Originally created 07/01/06

Different faiths keep women on same path



It was Cecile Holmes' work as a reporter and a teacher of journalism that brought her into contact with the women she profiles in her book Four Women, Three Faiths/Inspiring Spiritual Journeys.

She will hold a book-signing at 5 p.m. Thursday at Borders Books, Music, Movies and Cafe, 257 Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway.

In her book, the women keep a sense of connectedness to the divine, despite self-doubts, delayed dreams and lost or broken relationships. When they tallied up their lives, good and bad, they could see themselves more clearly as women and as individuals. Over time, what mattered most to them in life also became clearer, fueling their desire to help others and leave the world a better place.

"When I saw them struggle and wonder and worry and I listened to them, I found myself more and more willing to embrace the search and to believe (that) being a seeker was part of believing in God," Ms. Holmes said in a phone interview from her hometown of Columbia. She came back in 2000 after a career in newspapers to teach at the University of South Carolina. For 10 years, she was religion editor at the Houston Chronicle. Though she never won a Pulitzer Prize - her work was nominated six times - she received numerous other awards.

In Phoebe Griswold, the wife of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Griswold; Perri K. McCary, a Baptist-turned-Lutheran and author of Black Bible Chronicles; Arunima Sinha, a Hindu and leader of a Columbia interfaith group; and Riffat Hassan, a Muslim and religious studies professor at the University of Louisville, Ky., Ms. Holmes found women who care deeply about their families, their own spiritual growth and the world.

"Faith has been a force which has shaped their public lives, but also transformed them as human beings to try harder, work harder and care more," she said.

Ms. Holmes, an Episcopalian, found a spiritual kinship with each of the women.

After 23 years away from Columbia, she writes in the book that she was delighted to meet Ms. Sinha. Ms. Sinha's beliefs helped Ms. Holmes connect her pluralist and feminist sympathies with her Christian faith, though she makes clear that Christianity is distinct from Hinduism.

Ms. Sinha, who lost her mother as a child, finds comfort in imaging the divine with a feminine face, Ms. Holmes writes.

"Two things are universal: happiness and pain. Everyone feels the need to love and be loved. Mother is one answer to all of that," Ms. Sinha says in the book. "I always reverse my role when I pray to her. I pray to her as a baby. When she is mother, I'm child. And when God is child, I'm mother. I'm receiving the love of Mother and I'm giving the love of Mother."

As God's child, Ms. Sinha finds love, compassion, correction and healing in God as Mother, she says.

"Then when I pray to my baby Krishna, or even to baby Jesus on Christmas night, I think of myself as a mother," Ms. Sinha says. "At bedtime, I think of the world and that baby as my child."

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.

BOOK-SIGNING

WHO: Cecile Holmes, the author of Four Women, Three Faiths/Inspiring Spiritual Journeys

WHERE: Borders Books, Music, Movies and Cafe, 257 Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway

WHEN: 5 p.m. Thursday

PHONE: (706) 737-6962; see the publisher's Web site, harborhousebooks.com/titles/fourwomen.shtml