Sister Mary Margaret Weber believes women are underrated.
“We’re being called to an equal society where everyone uses their gifts to build society rather than tear it down and conquer it,” Weber said. “Patriarchal society has said that women are secondary, so they don’t use their voices the way they could.”
So Weber and her colleagues at A Place for Women to Gather, a networking and support center in North Raleigh for Triangle women, jumped at the chance to bring International Women’s Day to Raleigh this Thursday.
“It’s important now because we see a lot of dissension in the world, especially between faith groups,” center member Margaret Thurston said. “One of the ways to work towards peace and justice is to have women meeting.”
Thursday’s event will provide a place for women to connect, network and appreciate their own and others’ contributions to the community. Last year, the center held a small open house attended by a handful of people. This year, they’re hoping for more than 100. Activities are planned from 2 to 5 p.m.
There’s an exhibit of work from female artists portraying other women, play readings, yoga sessions, interactive storytelling, a tribute wall and plenary sessions on building community and honoring powerful women.
“We all feel that that this is the beginning of an opportunity that could grow into a really big thing,” Thurston said.
Thurston is a member of the consulting circle at the center – it’s their equivalent of a board of directors. Instead of a hierarchy of leaders whose opinions outweigh the rest, input from each member is valued equally, said Weber.
She co-founded A Place for Women to Gather with Sister Judy Hallock after a 1998 conversation about creating a place to offer spiritual resources to women of all faiths, a place to explore their inner selves and their own images of the divine while connecting with other women in the community.
“We’re all about helping women see their own beauty, to use their gifts and celebrate them, to do their inner work and to trust their own experience,” Weber said. “We’re out to affirm women at the deepest level, to give them resources to deepen their spirits.”
The center offers programs led by presenters rather than classes taught by teachers, always with a conversational dynamic that respects what each participant brings to the room.
At Thursday’s event, the quilting group Ebony Raleigh Area Group Stitchers will give demonstrations and display examples of their traditional African quilts. Member Alfreda Wilson said this is one of only a handful of events the group has chosen to participate in this year. She looks forward to the chance to see how other local women are dealing with challenges.
“We have issues that are unique to women,” Wilson said. “We’re such a valuable part of our society, why not celebrate ourselves and have others recognize us?”
Weber believes the world needs a more feminine dynamic, a philosophy of networking, sharing and relating rather than domination.
“The world has had enough of that,” Weber said.