This profile was last updated in 2005
The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) is “a feminist educational center, doing work locally, nationally and internationally organizing programs and projects, publications and workshops, counseling, spiritual direction and liturgical planning which help people actualize feminist religious values in the service of social change.” The organization was founded in 1983 by Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu, who are now its co-directors. Dr. Hunt writes and lectures on feminist liberation theology and Dr. Neu is a feminist liturgist and psychotherapist. A small staff, a large volunteer base, and an advisory board help WATER to accomplish its work.
WATER serves individuals and communities, activists and scholars, reaching many through its various publications. WATERwheel is the organization’s quarterly newsletter, offering articles, feminist liturgies, and other creative resources to a subscription base of several thousand. In addition to the newsletter, WATERworks Press publishes numerous educational, theological and liturgical resources that are available for purchase; WATER also has a series of books with Pilgrim Press. At its office in Maryland, WATER hosts a Resource Center with thousands of books, tapes, journals, and newsletters relating to feminist theology, ethics, and ritual. Visitors are permitted to check out materials or use them at the Resource Center.
Many programs comprise WATER’s global outreach. Women Crossing Worlds (WCW) was originally intended to bring together women from South and North America “to study, celebrate and strategize together to effect new ways of ‘doing theology.'” Through a number of reciprocal visits, WATER has developed deep relationships with a number of sister organizations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. One example of a WCW project is called “A Shared Garden,” which was a seminar program with hosts and participants from both continents.
Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network
Another program is the Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network convened by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Mary E. Hunt. This network was built in order to creatively connect feminist scholars, ministers, and activists in the United States and Canada and now includes members from around the world. The group meets at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and has held other educational events.
Though its on-the-job training program, In A Different Style, “WATER provides women with disabilities the opportunity to gain work experience for future occupations in a small, non-profit office setting.” Many participants go on to find other work in the community or with WATER’s sister organizations.
Events and Partners
Each year WATER hosts a number of local events, including seminars, celebrations, workshops, and consultations. It also provides a number of services including feminist therapy and spiritual direction. WATER enjoys a stream of visiting scholars and interns who seek to benefit from WATER’s human and material resources. In its broader network, WATER participates in a number of coalitions and partnerships with groups such as the Women- Church Convergence and the National Religious Leadership Roundtable of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force. Interfaith work includes WATER’s representation on the Pluralism Project’s Women’s Networks in Multi-Religious America at Harvard University.
In describing this multi-faceted organization co-director Mary E. Hunt said, “I would say that we’re focused on the spiritual empowerment of women, so the deep and broad resources of women’s religious experiences can be put to the service of social justice.”