Programming for other months will be posted on our website, www.wiiberkshires.org, as it becomes available.”   

Rev. Stokes was ordained to ministry in the United Church of Christ in 1981. Most recently she was Director at the Interfaith Chapel, the University of Rochester. With degrees from Yale and Harvard, she is also a scholar of American Religious History.  After 9/11 Dr. Stokes was commissioned to write a study on peace in the three Abrahamic religions for use by lay people--intended to increase multi-faith knowledge and understanding.

In 1992 she founded the Women’s Interfaith Institute for empowering women’s religious and spiritual leadership in historic faith traditions. Currently she is doing research about women’s voices at the first World’s Parliament of Religions meeting in Chicago in 1893.

Women's Interfaith potluck events have outgrown the space available at the chapel for the Church on the Hill and will be held at the First Congregational Church in Stockbridge, http:stockbridgeucc.org, beginning September 19th, 2012. JoAnne explains, “We have loved having our home at Church on the Hill’s chapel, but our most popular events literally had us tripping over each other during the dinner hour. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Church on the Hill by holding workshops and other WII events in their beautiful space.”  With the new location comes a new day, the 3rd Wednesday of the month, for the monthly events.
With all this change, Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Berkshires is hoping to grow its membership and, ultimately, its ability to serve the community.  “For many years we have had women attending our events regularly but not joining.  While that will continue to be an option, we hope more women decide to become members,” offers Joni Carron, the Board member responsible for Membership.  “Having a larger base of committed members ensures we can comfortably cover our expenses and donate to the community, both financially and in our service.”
The Women's Interfaith Institute in the Berkshires is comprised of women of different faiths, traditions and diverse backgrounds who practice their beliefs through dedicated action.  WII's monthly potluck programs serve as a platform for exploring diverse faiths and spiritual traditions and deepening conversation with one another.
For more information on Women’s Interfaith Institute of the Berkshires, see www.wiiberkshires.org or call (413) 442-360

Women's Interfaith is proud to be a fiscal sponsor for Heroic Girlz and their work
Here's what they offered at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers~

Heroic Girlz: Screening & Workshop ~ March 22, 2012

Led by Cindy Parrish & Meg Agnew
Clark Auditorium, Fisher Science Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, 7-9 p.m.

Cindy and Meg will introduce and screen Heroic Girlz, their 26-minute award-winning film, made as part of an educational process developed for 6th grade girls. The film tells a compelling story of four modern-day 11-year-olds who take on the roles of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Louisa May Alcott, and Amelia Earhart. Meeting in the afterlife, the girls revisit and recount a formative moment in the 11-year-old life of each of the famed women.
The importance of offering girls an embodied experience of self discovery will be discussed, as well as the need for role models, both living and historic, in order to counter the powerful negative effects of our culture. After the screening of the film, members of the audience will be guided through one or two of the writing exercises the girls did to produce the play and film.