On this 30th anniversary, take a stroll with me down memory lane…
Thirty years ago, on October 23, 1987, Eleanor Morrison and I filed incorporation papers for LEAVEN, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources, education, and training in the areas of feminism, anti-racism, spiritual development, and sexual justice. We chose the name “Leaven” to express our commitment to providing support and nurture for those who seek to be leavening agents for change – resisting oppression, engendering hope. Our organizational motto exclaimed: “If we would be as leaven, there could be an uprising of hope.”
My mother and I worked together as co-directors of Leaven for 17 years. One of our first projects was writing Created in God’s Image -- a human sexuality curriculum for adults that was commissioned by the United Church of Christ. We also designed and led intensive seminars that began and ended with a weekend retreat and met monthly for eight months, including In Our Own Voice: Women Reshaping Theology and Spirituality (offered for 10 consecutive years); Sister Colleagues: A Seminar for Women in Ministry (offered for 20 consecutive years) and Doing Our Own Work: An Anti-Racism Seminar for White People (begun in 1994 and still being offered through Allies for Change).
In 1995, Leaven launched a bold new venture: THE LEAVEN CENTER -- a retreat and study center located on 40 acres of land near Lyons, Michigan, committed to nurturing the relationship between spirituality and social justice. April Allison joined my mother and me on the leadership team as director of operations.
The Leaven Center was a place of exquisite beauty where social justice activists found rest and nourishment for body and soul. The meadows, woods, river banks, and facilities at Leaven Center offered a healing and restorative environment for people who needed to disengage for a time from their daily lives in order to re-engage more fully and creatively. Leaven Center programs brought the arts and social justice into lively and creative interplay. The center also offered anti-oppression seminars that brought together diverse communities for difficult yet essential conversations, community building, cross-fertilization, and the forging of new friendships, coalitions, and alliances.
After April and I left the Leaven Center in December 2007, Jill Bedard served as director for one year. Then Karen Bota became director and provided leadership for the center until its closing in 2012.
The launching of the Leaven Center is a remarkable story and a unique accomplishment. During its 17 years of existence, thousands of people from communities all across the United States and Canada attended events at the Leaven Center.
From beginning to end, the Leaven Center was sustained by an extensive and diverse network of volunteers who believed in this dream and made it happen.
To each and every one of you who supported Leaven and the Leaven Center, I post this remembrance and these photos with abiding gratitude and love.