18 March 2013

A Women's Lecture Series in Brooklyn

 
There is a community of women in Brooklyn that would blow your mind.

Every week, I attend a lecture with about 30 women.  One of the women will share her personal story regarding her journey of faith.

We call it the 'Women of Faith Lecture Series'.  I actually started this a couple of years ago when I got assigned to be the Activities Director for this group of women.  It turns out I really didn't want to be the Activities Director.  I envisioned myself schlepping pots of chili for a cook-off.  Or gathering women together to make something crafty.  And well, you may have gathered by now that I just don't do crafts.  I seldom cook anymore, either. 

And so, I thought and thought about changing up the way these activities were always done.  I wanted to do something MEANINGFUL - even life changing!  I knew it was possible.

And so, with the support of the President of this women's organization, we decided to launch the Lecture Series.  We wanted to give women the floor to share the ups and downs of her journey of faith.  We didn't want them to feel they had to edit.  We wanted to hear what has brought her to the place she is now, whatever place that is.  You know, some of these stories are never told in detail in formal settings (for example, in a church.)  Sometimes they aren't told even among friends.  And so we wanted to see what would happen if we provided the space to really share.  Well, the first event was PACKED!!  I had NEVER seen so many women show up to one of these events.  And that room has remained packed ever since.  It has been one of the most amazing experiences any of us have ever had.

We've heard from:
-A woman who had twins born at 20 something weeks and lived in the hospital for months while they fought for their lives.
-A lesbian who navigated many religions until she came to a place of peace, with God.
-A woman who had two siblings die within a short time from suicide and a possible suicide/overdose.
-A woman who was sexually abused her entire childhood by her grandfather.
-A mom with young kids who was currently in the midst of chemo treatments for breast cancer.
(There are many more.)

These women have all learned so much about life, faith, and healing because of these experiences.  And I can't tell you how powerful it has been to hear their stories in detail.  At the end of the lectures, we have a Q&A with the speaker and a very open discussion about the topic.  We've all learned so, so much.

And so - for anyone out there who may want to start up something like this of their own, I say go for it!  I can't recommend it enough.  I am guessing the women of your church or community would be THRILLED to be a part of this.

And - if you're in New York and would like to attend our little lectures in Brooklyn, PLEASE let me know and I'll send you a note about dates.  We meet at a church in Carroll Gardens.  Of course, women of all faiths are welcome.  I'm confident you would love the experience.  You see, we all come to these lectures full of love for the speaker.  And she comes full of love for us, or she wouldn't be interested in sharing.  And so, the feeling there is something else.  It's vulnerability at it's best...the kind that leads to greater connection and love.    

Wishing you all a Happy Monday.  Let's make it good.

M

P.S.  I just heard this weekend that two people made a connection and went out on a date because of our blog!!!  :)  :)  We are kind of dying over that.  SO great.  I've actually been wanting to start a little chat forum where people could discuss all kind of topics related to LOVE.  (What do you think of the idea?)  And who knows, maybe that could even lead to more connections. 

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26 comments:

  1. I love this. I'm going to bring it up as a suggestion to the ladies where I live. I think it would be great in bringing us all closer together. Thanks for sharing! I wish I could attend the ones in Brooklyn!

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    1. YES! Do it!! Let me know if it happens.

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  2. Oh oh oh, I wish you lived in Atlanta and could lead the charge with something like this down here!

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  4. I miss the women of faith lecture series. Trying to start one up here in Seattle now. There is a woman in our ward who is one of the lost girls of Sudan (one of the very very few who made it out of the country, there were many more boys who made it out). She came to the US when she was 18, and her story is incredible. It really was a journey of faith. Activities has her scheduled for later this year (unless they change it up on me....I only had a small stint of influence in activites and then I was assigned elsewhere, but it was enough to start the Menstruation Kits for girls in Africa, and to encourage a women of faith lecture series, we had some amazing things going in Brooklyn, just trying to extend that elsewhere:)

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    1. Hi Shiloh-

      I live in Seattle and would be interested in being included in a faith lecture series. Please reach out to me when you have more details.

      Lisette

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    2. I'd be interested, too! I'm moving to Seattle in September.

