Joy, tell me a little about yourself.
I was born in Bay City, Michigan thirty-two years ago. My parents are an ex-priest and ex-nun who discovered Thomas Berry in the eighties, introducing it to me at about the age of ten. After age ten, I was raised on The Universe Story; it was simply part of my family’s spiritual foundation. At the age of 13 I read Brian Swimme’s The Universe Is a Green Dragon for the first time and this is when I embraced the new cosmology on my own. At the age of 18 I attended a 4-week program at Genesis Farms; there I immersed myself totally in the Story and came to a complete acceptance of it. Most remembered of my Genesis Farm teachers are Larry and Jean Edwards, both with whom I still maintain a deep, close friendship.
Most people in the Sophia program come to the Story at a later age. How did this different worldview affect the relationships with your friends?
I was always “different” than my peers. At 12 I had became a vegetarian. My friends were totally okay with my unique ideas although I wasn’t one to talk a lot about them. The first time I opened up with these ideas was to a few professors in my undergraduate studies. Then I went on for a Master’s degree in social work. My final project in 1999 was on consumerism and our society’s attempts to fill emotional voids by buying more and more while subsequently depleting Earth’s resources. My advisor initially rejected the topic, saying it didn’t fit the criteria. I had to go over her head and ask the Dean’s approval because it was the topic I was most passionate about. Finally the university gave me the okay to continue. After the paper was completed, this same professor told me that she had learned more from me than from any of her other prior students.
How did you first hear about the Sophia program?
Larry Edwards from Genesis Farms encouraged me to continue my studies of the new cosmology and suggested the Sophia program.
How did this program affect your life in those years?
At the time I was working as a social worker in the poorest areas of Oakland, CA. The Sophia program placed this work in a new context and changed how I interacted with my clients, trying to meet both their immediate needs as well as deeper needs. Also I was inspired to continue my study of the new cosmology and went on to obtain a doctorate of ministry in creation spirituality through Matthew Fox’s program at the University of Creation Spirituality in downtown Oakland.
What Sophia classes/weekends were of particular influence in your life?
I was fortunate to live near the Sophia Center so Jim Conlon allowed me to attend classes during the week. There were certain teachers who particularly took me into deeper unknown areas of spirituality. One of the most influential was Mary Schmitt, who introduced me to a higher consciousness present within the Universe through the study of metaphysics. Sobonfu Some showed me that another culture was already living the new cosmology — that this deeper learning can transfer to different cultures. Sobonfu told us stories about the culture of her Dagara tribe that accepts all people, even those marginalized by our culture, and places them within more enlightened social roles, like the homosexual as the gatekeeper to the inner world. This was a powerful lesson. I was in awe with Michael Schneider and his knowledge of science as an art in which we can see symmetry and beauty in the patterns of Nature, just as simply as in a piece of fruit. Predictability can be found within the elegance of numbers in Nature.
Brian Swimme has been the most influential teacher for me. He continues to change the way I see the world. I was so fortunate to take his class at the CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) as part of my Sophia experience. Brian speaks with such spontaneity and joy, truly channeling the wisdom of the Universe.
Joy, thank you for sharing your family life and beliefs, parenting skills and stories. It was so much fun interviewing you. The very best in the upcoming birth of your third son. He will be entering into a very special family.
Interview by Kitty Nagler