What Happened At The Annual UU Women and Religion Gathering?

With full minutes promised for the Spring WOMUUNWEB, here's my synopsis of what's up for this coming year:

So, the Great W&R Experiment of our continuing to be the feminist conscience of the UU movement and a living example of successful consensus decision-making continues in a sure-footed, step-by-step fashion. We're only going into our second year of our new mode of being affiliated and having real bylaws, our Guidelines.

Thanks to Gloria Marvin for this quote:
"The world has seemingly awaited the advent of heroic souls who once again should dare all things for the truth. The woman who possesses love for her sex, for the world, for truth, justice and right, will not hesitate to place herself upon record as opposed to falsehood, no matter under what guise or holiness it appears."

Matilda Joslyn Gage
Woman, Church & State (1893)
p. 323, Modern Reader's edition, 1998
Sally Roesch Wagner, PhD, ed
Sky Carrier Press, Aberdeen, SD


As Unitarian Universalists, we are part of an amazing tradition of working for women's rights. Our statements of support for reproductive choice began in 1963, ten years before the passage of Roe v. Wade, and continued last summer at GA 2003, with the Women's Rights Action of Immediate Witness. By affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, the right of individual conscience, and respect for human life, our tradition continues to support the choices of women, men, and families, providing tolerance and compassion even when those choices may differ from our own.

Because the government and right-wing religious fundamentalists have been whittling away at a woman's right to choose since the day of Roe's passing, abortion is again increasingly unavailable. In 2000, 87% of counties in the United States were without a single abortion provider. "Abstinence only" education is encouraged in our schools. Comprehensive family planning advice is a scarcity. Young women, women of color, and low-income women all experience decreased access to reproductive health. Unfortunately, the anti-choice movement has laid claim to the religious voice in this debate, so we need to stand up as religious people and bear witness to our belief in the freedom of choice.

There is an event on the horizon that will provide a large-scale, highly visible way for UUs to do this. On Sunday, April 25, 2004 there will be a mass March on Washington for Freedom of Choice. It is the first pro-choice march in more than a decade. Organizers are expecting more than a million people--shouldn't UUs make a strong showing?!?! So, get excited--get your women's group excited--get your congregation excited! Consider organizing a delegation from your congregation or women's group--groups with 20 or more marchers can have their name listed in the official march program. Planning has begun for a huge UU service at All Souls Unitarian Church in DC the morning of the march and a dinner program on Saturday night, as well as housing at the church for those who need it. We need everyone who can to be there to show our strength, our will, and our dedication to women, men, and families. And, marching is fun!

If you are unable to be there, there are many ways for you or your congregation to get involved. Fundraise to help members (or youth!) in your church who may want to go. Hold a Pro-Choice Sunday service on April 25th in solidarity with the marchers. Have a march table at coffee hour to let people know about it. Do letter writing at the table for your congress members or local newspaper to state your support of the march and pro-choice issues. Become an outspoken, knowledgeable, faithful voice for women's rights in your community!

I am working to coordinate the national effort for UUs attending the march. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or for more information on the march. In the meantime, check out our office website at I'll see you in April!

Kierstin Homblette
Legislative Assistant for Women's Issues
UUWF Clara Barton Internship
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Washington Office for Advocacy
(202) 296-4972 ex. 13

(Kierstin's corner continued with flier suggestions)


Washington, DC, April 25, 2004

1. The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has a historic precedent of supporting a woman's right to choose. Your participation in the March for Freedom of Choice would help to continue this rich tradition and enable the protection of that right into the future.

2. Reproductive freedoms and a woman's right to choose are slowly being whittled away in the legislature and in the courts. It is imperative that religious people who support choice and the right of individual conscience speak out in support of our rights and against those who try to put their own religious beliefs into law.

3. Many Unitarian Universalists risk their lives by working daily in the struggle for reproductive choice. They need to feel support from others in their faith movement.

4. This event could be the starting point for a renewal of the UUA's commitment to women, families and justice.

5. Large numbers of UUs participating in the march would be great publicity for the denomination in the larger religious community and in the US.

6. D.C. is nice in April--think cherry blossoms!

7. The anti-choice movement has laid claim to the religious voice in this debate, and we need to stand up as religious people and bear witness to our beliefs and values of inherent worth and dignity of ALL people.

8. This is a key event in the months leading up to the November 2004 elections. Participation in the march will help us dedicate ourselves more fully to voter mobilization over the next year.

9. UUs have a unique position in both the religious community and the choice movement. This is an excellent way to make our voice heard and respected.

10. This event will likely be the largest choice march in history, at a time when the right to choose is threatened like never before. It is a historic opportunity, for us each individually, but also for UUs as a whole.


