Transforming Democracy Through Spirituality

Faith Matters Network exists to serve spiritually grounded leaders. Learning Journeys is one of our program areas that offers transformational journeys that inspire close examination of the needs in folks’ local communities. We see our participants and alum as spiritual visionaries who revitalize regional democracy and forge new ways for spiritual renewal.  According to the Statista research department, “Women have been historically under-represented in the halls of power in the United States, and while significant progress has been made in the last decades, the U.S. trails behind many similarly developed and less developed nations.” This is especially true for BIPOC women. We see this as not only a structural but also a spiritual problem, compromising the health of our democracy. The Wisdom Learning Journey follows a history of our past Learning Journeys, centering local contexts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania– swing states with deep partisan divisions that too often split communities across rural, urban, and other dividing lines of race, class, belief, or culture.

We know that women of faith and in ministry settings can be disproportionately burdened by the demands of community leadership and caregiving in their personal lives. Those we serve regularly share experiences of alienation and isolation as they continue to embrace important and influential roles. We have crafted the Wisdom Learning Journey in response to this need for our communities to recognize healthy democracy as a spiritual practice– a practice in which women and those across the gender expanse must lead. We focused this particular offering within North Carolina and Pennsylvania as heated battlegrounds within our democracy.

Wisdom Learning Journey is a curated cohort container where spiritually-grounded women leaders from North Carolina and Pennsylvania can access the education, investment, and community care they need to be active participants in the democratic process. This commitment to ensuring that women’s internal resources aren’t flowing in a single direction embodies our womanist principles of loving Black women in material ways. We take this further by incentivizing our Wisdom Learning Journey participants to work together. Fostering their own collaborative spirit not only prefigures democratic approaches in their interactions with each other, but it also encourages sisterhood and shared responsibility to supplant feelings of isolation and overwhelm.

This year’s Wisdom Learning Journey (WLJ) conceived three Wisdom Collaboration Projects in our focus states led in groups by seven of our cohort participants. The profiles below introduce their collaborative work with descriptions on how they will approach democratic practice from a spiritual lens that reinforces the communal inspiration before it is extinguished by exhaustion.

Seeds of Hope: A Journey Through Grief and Loss (PA)

With expertise in grief and death work, WLJ cohort participants Julie Rainbow and Naila Francis recognize how apathy solidifies as a caste to protect the wounds of grief. Their womanist wisdom prioritizes the subjectivity of the civic actor whose spiritual investment in democracy is deeply impacted by their lived experience. Seeds of Hope repositions the politically active citizen not necessarily as most concerned, but as those with access to healing modalities that transmute the pain of communal grief to a spark of hope. Democracy, as a spiritual practice, then becomes the embodiment of hope for change, and personal agency as praxis for that hope. Moving through their grief in four in-person sessions, Seeds of Hope will allow BIPOC women to access the hurting parts of them and offer them permission to insist on societal renewal as a therapeutic response.


Sister 2 Sister Retreat (NC)

Founder and CEO of Black Girls Vote is quoted saying “Black women are often credited with saving this country, but are forgotten about when it comes to our broader contributions to democracy.” Black women have been conscripted into a heroic or even deified status within our democracy where we are expected to save the country from itself as a marginalized population. In the Sister 2 Sister Retreat, WLJ cohort participants Elizabeth Howze, Keturah Weathers, and Valerie Merriweather take Christian women of color through an introspective exploration of their own identity as election season accelerates along with the pressures to contribute beyond their capacity. The two-day retreat wellness experience allows high-achieving Christian women of color open, contemplative space for inner-healing and self-identity work that can allow them to show up to civic action in more constructive frames than those imposed upon them.


Filling the Alabaster Box Project (virtual for women in PA & NC)

Black churches and ministerial settings have long been centers for Black electoral power. They provide a stabilizing and necessary force within our democracy as they facilitate the representation of multi-marginalized classes. As one of these populations, BIPOC women’s wounds from ministerial settings stands to impact their overall influence in the democratic process. If their field of ministry is contentious or otherwise threatening, this disrupts democracy not only within faith institutions, but also recolors broader democratic efforts within the faith community. The Black Church which is over 70% comprised of Black women relies on their investment and sustained efforts to continue as a formidable contributor to American democracy. WLJ cohort participants Sung Moy and Yvette Davis created the Filling the Alabaster Box Project to offer BIPOC women ministry leaders a guided virtual space to heal and thrive after repeated wounding in their roles as women of color leading in ministry. The experience culminates in the collective creation of an online catalog of resources and stories helping women ministry leaders to insist on more than just tolerance or inclusion.