Liz Fisher’s Women & Religion Autobiographical Statement

SUMMARY: This page reviews my spiritual development . My on-going ventures which arise directly from the Women and Religion Resolution and my associations within the Movement are outlined here, with links to related pages. These events are not all in chronological order, but rather grouped  by interest areas.

Photo of Liz Fisher - headshot

LIFE REVIEWINFLUENCES AND CHARACTERISTICS
OF MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
  

Reviewing our lives helps us to understand the emotional and spiritual components of our experience, revealing the context — the social values we are taught, the standards with which we are forced to deal.  We discover when we had courage and grasped opportunities to change what we do not agree with in our personal and collective lives.  And, sometimes where we could have done more.  I thank Lucile Longview for encouraging me in this endeavor, both when we were friends in the 1980s and 1990s and as I read again her wonderful wisdom she so lovingly passed on to all of us in The Red Notebook. 

My childhood, school days, University education and my twenties and early thirties were active with spiritual inquiry. I was very curious, excelling in my early education but a bit baffled by social relations. Being an over achieving girl who really enjoyed intellectual inquiry, I was understandably confused by the 1950s and early 60s when it came to what to expect in my adult future. We were not told that we could not do what boys did when they grew up but it was obvious that many paths were closed to us. There are unspoken rules that must be obeyed was the message.

I entered the University of Michigan in the fall of 1965 when the World was going through many changes. Civil rights demonstrations had been in full force for several years though they did not receive the attention they deserved in my segregated suburb of Cleveland Ohio. It was a different story at U of M.  To read more, click on the following links.

Formative Experiences, High School, University, Young Adult Years

Liz’s Home

UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM
MY CHOSEN SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY
FROM MY MID THIRTIES TO PRESENT

In 1982, when I was  thirty-two years old,  I joined the UU Society of San Francisco. There  I found numerous avenues into activism and spiritual growth at the local, district and continental levels. This was truly a coming home experience. It was a dynamic time when communities were forming and people were bonding, experimenting with new ideas of social organization that had been given voice initially in the 1960s.

For me, strands that were developed in the 1980s within the UUA that drew my participation: Women and Religion Movement and UU Paganism. The third stand that I am deeply committed to is a long standing one in both denominations — a passion for Social Justice as a reflection of moral conviction.

I moved my local membership to the Berkeley Fellowship of UUs (BFUU) in 1985 because it was intimate, progressive, shared leadership among a minister and congregation and allowed me to participate more fully in the services.

At the time I was a member in these two congregations, they were deeply committed to social justice issues, public witness around advocacy for social equality, peace, non-violent change. A vocal and committed group of women added the concern for freedom for women rights and feminist spirituality.

PACIFIC CENTRAL DISTRICT WOMEN & RELIGION TASK FORCE

While the number of women in the ministry was growing, W&R was pursuing a path of personal and family liberation, and organizational leadership from the pews.

To find a place where other women (and some men) were exploring the attitudes dominant culture religions have toward women was a life saver for me.  How these shaped our outlooks, social possibilities, relationships — both  within the family and elsewhere — was an on-going investigation.

Rosemary Matson — My Colleague, Mentor and Friend 

A major participant in the Women and Religion Movement, Rosemary Matson  was a colleague and friend of Lucile’s since the passage of the W&R Resolution. She had served as co-chair of the continental W&R Committee appointed by the UUA President Paul Carnes for its three years of existence from 1977-1980.

I first heard about Rosemary when I began to attend the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco in the early 1980s. By the time I joined, Rosemary and Howard were living in Carmel Valley. Her husband, Howard Matson, had served the San Francisco Church as a minister throughout the 1960s, retiring in the early 70s to undertake a ministry to migrant workers.

Rosemary was known for her activism in Women and Religion. She attended monthly W&R Task Force meetings and the yearly retreats. She also hosted an overnight meeting at her home once a year.  She and Lucile educated me about the movement prior to my entering it, a very welcomed orientation.

Here’s more about Rosemary:  Ministry to Women Award

Lucile Longview —  My Colleague, Mentor and Friend

Rosemary introduced me to Lucile when she was visiting California and attended a PCD W&R Task Force meeting. We instantly connected, realizing our perspectives on issues were parallel, despite the 35 years of difference in our ages. She was born the same year that my own mother was born (1912). By the time I met Lucile, my mother, who was a feminist and a major influence on my own attitudes about gender equality, had already passed. Lucile’s friendship was not a substitute for my mother. Rather she offered friendship and an equal relationship between generations, something my mother and I did not have a chance to develop.