Kierstin Homblette-
Legislative Assistant for Women's Issues, UU Women's Federation Clara Barton Intern
UUA Washington Office for Advocacy
(202) 296-4672 ex. 13
More on this to come from Kierstin in the Spring WOMUUNWEB.

CEDAW - STILL TRYING To Gain Ratification

UPDATE about the letter we sent to President Bush (See Fall '03 WOMUUNWEB) - Our letter urging CEDAW ratification and signed by over 140 major U.S. organizations was sent to the President at the White House on Mother's Day, May 11, 2003. To date, it remains unacknowledged.

MEANWHILE on The Hill Rep. Lynn Woolsey of CA is recruiting more co-sponsors for the House's supportive legislation. For a list of signers, please check the CEDAW website at We now have two additional cosponsors to H. Res.21, Rep. Karen McCarthy of MO and Rep. Sander Levin of MI, making a total of 102 cosponsors so far. Again, if your Representative cosponsored, please write and thank her/him. If not, inquire why not? Don't forget - the entire House of Representatives is up for election next year.

IN THE U.S. SENATE, Senator Joseph Biden wrote Sec. of State Colin Powell in November requesting results (or, at least, the status) of the State Department's review. The Foreign Relations Committee needs this information in order to proceed with their vote to release CEDAW out of their committee to the Senate floor for a ratification vote.

MEANWHILE in the U.N. there was a letter written by the United States Mission to the U.N. General Assembly that omitted any reference to CEDAW concerning its subject of women and political participation! That same day, October 7th, a letter written and signed by June Zeitlin, Executive Director of WEDO (Women's Environment & Development Organization co-founded by the late Bella Abzug) was sent out. The point was made that our Administration supports the U.S. ratification of CEDAW. We of the CEDAW Working Group (with whom I am the UU Service Committee's rep.) added our signature as part of the 19 additional ones to sign on with June. It went to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John D. Negroponte. Other countries, also, raised questions about the grave omission of CEDAW.

In November, the final draft of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution with a paragraph about CEDAW's promotion, "that States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country," was formally presented and approved.

Here's an interesting fact from June's letter about our U.S. women and political participation: "The U.S., the only industrialized country in the world that has not ratified the convention, should ratify CEDAW immediately. In the global rankings of women in parliaments, the U.S. ranks 60th with women making up only 14% of Congress and 22% of state legislatures."

We won't give up!

Another quote sent by Gloria Marvin:

"Just last week, during a series of lectures at the University of Windsor, I repeatedly heard the old refrain: "I'm not a feminist because I don't hate men," or "I don't say I'm a feminist because I don't want people to think I'm a man-hater." I first tackled that one back in 1978, when I began writing daily for the Star's Family section.

In our culture, now as then, claiming equal rights and power with men is deemed to be the equivalent of hating them individually. It's an idiotic fabrication, but an effective tactic to shut up girls and women who would rather be gagged than risk social isolation.

Even women who actively fight sexism may back-pedal furiously for fear of being called feminist. One of my early columns lamented the doubletalk of a 20-year-old female security guard who was fired from her job at Queen's Park because she got pregnant. "I'm not a women's libber," she said, using the put-down lingo of that era, "but I do believe in equal pay for equal work...."

From Michele Landsberg, retired Toronto Star reporter



Remember to save April 16 - 18 for the JPD Women & Religion retreat in PA. A flier will be in the JPD Packet for your congregation's Womanlink to distribute. If you don't know her name, look it up in your office's JPD Directory.


"UU Fellowship of Harford County, Churchville, MD began a Wheel of the Year, an alternative worship service for those interested in exploring earth-centered spiritual traditions."

Michele Landsberg's memories as a Toronto Star reporter, continued:

"Feminism, to me, embraced everything in a woman's self-determining life, from chicken soup recipes to the Nestlé boycott to fighting like a banshee to save female refugees from being deported back to murderous husbands or governments.

The Star got behind many of these battles with extra space, photographs and even editorials -- and we often won. There are women alive today because the Star helped me fight for them.

Readers often thought, because of occasional critical letters on the letters page, that I faced a daunting wall of opposition. The opposite was true. From the beginning, women and many men responded to the message with buoying affirmation.

Some of my toughest struggles were internal. Indignant readers taught me to stretch my empathy to include all sorts of previously ignored sensitivities. I learned that my writing only got better and richer when I forced myself to feel the impact of other people's ugly sufferings (incest, emotional battery) that I would rather have ignored.

It was a continuing, often reluctant, education of the heart.

