When Wanda Velez, Wanda Walborn, and I met in the fall of 2010 to plan a rite of passage for spring, 2011, I never dreamed that Woman would grow to be a year-long process, produce a two journal articles and The Book of Womanhood, and form a strong community of around 30 mentors, 144 alumnae. We started small! Women that I know and respect from varied backgrounds (ethnicity, age, marital status, etc.) gathered in my attic apartment to brainstorm what a Christian woman is, and those words created our intake survey. Ten participants completed the online survey, participated in a personal interview, and chose a mentor.
And the spring semester began with our first initiation ceremony! I was very nervous because I was sharing ideas and a process extremely close to my heart, only hoping that it would be life-changing for the participants. We only met twice between the initiation and the final crossing over ceremony. But when I saw the women in their evening attire and heard them explain their projects that defined womanhood, I was floored by their transformation. I wrote “Development and Efficacy of a Rite of Passage for Women” and it was published in Religious Education in October 2012.
And so it began. The next year, the process grew from ten participants to eighteen and from four meetings total to six. They still read Lisa Mcminn’s Growing Strong Daughters, but in addition to developing their relationship with self (body image, voice, and confidence), we also discussed relationship with God and with others. We studied the actions and character of biblical women, interviewed women we respect about womanhood, and made goals for moving toward interdependent relationships. That year, I wrote another article, “A Rite of Passage: Helping Daughters Reach Their Godly Potential,” published in Priscilla Papers winter, 2013.
The third year of Woman was much like the first two, with one more meeting added as well as several activities that developed each woman’s relationship to creation. The fourth year (2013-2014), however, was pivotal for several reasons. Previously, the participants had included undergraduates and graduates, but this year, the lone graduate student asked for special permission to participate. And throughout the year, the women received chapters of The Book of Womanhood as I wrote it in the four sections that comprise our identity: relationship with God, with self, with others, and with creation.
We recently completed our tenth year of Woman! Participants and mentors have been reading The Book of Womanhood and we have eight meetings, including the Initiation and Crossing over Ceremony. At each initiation, the leaders always tell the story of when we “owned” the name, “woman.” Woman alumnae who are mentors tell their story, too, and their testimonies of transformation because of Woman are fulfilling and exciting. We tell the new participants that being a woman is a journey that is never completed, and that Woman would grow their voice and confidence.
At each Crossing Over Ceremony, women present unique projects that define womanhood for them and are blessed on their journey.
This Rite of Passage is deeply transformative, and written curriculum is available! Email Amy.firstname.lastname@example.org for details.