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    3. SO amazing, ladies. Let me know if it happens. I'm kind of going nuts over here. How cool would it be to have 'Women of Faith Lectures' going on in many places? We could even highlight some of the stories on the blog.

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    4. Seattle girl right here too that would be so excited to make something like this happen. I am in Bothell. Would love to connect and see if we can get something organzied.

      aimeeheffernan @ gmail.com

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    5. What a fabulous idea! We are moving to Seattle, and I would love to join!

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  5. Hi Mara,
    As a non-LDS person who lives in an very LDS area, this post struck a little nerve with me. I hope this comment will give you (and possibly some of your LDS readers) a little perspective from the outside. Many people I know have moved to Utah and been invited to "activities" like this only to feel suckered or duped when they realize they have just shown up to a weekly LDS church activity. I was just at a party this weekend with about 60 people, many who moved to Utah from out of state, and this was a big topic. They talked about how deceived they felt by the person who invited them. Then they start to pick up on the local code, terms much like you used in this post such as "President of this women's organization" and "Activities Director." When we learn these terms mean part of the Relief Society of the LDS church or other divisions within the LDS church, we feel tricked and are very reluctant to trust those who invited us or any others who aren't straight forward and honest about the type of activity they are inviting us to. When things are secretive or misleading it feeds into the whole "cult" theory and can cause much mistrust in the future, bonds that are harder to rebuild with neighbors or acquaintances who you would truly like to be friends with. You feel like they are trying to convert you all the time instead of accepted for who you are. The few people who felt they could broach the subject with those who brought them to such activities were told things like "we hoped you would feel the spirit" and other terms that probably meant well but just chased people further away.
    Is there a reason why you don't just say it is an LDS activity? Maybe I am wrong and it isn't? You seem like such an open person and I know you have good intentions, but by not being straight forward about church activities you may be turning off some people or even offending them and not know it.

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    1. I personally felt it was very obvious that this was a church-based activity. Didn't feel that it was secretive or a trick at all. It's called the "Women of Faith Lecture Series" after all. I have no connection to LDS and know VERY little about it. I'm not a religious person but did grow up in church and this post didn't bother me at all.

      This is my first ever comment on your blog! I wish I had a women's group nearby to attend like this. Sounds very uplifting and positive. :-)

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    2. Dear Anon - Sorry that you think I was trying to be secretive. That's not my style. You may not have seen many of my posts, but I am very open about the fact that I am Mormon. So yes, this event will take place in a Mormon church (which I thought would be obvious). I didn't give the exact address and location for safety reasons, as I am just a little blogger here in Brooklyn and don't like broadcasting addresses.

      Please don't assume that I am trying to convert anyone. Trust me. That is not my intention for this or my entire blog. What I do love is encouraging women to develop their own spiritual foundation - whatever that is. Sometimes that foundation can develop outside of a religion. I know that was actually the case for me. The way my own religion presented spirituality to me actually did not work for me. So trust me when I say I put no church on a pedastal, because of it. Developing faith and spirituality is no easy task. And I think it takes seeking in lots of different places and ways to figure out anything at all. It took me 30 years. But it has since been the greatest blessing of my life. I can't help but encourage others to start on their own path and develop their own spirituality. THAT is something I do care about and something I do spend my days and nights writing about. But I make it clear over & over that to me, it doesn't matter what spiritual foundation that is. Again, this event is simply about hearing women's journeys as a source of inspiration and community as we all try to figure out our own paths. We would love to hear from women of any religion and have talked to nuns and Buddists as well. Sorry that you've had a bad experience in your own life. But please don't assume that I operate the way your associates do.

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    3. My apology for not pointing out that is it the Mormon church protocol for inviting people that I was talking about. I know the Mormons are very organized and have standards for procedures for many things. We bought a house in the suburbs of Salt Lake over a year ago and every month or two find a flyer or invitation to their activities. Not once in over a year have the fliers said it was an church activity (it doesn't even say it is at a church, just gives an address to a building.) The fliers often say neighborhood party, womens' event, or fair. My friends across the valley have all had the same thing happen so we just assumed that it is standard protocol. All just perspective from someone outside of the church who lives right at the core of it.
      That being said, I'm sorry if I hit a nerve for you and apologize if I hurt your feelings. I should have chosen my words more carefully. I haven't read your previous posts about religion, something that is easy to do when you stumble onto a blog. Your overall message of bringing women together to share their stories is admirable along with the positive outlook you share on this blog. The world is a better place when people can come together and put their differences aside. Good luck in all you do.