There were weeks when I had to open several hundred letters and, poring over them, learned rare lessons about the lives of welfare mothers, the disabled, the racially marginalized. I crammed those letters into overstuffed files, unwilling ever to part with these trustingly offered testaments of life.

In the early days, the feminist and grassroots movements had such momentum that readers responded in the thousands, and even tens of thousands, to Star-led campaigns.

I called on readers to save threatened drop-in centres, shelters, children's services, theatre groups, libraries -- and you responded magnificently, personally, with money and passionate letters to governments."




"Look for the good and act with faith" is this year's theme for the longest night of the year and the beginning of the return of the sun. Our circle is open to all over age 10, upstairs, in the Fireside Room at 5 PM. What do you resolve to bring into your 2004 living? Anticipation of new beginnings will set the tone of our service. We will enjoy simple circle movement (to bring our whole selves, not just the intellect) into the experience. For afterwards, please bring your own cup and refreshments. All these Wheel of the Year services are held at River Road Unitarian Church, 6301 River Road, one block away from Goldsboro Road in Bethesda.

Helen Popenoe, 301/229-0549
Here's the schedule for the rest of the church year:
February 1 - Candlemas service
March 21 - Spring Equinox service
May 2 - Mayfest
June 20 - Summer Solstice


Here are a few interesting things going on at All Souls:

The All Souls Welcome Here covenant group recently sponsored an after-church event addressing global mistreatment of women. On Nov. 23, Megan Brown of the Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace introduced two documentary films that exposed how modern women continue to be shamed, repressed, and cast as sinners for exercising natural choices. SEX IN A COLD CLIMATE documented the painful, ruined lives of "sinful" women sent by their families to live in the Catholic-run Magdalene asylums in Ireland. CRIMES OF HONOUR graphically portrayed the terrible reality of femicide--the killing by male relatives of sisters or daughters who refuse an arranged marriage or are suspected of losing their virginity. About 20 people, including 4 men, attended, and the covent group leader reported that the post-discussion was quite interesting.

Also, one of the task forces resulting from All Soul's social justice retreat this fall is Women's Issues/Gender Justice, hooray, hooray! A primary focus of this task force is the National March for Freedom of Choice (April 25, 2004). I've emailed the coordinator and asked her to send you more details directly.

Finally, a while back you had asked about "green" initiatives at churches. All Souls has a very active 7th Principle Committee. According to the committee's website, ACS is the first congregation in the nation to be an active member of the Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary waste reduction program WasteWise.

By joining WasteWise, All Souls Church has set voluntary goals in the areas of waste reduction, recycling, and the use of products with recycled content. For example, over the next three years, we have made a commitment to reduce the amount of garbage we produce by at least 25%. As part of this effort, the committee has sponsored Zero Trash Sundays once a quarter throughout 2003. All Souls Church is also an active member in the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee's fair trade coffee program. The church now serves fair trade, organic and shade grown coffees and teas on Sunday mornings, and the committee sells bags of fair trade coffee on the first and third Sundays of each month after the service. The Seventh Principle Committee has set as a goal of adopting one fair trade coffee farmer's family. This means we will strive to sell 1000 pounds of organic, fair trade coffee in 2003--the annual average output of one small coffee farmer.

Well, that's about it for All Souls. The three women's covenant groups continue to thrive and I'm happy to report that the newly established Parenting as a Spiritual Practice covenant group is off the ground and running with fairly equal numbers of moms and dads attending. How's that for right relations?

Full Circle's Earth Centered Celebrations

Full Circle celebrates the new and full moons and the eight solar holidays of each year. The full moon circles focus on feminine energy and are open to all adult women. New moons are limited to women registered for the Weavers Covenant Group. Solar holidays such as solstices and equinoxes include men and youth too. All events are followed by a potluck feast. New participants of all backgrounds and beliefs are always welcome.

Full Moon Women's Circles meet on each full moon throughout the year and focus on feminine energy. We explore personal issues and our spiritual connection to Goddess and God. We celebrate with song, dance and sharing in a sacred and safe space, opening wide the opportunity to celebrate with other women. Winter full moon circles are scheduled for December 8, January 7, February 6 and March 6 from 7-9 p.m. There is a requested donation of $5 per woman, per gathering, to cover materials.

Sun Circles celebrate the Wheel of the Year, with 8 seasonal celebrations. At the winter solstice the peak of darkness -- we celebrate the rebirth of light, seeking hope, joy and peace on earth and goodwill towards all beings. The celebration will be held on December 21 and begins with a gingerbread extravaganza and hall decking, followed by feasting, dancing and merriment. At Candlemas, on February 1, as the sun returns, we rededicate ourselves to our chosen spiritual paths. Brigid's sacred flame and holy well fill us with inspiration. On March 21 we celebrate Ostara, the spring equinox when the dead earth is reborn and we awaken to our place in the interconnected web of all existence. We seek balance and sustainability. All Sun Circle festivities begin at 5:00 PM. Requested donation for Sun Circles is $5 per person or $10 per family.

