During our December meeting of the Interweave Board of Trustees, we decided to reflect on and share our stories about how we came to Interweave and what Interweave means to us. These stories speak of personal history and transformation, the joy of connection and the courage to inquire about the future. Always with gratitude and respect for the sacred space and the people. We hope you’ll enjoy reading them.
We invite you to share your own story of what Interweave means to you for posting on our website! Our intention is to uncover and celebrate the collective Interweave story. Our hope is by doing so the Interweave story continues to deepen in its diversity and inclusivity. We look forward to hearing from you! Please send your stories (250 words suggested limit) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christie Zipfel and the Interweave Board
My Interweave Story
This is a good exercise for me because Interweave has been part of my life for about 28 years, and a big part of my life since I became President of the Board of Trustees. I should ask why.
My education and work life were in science, and I was surrounded by fascinating ideas and brilliant people. Early on I abandoned the Episcopal Church of my childhood because—well, because it was boring. Coming back to church when my daughter was little, I started to attend Interweave events and they were anything but boring. I have been entranced by how our organization takes a simple, and almost universal desire for meaning and expands it into a galaxy of opportunities to be spiritual. I have never been to an Interweave program that was boring.
What have been some of my favorite Interweave experiences? Cory Booker’s prayer breakfast; Bible study with Bob Morris; spiritual practice with Peter Savastano; soup and 1930s movies with Suzanne Morris and her spouse; practically any check-in at an Interweave Board meeting; the Black history of Summit with Betty Adams; opportunities to hear rabbis and imams. I could go on and on. Behind it all, many meditation experiences with many different presenters that taught me how to pray and made me wonder why I used to find church “boring”. I didn’t know what it was all about.
My road to Interweave was definitely inadvertent. I don’t recall the exact year. I just know it was sometime in the mid- to late 1980s. It was a very difficult time in my life when I had a lot of grief to deal with. As a result, I was attending a support group for the grief-stricken. In that group was a woman named Flo and it was she who told me about Interweave and that I should attend a program. I did attend a number of programs at that point having to do with prayer, meditation, the spiritual journey and the Bible and also other religious traditions. Eventually I drifted away.
About five years later, when I was in graduate school an Episcopal priest friend of mine, Barry, sat in on a class in which I was a student. Perhaps it was something I said in class, or just my overall presentation, but at the end of the class Barry walked up to me and said, “God, you’re a mess! Are you in spiritual direction?” to which I responded “No”. He gave me Bob Morris’ name and phone number and it was when I began spiritual direction with Bob (still going for over 20 years now) that I became really involved with Interweave by not only attending a number of programs, but actually teaching programs as well.
Since then, Interweave has become a place where I find support, community, love, and a place to do deep searching. This is not always easy or sweet but sometimes challenging and always transformational. I have been a member of the Interweave Board for a number of years now. I continue to teach for Interweave and am also the Chair of the Program Committee. Even more important, I still regularly attend programs, some of which, surely for the past two years have been truly life changing. Without Interweave and the Interweave Community, my life would not be as rich, meaningful or filled with as much love and friendship as it is. I am truly grateful to be part of the wonderful experiment and experience that is Interweave.
Bumping Into Wonder
Once upon a time in the late 1980’s my life was turned upside down. And though always a seeker of spiritual wisdom, I began my journey in earnest.
Consumed with the need to integrate both sorrow and experiences of amazing grace, I felt as if I’d been tossed beyond the pale. Friends were kind, but the realities of our daily lives and concerns no longer matched. I began to silence myself out of a fear of being perceived as too “far out” and scary.
Prayer, art, and literature became my lifelines. In solitude and study I gathered knowledge. Feeling diminished and small inside, I drew strength from the example of Lucy Pevensie, the courageous young protagonist of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I discovered and devoured Carol Pearson’s popular book, Awakening the Hero Within.
Then, in a remarkable gesture of generosity, a friend of a friend surprised me with an invitation to attend an Interweave-sponsored event: Carol Pearson was coming to Interweave! Later on, my benefactor followed up by sending me an Interweave gift membership. Lo and behold, I had found my tribe!
“Be prepared to bump into wonder,” writes poet James Brougton.
“Deepen your roots. Extend your branches.”
It has been many years since I first sought Wisdom and found Wonder through Interweave, but I will never forget that first program I attended and the sense of renewal, hope and possibility it kindled within me. I will never forget the beauty, hospitality and generosity of the people who comprise this remarkable organization. Through Interweave I have discovered a portal of sorts, a place of conviviality and oftentimes the wondrous and unexpected. It’s not uncommon for us to laugh a lot!
Each of us follows the winding path of pilgrimage in some form or another. Each of us comes from a different place, with different perspectives and priorities governing our lives. But it can be so much fun to travel in groups and experience wonder among one another!
