Welcome to the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South where we weave feminism and spirituality into a vision of justice for the world.
We began in 1977 to support and connect women who understood their lives and work as ministry. Over the years, we have expanded to include a wide variety of programs and resources on feminism, faith, creativity, spirituality, and justice. Please join us.
When Jeanette Stokes graduated from Duke Divinity School in 1977, she knew she wanted to do something for her peers, the women who were finishing seminary and entering ordained ministry. At that time it was hard to find and connect with one another, especially in the South. Jeanette’s beloved mentor, the Rev. Helen Crotwell, suggested to her, “Why don’t you do something no one else is going to do?”
The Early Years
Later that year, Jeanette set up shop for the Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South in the spare bedroom of her apartment in Greensboro, NC. She wrote down names of people interested in feminism and religion on three-by-five cards. For RCWMS’ first project, Jeanette mailed out a one-page flier to her list. The flier honored the 125th anniversary of the first ordination of a woman in the US, Antoinette Brown Blackwell. The overwhelmingly positive response led to the birth of South of the Garden, the RCWMS quarterly newsletter, which is still being published today. In the early years, RCWMS sponsored conferences with feminist speakers such as Rosemary Ruether, Phyllis Trible, Carter Heyward, Katie Cannon, Mary Hunt and others. RCWMS joined the North Carolina Council of Churches Committee for Equal Rights in sponsoring conferences on women, faith, and social justice that focused on economic justice and violence against women and children.
A New Direction
In the 1990s, as the number of clergywomen had increased to the point that they were creating their own organizations, conferences, and workshops with their denominations, the Resource Center expanded its mission to include more general-interest feminist programming. RCWMS began to focus on smaller events and spiritual practices for those who view their life’s work as ministry.
In the last two decades, the Resource Center has developed program areas on art, writing, creativity, and spirituality. The writing program includes workshops, retreats, an essay contest, and the publication of a number of books. RCWMS created a forty-by-forty-foot canvas labyrinth for people to use for walking meditation. With Anita McLeod’s help, the Resource Center created an elder women’s program and offered opportunities for intergenerational dialogue. In the last decade, the Resource Center has once again produced large public events, including an annual women’s preaching festival and a conference on LGBTQ spirituality.
What makes RCWMS so special is that the organization is constantly looking around to see what is happening in the world and what is needed. The Resource Center draws on the gifts and ideas of participants, staff, and trustees. We hope you’ll join us and help shape the future.
The day Jeanette graduated from Duke Divinity School in 1977, she turned to some friends and said, “They’ll be sorry.” With only an inkling of what she would do next, she felt sure it would have something to do with women, faith, and social justice. A few months later, she and friends founded the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, where she serves as the Executive Director. Though she is not sure whether anyone was ever sorry they granted her an M.Div., Jeanette is sure that the last four decades of trying to change the landscape of religion in American has had at least some effect. Mostly her work has offered solace and support to others on the journey. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and a graduate of Smith College, Jeanette is the author of three collections of essays, 25 Years in the Garden, 35 Years on the Path, and Just Keep Going, and three memoirs, Hurricane Season: Living Through a Broken Heart, Flying Over Home, and Following a Female Line. She is happier if she spends some time each week walking, writing, painting, and messing around in the garden.
Rebecca has a passion for supporting others on their creative and spiritual journeys. She loves connecting with those who can give of their time and resources to support women & LGBTQIA+ folks. Rebecca leads seasonal writing workshops at RCWMS and creates programs on queer and earth-based spirituality. When she is not at work, you’ll probably find her learning life lessons from her two-year-old, practicing mindfulness, swimming, walking to the nearest coffee shop, or writing plays.
A long-time small nonprofit development consultant, Marya McNeish is also a massage therapist, and is ever curious how we can best work with these imperfect bodies of ours to find more ease and comfort. She is helping to build a local adaptive hiking program and spends her free time in the woods or digging in her garden.
Tanya Best, MDiv is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She serves as the Associate Pastor of Mission Support of Mt. Calvary UCC. She retired from the Department of Social Services. She received her Bachelors Degree in Accounting and Theology and a Masters of Divinity. She is a Certified Intentional Transition Leader, and specializes in outreach and helping individuals who are experiencing difficulties with life challenges. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.
Merle Kodo Boyd, MSW is a retired therapist and Zen priest living in Durham, NC. Raised in Texas, she spent much of her adult life in New Jersey where she worked as a licensed psychotherapist. She is the first African American woman to receive Dharma transmission in her lineage of Zen Buddhism.
Solita A. Denard, MSW currently serves as Treasurer on the RCWMS board. Her current and previous professional work includes grant & contract administration, program development, research and training. Solita also enjoys creative writing, reading, cooking and has recently discovered some artistic abilities with painting and creating Zentangles in her free time.
Jehanne Gheith, MSW, LCSW, PhD supervises the RCWMS’s work on end of life issues. She is a professor at Duke University in Russian and the Program in Education, where she teaches courses on medical ethics, aging, and end of life care. She is also a licensed clinical social worker with a private psychotherapy practice that focuses on transitions in aging, illness, and wellness, with a specialization in pet loss. She worked for many years with Duke Hospice and continues to work with their bereavement services.
Cathy Hasty, MDiv has worked as an RN-BSN, ordained minister, board-certified hospital chaplain, clinical chaplain educator, psychotherapist, writer, and artist. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and Diplomate for AAPC. She has specialized training in working with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, spiritual suffering and grief. At the core of her work has been the curiosity to explore the mystery of the human spirit from many directions.
Christine Houghton, MDiv, MSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Durham. She specializes in grief, loss, and work with couples. She also received her Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School and is a Registered Yoga Teacher. Christine is deeply rooted in Durham’s Quaker community and is passionate about creating space for personal and organizational transformation through a lens of racial equity and justice. She enjoys running, writing, and spending time with her partner and their two children.
Marcia Rego, PhD is an Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University and the author of The Dialogic Nation of Cape Verde: Slavery, Language, and Ideology.
Rebecca Vidra, PhD works at the intersection of restoration and ethics, teaching courses at Duke University and leading the Duke Environmental Leadership Program. She has three daughters and lives in Chapel Hill, NC.
Molly Williams is a former intern at RCWMS. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2015 with bachelor degrees in Public Policy and Sociology. Molly grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and currently lives in Nashville, TN where she is a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Karen Ziegler, MDiv, DMin, MSN is a retired nurse practitioner who practices Buddhist meditation. Prior to becoming a nurse, she served as pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York (a church for LGBTQIA+ people and allies) for 10 years at the height of the AIDS crisis. She currently coordinates “Tuesdays with Tillis” protests every week in front of the Federal Building in Raleigh, which began in January of 2017.