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THE STONEHAVEN GODDESS PROGRAM

PAT CUNEY

Stonehaven Ranch has had a spiritual emphasis since its beginnings as a retreat center. A workshop given there by Starhawk in 1984 was perhaps the first Goddess-oriented event in Stonehaven's herstory. The next year the center sponsored a national meeting of women spiritual leaders to discuss the possibility of a coordinated approach to right wing fundamentalism. Some of the women attending that meeting were Margot Adler, Rachael Bagby, Marta Benavides, Rosalyn Bruy ere, Carol Christ, Ynestra King, Starhawk, Merlin Stone and Luisa Teish. Many other workshops and meetings have been held over the years dealing with aspects of women's spirituality. Diane Stein, Janet Mc Cloud and Kay Gardner have imparted their different perspectives.

The space has been open as well to local groups led by Lauren Buchwald, the Unitarian women's Spirituality group, and other groups with an eco-spiritual approach, such as Buddhists and Sufis. In 1992 Gen Vaughan and Jade of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess agreed to create a more organized program of workshops to be called The Stonehaven Goddess Program, and advertised through RCG's newsletter Of A Like Mind. In 1993, I began to coordinate the series.

The purpose of the Stonehaven Goddess Program is to provide a continuing series of workshops which explore the many dimensions of women's spirituality. In 1993-1994, the program presented weekends with author Shekhinah Mountainwater (Ariadne's Thread), Ruth Barrett (Executive Director of Circle of Aradia-RCG in Los Angeles, California), Antiga, teacher of women's blood mysteries, Yolanda Valenzuela, astrologer and moon priestess, and Judith Kali-Evadore, dance ritualist. The 1995 plan will continue to expand the program and its speakers, with Eclipse and Margot Adler.

In addition to the speaker series, Stonehaven Ranch was the site of two large gatherings of spiritually-oriented women: the Festival of the Goddess (an annual outdoor event of approximately 200 women camping at the ranch) and the Reclaiming Collective (for their Spring Equinox training). A bi-annual convocation of national Dianic priestesses and writers hostessed by Of A Like Mind met there in 1993, and the ranch is frequently used as a retreat center for other, smaller groups and organizations of spiritually oriented women from around Texas and the South west region.

Not all of the Foundation's support for the empowerment of women through women's spirituality is channeled through the Stonehaven Goddess Program. The program is an on-going Foundation-staffed project, but much activity in spiritually-oriented matters also goes on at other facilities such as Alma de Mujer and the Living Well. One major effort in honor of the Goddess as the feminine principle of life is the temple to Sekhmet, Egyptian goddess of fertility and rage built in Cactus Springs Nevada near the US nuclear test site. The Foundation has also given generous grants to specific projects directed by 501(c)3 organizations in the area of women's spirituality.

Stonehaven Ranch is an important resource to the growing interest in women's spirituality. In addition to the ambience generated by its tasteful appointment as a retreat facility, its growing number of goddess-oriented artistic features supports the conscious empowerment of the women who come there. From the circle of stones which recently inspired the Goddesswomen Writers group of womanspirit to incorporate it into their logo, to the water tower that has been converted into the Moon Tower - an upstairs outside area on a concrete floor with a fountain in the middle, one has a sense of being in woman space. After climbing a spiral staircase to the Moon Tower, one experiences aspects of goddesses looking down on the participants and their proceedings in the tower in images burned in wood and painted by artist Leah Sellers. The development of an olive grove on the property harkens one to the early roots of Goddess culture, and the recently installed life-size statue of Egyptian goddess Sekhmet by Marsha Gomez provides a quiet space of contemplation and prayer. (This statue's twin sister sitting in her temple in the Nevada desert was described in detail in the recent woman of power magazine on the topic "Sacred Spaces.")

In addition to coordinating the Stonehaven Goddess Program for the Foundation for a Compassionate Society. I am also responsible for maintaining and developing the Volunteer Program. Prior to working with the Foundation For A Compassionate Society, my employment positions included Vice-President for Marketing and Operations in a publishing house. Executive Assistant to a Regional Administrator in a large Texas state agency, Director of Corporate Operations for a real estate firm in Seattle, and other technical and professional positions such as a social worker and systems analyst. I worked for myself for several years, writing a weekly column in the Austin Chronicle, "You & Your Universe," for two years, and produced a radio show, "The View From Here," on KAZI-FM. My company, C&C Productions, created an annual event in the holistic health community, and published a directory of providers for several years.

My work with the Foundation for a Compassionate Society expands on a lifetime of commitment to social change. My past volunteer activities and community service include working with patients at the Austin State Hospital and serving on the boards of The Peoples' Community Clinic and the state board of TARAL, in addition to participation in numerous feminist organizations and activities. My current commitments are in the area of women's spirituality. I am the founder and Implementrix of WomanSpirit, a statewide organization which offers regional events and publications exploring issues of interest in women's spirituality. I am a member of the Reformed Congregation of the Goddess, on the board of directors of the 1st Austin Circle of RCG, and am currently pursuing certification as Mistress of Wicca in that organization. In my spare time, I raise a boy and three dogs and a cat, and wonder when I'll find time to write my magnum opus.

The Foundation for a Compassionate Society's own projects are numerous, and although paid staff handle much of her activities, volunteers are regularly recruited to help with the rest. In 1993-94, volunteers came to the Foundation through one of its outreach activities, or to work on a particular project. The Foundation's activities in fundraising for money, clothing, and vitamins for people in refugee camps in former Yugoslavia and the national conference the Foundation created on breast cancer and low level radiation drew large numbers of vital volunteer support. The current educational project exposing the effects of the proposed dumping of low level radiation and hazardous waste in the West Texas area of Sierra Blanca is drawing daily attention from volunteers eager to preserve the environment. Other volunteers regularly do clerical tasks (supporting the newsletter mailing, data entry, etc.), work in gardens at Alma de Mujer, the Living Well or Stonehaven Ranch, donate professional services ranging from carpentry to midwifery, and more. Because the Foundation's activities are so extensive, there are a large number of options for volunteers to select for their contribution.

Materials are mailed to individuals who express an interest in one or several of the Foundation's projects and telephone followup is done. If interested, volunteers are individually interviewed, their interests and goals art identified, and they are referred to the project staff in line with their interests. Project staff make the decision to accept the offered service and I do follow-up with the volunteers, both to support their orientation and their commitment.


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