Lighting My Way
For many seasons, I pored over the Interweave course catalog: seminars on religion—East and West, spiritual practice, prayer, awareness. All kinds of things missing from my Catholic education. So much to learn, so little time. Then one dreary February afternoon, I stole an hour and dropped in on a session about Kabbala. Specifically, a holiday called Tu Bishvat— the Rosh Ha Shanah of the Trees (aka New Year of the Trees). It’s a little-known holiday about renewal. It’s a celebration of the green things in our world that seem to be dead but are just getting ready to burst back into life. What a powerful message about the eternal cycle of rebirth in nature and in ourselves.
So, that was the moment for me. Interweave opened up a wider spirituality than I had ever known and kindled a new craving for more. That was more than 20 years ago and I’ve never stopped learning or growing. Thank you, Interweave, for lighting my journey!
I came to Interweave as part of the two year “Dynamics of the Spiritual Journey” program in 2006. The essentials of that experience have stayed with me for the 10 years since—10 years of study, listening, community and meaningful work. What I have also found is a group of extraordinary people committed to spiritual exploration and practice. While the “Third Saturday Group” beautifully embodies Interweave’s signature concept of spiritual companionship, that essence can be found in every Interweave class and community I have been part of, including the Interweave Board. Inspired by the leadership of Bob and Suzanne Morris, Interweavers connect with classic spiritual wisdom and contemporary cultural and environmental issues, while we share ideas, work and meals.
Thus, I have found spiritual sustenance in classes, Board service and fundraising projects. The threads of grace that I see woven throughout are seriousness of purpose, respectful listening and work that “keeps faith sweet and strong,” to quote an old hymn. Woven again and again through grace, the tapestry presents a vision of wholeness.
I have experienced Interweave as a community of seekers who have sustained our organization for more than 30 years and who have transformed themselves and the world in the process of making our dynamic spiritual journeys, individually and together.
Finally, I applaud Interweave for its countercultural nature — in a contentious and angry world, Interweave provides serious and respectful consideration of issues; in an anxious and polarized world, Interweave practices deep listening; in a noisy world, Interweave invites silence. For all that I have learned and experienced with Interweave, I am filled with gratitude.
One Truth Many Paths
When my wife, Asha, and I first moved to New Jersey over 25 years ago, we knew very few people who shared our interests of exploring diverse spiritual paths, personal wellness and social action. Then to our pleasant surprise we encountered Interweave. Our connection with the Interweave family grew, with both of us serving terms on the Interweave Board, as well as helping to create and lead programs at Interweave. I am grateful for the role Interweave has played in my life. The circle or the “sangha” Interweave has created – sometimes loosely, sometimes more closely and deeply, has been a blessing. My ties to the other members of Interweave has grown and deepened over the years.
About 15 years ago, Interweave supported the formation of a regular meeting for the Dances of Universal Peace. Even in the beginning when the circle was small, Interweave maintained its openness and support. That circle has flourished, becoming wider and more diverse, providing one of Interweave’s many opportunities to experience spiritual companionship and growth. Today that circle is going strong.
The education, interfaith and “applied spirituality” aspects of Interweave have been particularly important to me. I see this work very closely aligned with my own views on spirituality – one truth, many paths. Through creative programming, I have been exposed to a broad range of ideas and people that have enriched my life and my connectedness with others and the world.
May the Interweave story continue…
Years ago, I came to Interweave to participate in the Dances of Universal Peace, beautifully led (then and now) by Andre Bernard. Later, Andre and I led a half-day offering on Speaking from the Heart, combining the Dances with how to open our minds, listen deeply and speak from the heart. That was my real introduction to the Interweave community, and the first time I met Asha Bernard and Janet Maulbeck! I felt very welcomed, like finding a home-away-from-home. I attended many Interweave workshops, joined the Board and began to facilitate programs that remain very dear to me: our semi-monthly study group on A Course In Miracles, the Women in Leadership Programs of 2014 and 2015, and the monthly Threads of Consciousness writing circle.
I wrote “Establishing Ties” in December of 2014 about our writing circle. Today, it still reflects what Interweave means to me: the experience of wonderment and connection.
The sun streams in through high church windows
My fellow writers sit a fair distance apart
Heads bowed – hands moving over paper,
Touched this morning by a little prince
Who learns from a fox
The proper way of establishing ties and how
We are responsible forever for those we love.
The circle reconvenes
Love lost – love found
Love waiting for us still
The one that got away . . . and how even then
Nothing is ever truly gone (where would it go?)