Labyrinth--A Spiritual Metaphor for Life's Journey submitted by Labyrinth Committee member, Dorothy Britt

Labyrinth Walk on New Year's Eve, Wednesday, December 31, from 6 pm to 9 pm at Cedar Lane UU Church (9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda, MD). The last walking begins at 8:30 pm, and walkers need socks for this indoor Labyrinth. No charge, but donations accepted.
On Saturday, January 10, 2004, Cedar Lane will offer an Adult Program, "Walking Into the New Year," from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Kathy Spaar, spiritual director of the Sanctuary Retreat Center, co-chair of this year's national Labyrinth Society conference
and a labyrinth caretaker, will guide this exploration of Labyrinth history and modern uses, plus a walk with intention and a ritual walk for the New Year. Call the church about fees and registration.

Sunday, February 8: Labyrinth Walk, 2-4 pm (last walking begins at 3:30pm).

Sunday, March 7: Labyrinth Walk, 2-4 pm (last walking begins at 3:30pm).

April 2-3: Third annual Silent Retreat, led by UU Rev. Katherine Jesch. From sundown to sundown, Friday and Saturday. Sleep at the church (bring own bedding), or leave and return. Labyrinth and grounds available for walking, time for reading, journalling, and stillness. Call the church about fees and registration.

For more details, please contact Candice Haaga, Labyrinth Committee Chair (301-816-0188 or or Cedar Lane UU Church (301-493-8300 or website info.

From "The Way of the Labyrinth" by Helen Curry
"People come to labyrinths for a multitude of reasons, but most find that walking a labyrinth can be a transformative experience. As people tread through the turns and counterturns of the labyrinth, the world begins to drop away. Walking, breathing, being -- things that we never think about in the day-to-day whirl of life -- become conscious and deliberate. The spiritual and physical merge into a walking meditation. Our pace becomes a background rhythm against which we are able to clear our minds."


Planned Parenthood says:
"We're staying on the offensive in Congress, in state legislatures, in courtrooms and in communities nationwide. And, come April 25th, 2004, we're going to gather in Washington, D.C. for Save Women's Lives: March for the Freedom of Choice -- the largest demonstration of support for freedom of choice that America has ever seen.

Educate and mobilize America's pro-choice majority to help bring our country measurably closer to the day when our reproductive freedom is understood as a fundamental human right beyond the reach of political gamesmanship."

Send Your Order By December 12 For The New UU Women's Heritage Society Calendar!
The theme is "Liberating Beliefs" and has a page for UU astronaut, Laurel Clark. A notable UU woman is featured each month. Included are her portrait, short biography and inspirational quotes. Another thing I like is the calendar's notations of New and Full Moon dates. The cost is $12.00. Please, Email me your order and I'll write a check for the whole order to get it in the mail promptly. My address is Helen Popenoe, 6307 Wiscasset Road, Bethesda, MD 20816-2111 for you to mail me a check (in my name) to reimburse me. Give me your telephone number so we can make arrangements for delivery. I can't go out of the D.C. area, please.

Anna Quindlen excerpted from her NEWSWEEK Oct. 20 article, "Still Needing the F Word"
"Let's use the F word here, people say it's inappropriate, offensive, that it puts people off. But it seems to me it's the best way to begin, when it's simultaneously devalued and invaluable. Feminist. Feminist, feminist, feminist. Conventional wisdom has it that we've moved on to a postfeminist era, which is meant to suggest that the issues have been settled, the inequities addressed and all is right with the world. And then suddenly from out of the South like Hurricane Everywoman, a level '03 storm, comes something like the new study on the status of women at Duke University* and the notion that we're post-anything seems absurd. Time to use the F word again, no matter how uncomfortable people may find it. Fem-i-nism (noun) 1. Belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

*Being 'cute' trumps being smart for women in the social environment, the report concludes."
Thanks, Rosemary Matson, for sending me Anna's article.

WOMUUNWEB DEADLINE for Spring 2004 issue is March 4, please.

Many thanks to Al Carlson, GWA Webmaster, for publishing this WOMUUNWEB issue #14 on the GWA website at

Please, send your news to Helen Popenoe at

Respectfully submitted by Helen Popenoe thanks to the editing and formatting skills of Margaret Warker.