Even though we lived on opposite sides of the country, over the years, I visited Lucile numerous times, both in California at her daughter’s home and in Lexington, Mass. where she lived.  We discussed women’s issues, philosophy, the Women and Religion movement in the UUA, our spiritual experiences and perspectives. I attended the TOP program with her in Cambridge when I visited her, experiencing first hand this unique exchange of ideas among accomplished and dedicated religious feminists.

Meeting Lucile at Rosemary Matson’s home, January 1986 PCD W&R Task Force Retreat

Lucile and Liz at Rosemary's 1985

Rosemary Matson, Liz Fisher and Lucile Longview, 2000 sharing  luncheon, prepared  by Lucile’s daughter Linda Schuck at her home in Stanford, Calif., strategizing about future actions on behalf of women

Rosemary, Liz, Lucile, at Linda Schuck's home in Calif., Jan 2000

So Many Interesting Women

In 1998, Rosemary Matson and Meg Bowman, long-time activists in the Pacific Central District Women and Religion Task Force assembled a wonderful book of personal statements by 26 women who had been active in the Task Force over many years.

Cover, Celebrating Ourselves from copyBack Cover, Celebrating Ourselves, 1998

Liz’s story in Telling Our Stories, Celebrating Ourselves, PCD W&R Taskforce

JANUARY 1987 PACIFIC CENTRAL DISTRICT MEETING

The PCD Women and Religion Task Force which I co-convened with Margaret Pearce of the San Francisco Church, was responsible for the programming at this event. Meeting Lucile the year before at a retreat at Rosemary Matson’s Home (picture above) inspired me to take on this somewhat daunting task.

Bill Schulz, the President of the UUA at that time and a supporter of W&R, gave a perceptive and inspiring sermon about the impact of Feminist Spirituality on the spiritual outlook both within the UUA and beyond. Read a quick review of the highlights of this groundbreaking talk:  Feminist Values — Speech by Rev. Dr. Bill Schulz

More about the meeting: 1987 UU Pacific Central District Meeting

CAKES FOR THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN

In 1983, I had hosted with Margaret Pearce a pre-publication presentation of the course, which at that time was 14 sessions and had many more slides and stunning images. (The second edition published in 2007 has additional images.) At that time, the publication of the course by the UUA was uncertain. The class was pleased with the course. A group who had attended advocated for its publication by the UUA. This and other advocacy lead to its release in 1986.

At the time of the  PCD meeting in 1987, the UUA Feminist Thealogy course Cakes for the Queen of Heaveby the Rev. Shirley Ranck  had just been published by the UUA.  Shirley was profusely recognized and honored by Rev. Schulz as he gave her a t-shirt with the cover of Cakes in a Box  proudly emblazoned on it.

Cover of the original Cakes in a Box Curriculum

Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, CoverDuring this experience, Shirley and I began a conversation which has lasted right up to the present. She was very helpful during the development of Rise Up & Call Her Name and continues to support the course. She wrote an insightful essay about the impact and content of Rise Up in her memoir The Grandmother Galaxy.  I am grateful for her insights, guidance, and friendship during these many  years we have both been traveling the Women’s Spirituality path.

Cakes was reissued in 2007.

Revised Covers for Cakes for the Queen of Heaven issued in two parts

Order here:   http://www.uuwr.org/new-store/curricula 

In Ancient Times (left) and/or On the Threshold (right)

Gaia by elizabethcarefoot.comTheodora by elizabethcarefoot.com

In 1987, after attending a UUA sponsored training for leaders, I taught Cakes at the Berkeley Fellowship. It was a moving experience. I knew then that my life was changing and so was the UUA as a consequence of this course.  Not everyone agreed that Cakes was a welcomed addition to our UU perspectives.  In 1988, I was invited to be part of a four woman panel at the G.A. in Palm Springs sponsored by the UUWF where  “Cakes: Well Done or Half-Baked” was the topic. There were some rather insistent critics at that time who questioned the research.  

While that debate continues throughout society today, regarding the efficacy of a peaceful goddess culture that pre-dated patriarchal religions, the more important aspects of the course — personal development, gaining voice and forming community — were undeniable. Testimony about the effectiveness of the course in this regard from those attending overwhelmed the criticism.