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    4. If I may chime in...

      Anon, sometimes I feel like I have sorta the opposite problem as an LDS woman. I wonder, how can I invite people to a church activity without them thinking I'm trying to convert them? I'm Mormon. Going to church activities is part of what I do. If you're my friend and I'm inviting you, it's simply because you're my friend and I thought you might want to do what I do. I've even made the joke, "Don't worry, we're not going to push you in a pool and baptize you or anything."

      The thing is Mormons are interested in sharing the message of the gospel. We have missionaries and lessons on the topic. It's not like you're off your rocker to assume that people might want to share the gospel with you. And of course I do not put it out of the question for some people to be a little sneaky and covert about it--which I think is not cool for the record. I do not put Mara in that category at all...and in fact I assumed that the reason she said "president of the women's organization" was to avoid confusion for those who are not LDS and who may think, what in the world is a Relief Society president? Sometimes we are accused of using our Mormon code words that outsiders do not understand--Relief Society, ward, stake, etc. That being said, for me and most of my LDS friends our interest is in a friendship first and foremost. If there is interest in the church, great. We're always welcome to share. If there is no interest in the church at all-great! We're still friends. Win, win!

      I've also heard people who are not LDS and who live in Utah to sometimes feel left out because so much of what everyone does centers around local ward activities. So inviting people is a way to help bridge that gap. In the end we're just people too, trying to do our best by ourselves and others, but obviously still fallible and prone to mistakes.

      Lets hug it out!

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  6. I love this! I love that you took your own spin on the ward activities and truly made it something memorable.

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  7. I always find it strange when blogs written by Mormon's talk about things like Relief Society etc. without any explanation as to what that is for non-Mormons.

    Certainly this blog is targeted to much more than only Mormons and I took Mara's wording choice as an effort to make the idea of these type of meetings more widely relateable and inclusive without having to explain her religion's specifics.

    It felt like she was trying to keep the focus was on the message of learning about women and our stories and building community versus the fact that these specific meetings stem from her church.

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    1. I loved your comment. thank you ! :)

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  8. Yes yes yes! I am so keen to start something like this where I live. Will keep you posted on my progress, Mara. Who knows you may have just inspired a worldwide movement with this post! The world needs spaces where women feel free to be vulnerable with each other, and talk about the deep stuff.

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    1. Oh my - please do keep me posted. I'd love to highlight these events on the blog!

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  9. LOVE this. Thank you so much for writing about it. Such an inspiring idea.

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  10. Love, love, love this idea. It's all I want church to be anyway, but it never can be. So, good idea making it happen at another time.

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  11. Finally an enrichment I could get behind! Much better than Bunko. :)

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  12. Mara--Just another comment to say how wonderful and brilliant I think this idea is. Would LOVE to see this everywhere! Can I ask, are there any rules or guidelines everyone follows? Just curious.

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  13. I was also struck that your post didn't say Mormon...if you are proud and authentic, why not just say Mormon? Put right out there that lecture series is happening in a Mormon church? I too have had an experience of being invited to an intriguing gathering - open to "all faiths", but it turned out everyone was one "faith" and it was a cult. You are doing yourself and the Mormon church a disservice by not being transparent. (And I am not Mormon.)

    Yes, you have said you are Mormon on your blog, but I would personally want to know who was sponsoring a meeting of this sort. So would you, no doubt. It doesn't matter who it is open to - who is sponsoring it? You are inviting people to join in, you mention a women's group etc, women getting together to share etc... most women would be intrigued. You are marketing, really and leaving out one pretty critical fact. A fact, women considering attending would take into account when making a decision whether to attend.

    Commenter Jaime makes a point...and that's nice to think leaving out "Mormon" is in the service of being "relatable", but in this day and age people want to know salient facts. If I picked up a pamphlet and it said Women's Lecture Series etc etc...and nowhere indicated the sponsoring entity i.e., "Catholic Church X, Temple X, Mosque X" and I showed up...I would think one thing, this is creepy and I was duped.

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