Two communities, called to join in a rare window of opportunity.
Over the last three hundred years, Women Religious in the U.S. have created vast networks and infrastructure for community-building and community-serving. Much of that infrastructure is currently under-resourced and under-activated and over the next 5-10 years many orders will face stark decisions about what to do with their spiritual and worldly assets and how to continue their work in the world. Millennials, motivated by a similar spirit of service, are actively building new organizations and networks, figuring out how to create the connective tissue and physical infrastructure to support their work in community, and hungry to learn from women who have such a depth of experience in collaborative leadership and service.
Is there sufficient momentum, enthusiasm, commitment within each of these vastly different communities to create a genuine movement of ongoing exploration, collaboration, learning, under a shared, common call to serve those in need – in an ever-more-fractured world?
GATHERING #1—Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge MA
On November 29th and 30th, 2016, a group of Women Religious (Nuns) and religiously unaffiliated Millennials (Nones) gathered in a circle of trust at Harvard Divinity School, to find out the answers to these crucial questions. They gathered to explore at times painful questions of value, of belonging, of collaborative leadership, of the need for authentic community. Members of each group shared their stories, convictions, and deepest questions about how they hoped to live and serve in this challenging moment in history. And they discovered—with a great deal of vulnerability, creativity, curiosity, and an unexpected, abundant wealth of shared humor – that they clearly felt deeply guided by similar values. And – as Sr. Mary Dacey, of the Congregation of St. Joseph, said, “We have so much more in common than anything that could ever keep us apart.”
By the second day, dozens of ideas had emerged for possible collaborations and pilot projects. Attendees from both sides promised to meet those Nuns or Nones near them, to help support the growth of – and marvel at the potential scope and scale of – this new, already growing alliance, pledging also to invite more Sisters and Millennials everywhere to join in this radical, invitational conversation. We learned that future gatherings might have more immediate, actionable impact if we focused on specific geographic locations where relationships could continue.
GATHERING #2—Mercy Center, Burlingame CA
An entirely new group of Bay Area Nuns and Nones gathered at the Mercy Center in Burlingame in May, 2017. In a nearly identical spirit of discovery, excitement and hope, both communities – again – immediately recognized in one another the same deeply held precepts in common. Imagining next steps was made more tangible possible through the geographic focus of the gathering. Some of these next steps include:
- Continued meeting and gathering — potlucks, field trips to spaces and organizations, thematic monthly online video calls
- Use of "sister spaces" for retreats, shared programming, and—down the line—even intentional communities
- 1:1 mentorship & spiritual direction
- Storytelling (podcasts, zines, and beyond) together about what's being explored & discovered
GATHERING #3—TRANSFORMATIONS SPIRITUAL CENTER, KALAMAZOO MI
In June, 2017, Millennials and Sisters from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Chicago gathered at the Transformations Spirituality Center. Once again, both sides found that their stereotypes about the other quickly dissolved and mutual admiration abounded. "Why didn't we know you existed?" both sides asked. From this gathering, local groups emerged committed to continuing to meet as "Nuns and Nones" groups in the three cities represented.
GATHERING #4 —Cranaleith spiritual center, Philadelphia, PA
In October, 2017, our Nuns and Nones gathering took place at the beautiful Cranaleith Spiritual Center in peak fall. Our two days were full of mutual admiration and inspiration, culminating in a co-created ritual by a Sister and a Millennial.
GATHERING #5 —MErcy conference & retreat center, st. louis, mo
The time is ripe to continue these catalytic conversations. In early 2018 we will have a “harvesting” gathering, with attendees from several previous gatherings, to capture what we learned, what we have already begun, and what is still yearning to happen. What structures might be created to continue to nourish authentic relationships? How can we best support ongoing collaborations between these groups? The gleanings from that harvest – after eighteen months of work – will help shape and clarify the work of Phase II of this Nuns and Nones movement.
Who we are...
In partnership with sisters from seven different orders and millennials representing an array of organizations and institutions, the Nuns and Nones gatherings have been hosted and facilitated by Rev. Wayne Muller and Adam Horowitz.