For me personally, the possibility of cultures that were peaceful and woman-honoring shifted my entire view of myself and what is possible for society. This did this for many other women as well. Further, after many years of study and consultation with a variety of scholars, as well as participating in study tours to Turkey, Malta and the British Isles, I  have been convinced the existence of peaceful, goddess -honoring societies can be convincingly verified. I am grateful to those who have persisted in unearthing increasing evidence of these cultures and continue to do so.

RISE UP & CALL HER NAME

Another criticism was that Cakes was not multicultural enough. I suggested that instead of rejecting Cakes, we should carry on with another effort. The idea for Rise Up and Call Her Name: A Woman-honoring Journey into Global Earth-based Spiritualities  grew out of this panel. I put forth the idea to the UUWF and donated my professional editing, writing and facilitation skills to bring about Rise Up which was published in 1995. Here is the cover of the first edition of the course:

 Spine of the Original Rise Up and Call Her Name curriculumOriginal Rise Up Poster - narrow

LUCILE LONGVIEW AND RISE UP & CALL HER NAME 

As the primary author of the 1977 Woman and Religion Resolution, Lucile was most concerned that we address the underlying sexist assumptions in Judeo-Christian theology, family structures, and the practices of religious institutions. Lucile’s passion matched and engaged my own. In 1988, she assisted me in getting in touch with Phyllis Rickter, then President of the UUWF, Board members and staff to advocate for a program that expanded the work of the first feminist spirituality curriculum Cakes for the Queen of Heaven (published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1986)  into multicultural explorations.

The UUWF sponsored a grant application to the Fund for UUism to cover the production costs and permissions for what became Rise Up and Call Her Name. I served as primary author and editor throughout the five year process. In 1992 the curriculum was tested by thirty-five groups, refined and expanded based on the feedback received.  A second grant to cover training costs was also sponsored by the UUWF.

I dedicated Rise Up and Call Her Name, A Woman-honoring Journey into Global Earth-based Spiritualities to Lucile with this inscription:

This curriculum is dedicated by the author to Lucile Longview —

Whose commitment to raising consciousness about the relation of women and religion inspires me; Whose encouragement to pursue my vision sustains me; and Whose love of birds, mountains, and seasons touches me.

Challenging the Patriarchy of World Religions, Honoring Lucile and her response

After participating in Rise Up  soon after its publication in 1995, Lucile wrote me:

“Affirming the female on this woman-honoring journey provides a backdrop and contrast to the denigration of women so basic to our patriarchal heritage, bringing into focus the meaning and intent of the UUA Women and Religion Resolution of 1977.”

Card received from Lucile re her experience in the Rise Up , May 1995

Click to see: Full text of this letter from Lucile about her participation in a Rise Up Circle. Card from Lucile to Liz 1995 rotatedCard from Lucile 1995 cover

In the fall of 2007, Rise Up was reissued with all new, up-to-date formats and a new cover. It continues to be used by groups and individuals throughout the country and in other countries as well.

Rise Up new cover colorNew cover of the reissued Rise Up, 2007  

Order here:  http://www.uuwr.org/new-store/curricula

More about Rise Up and related subjects:
www.RiseUpandCallHerName.com 

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS FOR WOMEN

My interest in International Human Rights began with the Sanctuary Movement, a religious movement that advocated for asylum for El Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees fleeing persecution in their own countries. My husband Bob Fisher and I began educating and organizing in our local church and then in the Northern California UU Churches. We also participated in an interfaith coalition focused on this issue.

During this time (1986-87), we were also Co-Regional Volunteer Coordinators  for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) in Northern California. At the time, human rights with an emphasis on women was a major part of the UUSC programming.

Lucile’s international activism began when she was a delegate for the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) in Mexico City in 1975. She also attended the United Nations conference in Copenhagen, with Rosemary Matson in 1980. More about this:

International Women’s Movement

In 1985, Rosemary led a group to the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi. She also co-led Continuing the Peace Dialogue, a grassroots effort to connect citizen peace activists from Russia and the U.S. She led over forty trips to Russia in the 1980s and 1990, with a focus on women.

World Conferences on Women

Lucile and Rosemary both encouraged me to get involved in the International Women’s Movement and attend the FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN, BEIJING CHINA, in 1995.  Following the conference, Rosemary sponsored numerous follow-up presentations, where I spoke and facilitated workshops.

I also did a lot of research and writing for the workshop series entitled Gender Justice: Women’s Rights are Human Rights published in 1996 by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. I co-authored it with Linda Gray MacKay, an author, producer and program developer at the UUSC.  This unique format explores the Platform for Action adopted at the UN Women’s Conference.  This Platform, organized around 12 Areas of Concern is still relevant today, twenty years later. My experiences in Beijing were central to this work. I also was able to interface with many other groups that advocate for women’s full empowerment and provide support for local grassroots efforts.