We stand, stretch and prepare to leave
Shaking our heads in appreciation
Eyes smiling – hearts too
Lingering over holiday good-byes
Marveling in connection
We move toward the parking lot
And the circle holds
The Essential Interweave
My Interweave story focuses on “The Essential Interweave”: those persons seeking meaning beyond the materialism and secularism of the arid suburbs. With its courses, programs, and events, Interweave facilitates connections that nurture individuals in seasons of renewal and impoverishment as well as times of celebration and sorrow. Though conceived in a by-gone era of spiritual exploration, one hopes that Interweave can adapt to a new wave of spiritual inquiry and avoid becoming an anachronism or a spiritual relic. Spirituality, whether contemplative or contemplative-activism, is alive, vital, curious, renewing, attracting, inclusive. The relic, on the other hand, sees the object as the end in itself. The value is in the object, the reliquary, rather than the energy and possibilities of the community. Spirituality that is the subject is not separate from the community; but prepares one to be in-community, a contemporary community. Therein lies the rub–and the denouement of my Interweave story.
What of the Future…?
I remember a small piece of paper, pinned to the wall near an inner doorway of the Interweave offices, hanging on a slant like an unwrapped klaf from a mezuzah: “What of the future is yearning to come to birth now?” I can still see the typeface, the curl of the paper’s edge. Interweave’s meaning in my life has always been tied to this question. As a seminary intern, the teachers and learners of Interweave helped me discover that the deep roots I was sending down into the soil of my tradition fed, not fettered, the wide branches of my own spiritual pluralism. Becoming a part of Interweave was a profound homecoming of the spirit, and it has always since been home for me.
I have seen sacred space created in halls and in hearts, that this question might be heard and held. I have had deep friendships blossom and grow under the wings of this question. I have seen darkness transformed into light, and (personal, social, cosmic) doorways emerge from walls… all through the people and programs of Interweave.
What of the future is yearning to come to birth now? As just one of many, many diverse threads in the fabric of Interweave, I have a home in which to ask this question, and a loving community within which to grow as a midwife to this beautiful future, always already dawning. And I am grateful.
I have always wondered why–how it is that I am here, the fact that I breath air, the heart pumps blood, the neurotransmitters release chemicals–all without my effort. If I am not the reason for my being, what is? Through symbols, words, pictures, we try to construct meaning to this existence. This has been the experience of my life. Looking, trying, experimenting, with beliefs, practices, rituals–trying to express the matrix of change and transformation occurring each timeless moment. Living, feeling, being with others, whether in the depths of the suffering of others or the absolute joy of the unitive experience of the other, that the presentation of humility opens me to the wonder of life. My spiritual direction, with Bob Morris, would open me in ways that would ultimately lead me to Interweave, but initially, created the vehicle that would become the ever-expanding search for the real.
Interweave: A Personal and Global Story
What is my Interweave story is a question, which at first seemed enormous and difficult to answer. So I have been wrestling with finding a clarity to emerge from a complex and complicated explanation of what makes up my relationship with Interweave. Some history….
When my family moved to Summit in 1978, we started attending Calvary… Well actually my husband, an Episcopalian, began taking the children to Sunday school at Calvary with my support. Although uncomfortable with the liturgy, I was very comfortable with the community of Calvary. When Bob Morris started Interweave it was a natural for me to be drawn to the Interweave philosophy having been raised primarily as a Quaker.
I started attending Bob’s “Wednesday class”. I felt at home and comfortable and welcomed and valued and heard and safe. My children started asking why I didn’t go to church on Sunday. I answered, “because I go to church on Wednesdays.” In addition to Wednesdays there have been too many inspirational classes and events to mention over the almost three decades I have known Bob and Interweave.
There are so many facets to Interweave including spiritual growth, intellectual growth, advancing the common good, religious traditions and social justice, to name a few. Simply, Interweave is relevant both personally and globally.
At Bob’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and service of his ordination on January 26, I was reminded about the note found posted in the Interweave office asking the question, “What of the future is yearning to come to birth now?” That question sums up the philosophy of the question we all, as Interweave seekers, should be asking both globally and personally.
A Place to Pray, Repair and Share
I heard about Interweave at first from the edges. At the time I was at Trinity ministry center in Sterling NJ. Some guy Bob was coming to do a program. It wasn’t till years later that it began to come more into my consciousness, because of the diversity work that was going on in the community. There was a wonderful diversity program collaboration that took place at what was then the YWCA . . . Interweave was a part of that diversity group… But it wasn’t until 9/11 that I actually came to Interweave and started to feel part of the circle.
I was so upset, so undone, as were we all. I didn’t know where to go and I felt I needed to go so somewhere and be with people and pray. I heard that Interweave was having a prayer service. On that terrible day I found consolation there, others who were on a spiritual path. I didn’t know then that I was coming into my new community. A place in a broken world where people were coming together to pray, to repair and to share their lives.