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Pushing Spiritual Boundaries

Hundreds of women are gathering to "Redefine Normal" at St. James's.


The theme is the brainchild of the 20-plus women on the steering committee who hope to reevaluate the constrictive norms placed on women since, well, Eve. With workshop topics that range from dream interpretation to spirituality in corporations, the conference is sure to wear down the starch-stiff stereotypes of any ancient religion.

The topic seems to have struck a nerve. Already, 700 participants have registered for the Feb. 17-18 workshops led by six accomplished women from across the country — including memoir goddess Anne Lamott, author of "Operating Instructions" and "Traveling Mercies," as keynote speaker. The event is full; the waiting list is closed.

"Life is hard and stressful and sometimes even bleak," says the Rev. Dana Corsello, associate rector of St. James's and a leading force behind "WomanKind" since 2004. "We discovered that when women as a group truly love and celebrate one another," she says, "we can go out into the world and be better human beings."

Corsello was encouraged by St. James's rector, the Rev. Randy Hollerith, who instructed her "to go for the big guns" when booking speakers. Corsello listened, resulting in a high caliber of ethnically and religiously diverse presenters.

Nashville minister the Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems, author of a number of books, will lead a workshop exploring the spiritual benefits of friendships between women.

Rabbi Lenore Bohm, who presides over Temple Solel in Encinitas, Calif., is the first woman rabbi in San Diego and one of the first 50 female rabbis in Reform Judaism.

Her workshop will encourage women to find "soul-utions" to their problems and to take time to spiritually rejuvenate.

In her 14 years as a photographer, Virginia native Margaret Woodson Nea has been to 13 countries around the world to photograph women and children. She hopes that the women in her workshop will feel a connection between themselves and women around the world.

A poet, artist and licensed clinical social worker, Richmonder Jeanette Drake is leading the workshop "Dreams: Radical Hope for More Intimacy With God."

No matter what religious or spiritual doctrine they subscribe to, conference participants will be offered a feast for the senses and the soul. S

For more information on the conference, call St. James's Episcopal Church at 355-1779 or visit

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