Liz and Chinese LionMy interest in Chinese traditions has been a long standing one. Here I am in 2011 in Pacific Grove, celebrating the contributions of the Chinese community historically and today to this community. This reminded me of my visit to China for the women’s conference and the positive influence cross cultural experiences have been in my life. 

Education about International Human Rights,  with a focus on women, continues to be an interest of mine. Women’s Human Rights, 2015 — our on-going survey of human rights activities on behalf of women around the globe can be downloaded for free at

Guide to Women’s Human Rights, 2015 and beyond

INTERFAITH COALITIONS IN THE 1980s

I was very active for several years in each of these activities:

  • Grassroots Organizing for the Sanctuary Movement that presented educational forums  about the repression of human rights in El Salvador and provided protection to individuals from El Salvador who were fleeing persecution
  • PCD district representative to the Regional Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Steering Committee

CONGREGATIONAL LEADERSHIP ROLES

In the 1980s and 1990s, I was a member of these two UU congregations. During that I time I participated in a variety of ways including chairing Social Justice Committee, Pledge Drive Campaign, Board of Trustees member, Personnel Committee Chair, Welcoming Committee, Socially Responsible Investment Committee, and Program Committee (presenting numerous Sunday Services)

First Unitarian Universalist  Society  of San Francisco

Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists

 RETROSPECTIVE AND VISION OF FUTURE INVOLVEMENTS

SUMMARY:  From My Scrapbook is a publication I introduced at the 2001 General Assembly,  It is a creative presentation of the many experiences of the UU Women and Religion movement from 1977-2000. Each event is first described briefly and then I comment on its significance in a short refection.

View the complete publication: From My Scrapbook

Introduction to My Scrapbook

In 2001, I knew that the direction of my life was moving away from an active involvement with UU groups. At that time, I decided to go through my files relating to the Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion Movement and do an informal review of what I had done and learned from all the varied UU women’s movement activities I had experienced over almost twenty years. This resulted in my publication From My Scrapbook: Snapshots and Reflections, Women and Religion Movement, UUA.

This collection of events and my thoughts about them is offered as a testament to numerous moments of partnership…and with appreciation for so many wonderful, vibrant memories, as well as for the people who were there with me…giving me a sense of belonging to something truly grand.

As we move into this challenging time for our larger gender equality movement – both domestically and internationally – may we take courage from our advancements, knowing that despite our difficulties in finding common organizational structures we often do care about the same values. As we follow deeply personal paths let us know we are part of a larger whole seeking freedom within a compassionate framework – greater good for all within a robust, yet fragile ecosystem.

May we remain alert, generous, courageous and able to respond to the joy and the need around us. And may we feel a part of the natural world, still so beautiful even in her wounded state – and join with those who all around the globe, feel at home within this place of earth, air, water and fire, perpetually recombining within us and all around us.

SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES IN RELATED SETTINGS

Teaching Rise Up & Call Her Name and Gender Justice: Women’s Rights are Human Rights at the Pacific School of Religion and Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. 

From 1995-1997, following the publication of my curricula, I taught several sessions of each of these courses to students at these seminaries.

Serpentina

I attended for several years a salon of feminist scholars and activists, many who were students or faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies, CIIS, in San Francisco. Each presented material from their work, which broadened considerably my understanding of the herstory, influence and outgrowth of the Feminist Spirituality Movement.  The linked website is a sampling, by no means inclusive, of the participants.

Serpentina — Women Scholars and Activists

Singing Circles, Study Tours to Malta, and Large Scale Ritual led by Jennifer Berezan

I participated in  Jennifer Berezan’s Singing Circles for several years in which she taught how to use chanting and vocalization for healing and to strengthen confidence.

In 2001, I traveled to Malta as part of a study and singing tour led by Jennifer and Joan Marler, an editor of Marija Gimbutas’ major work and scholar of pre-patriarchal archaeology.

Over several years, I attended and volunteered as part of the support team for Jennifer’s large public large scale rituals.

Slave Ships to Sanctuaries — Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California

I attended classes and performances over a period of several years about the history and content of African American Music, all genre, taught by Linda Tillery, world renowned musician and scholar of African American root music. Learn more about her: Linda Tillery and The Cultural Heritage Choir.

 Photo of Liz Fisher with Redwood TreeLiz hugging a tree, almost

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