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Claire's Communities Origin Story: Finding People

I've had dozens of women participate in my in-person faith and feminism community since its founding in January 2020 (I know, what a time to start!) — as well as many more who joined online when we met remotely during the pandemic. 

I live in a university city that is fairly transitory. I've had several friends move away and ask how they might start a similar group in their new geographical location. Building these courses Is one way to help with this effort. 

I had a spiritual awakening about patriarchy's role in my own religion in 2019. I felt so lonely as I wondered if anyone else noticed that no women sat on our congregation's stand on Sundays, that women didn't have the "power" to lead or bless, that feminine pronouns were absent in talking about divinity and rare in sacred texts. Was I the only one who knew? 

I slowly began bringing my crisis of faith up with others from my religious background as well as those of from other faiths. As I whispered my worries, I was surprised how often others whispered back, me too. I had been scared to talk to one of my best friends for fear she would dismiss my concerns. When I finally worked up the courage to tell her after months of wallowing, she exclaimed—Claire! I’ve had these thoughts for so long. Why haven’t we sat down to talk about them?

This wasn’t a universal reaction. Many friends kindly listened, and tried to empathize with me, but did not see how devastating patriarchy was in religion for me. Yet these conversations were also helpful in widening the space of belief and uncertainty.

When I started my Faith and Feminism Community group, I invited only a few people I trusted — those who I knew had similar questions and beliefs. We began meeting weekly and alternated weeks inviting our partners so that those closest to us could participate in these conversations as well. We would read some quotes or poems, sometimes look at some art together, and then have some questions to respond to first through a few minutes of writing and then out loud in a circle, giving everyone space to share. 

When we moved online with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I extended the invitation to join this community to my friends on Instagram. I was surprised and delighted by how many women expressed interest in joining, many of whom I had not talked to in many years. This group was, in many ways, a place to reconnect with people. We started meeting monthly on Zoom and alternated who picked the topic and came up with discussion questions. I transitioned back to the cozy meetings at my home or backyard as the pandemic slowly receded, but was grateful to have the success of an online community to discuss topics close to many peoples’ hearts and minds. 

So how do you find your people? 

  1. Start with those already close to you. This might mean inviting a partner or friend to join you in this space. Two is all it takes to start a community. They don’t have to be on the same page with you regarding religion (it might even be more productive if they aren’t, as long as you both go in with openness and understanding!). 

  2. Advertise in circles you are already a part of — if your local church congregation has an email list or Facebook page, advertise here. If your place of employment has social channels, consider inviting through these. You could even post an advertisement with your local library. You might include a light vetting conversation with interested community members you haven’t met before.

  3. Post on your social media pages. Your stories on IG or groups you’re already a part of on Facebook are both great spots to attract interested parties. This might mean that you get friends and acquaintances living elsewhere, but take this as a great time to reconnect and create a virtual community.

Telling others about what you are experiencing or learning about is an invitation for them to get excited and connect with you as well. Be brave and open and others will respond in turn.

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