By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Hudson – Nancy Rogers experienced a notably productive three-year period starting in 2009. She began attending women empowerment events, became aware of the Red Tent movement, became a member of the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson (UCMH), and founded Hudson MA Red Tent in 2011.
Since then, she has facilitated Women’s Red Tent gatherings every few months at UCMH, 80 Main St. in Hudson. Adapting to social distancing measures during the coronavirus outbreak, the gatherings are now known as Women’s Web Tents and scheduled weekly online via Zoom.
“We’re going to get through this crisis together online,” Rogers shared. “A lot of us are feeling very jangled, but knowing that we have a place to connect helps us to feel not so alone. Doing it weekly serves as a check-in.”
The Red Tent is a grassroots movement officially launched in 2007 by ALisa Starkweather, who drew inspiration from bestselling author Anita Diamant’s novel of the same name, published in 1997.
“The book inspired ALisa as a model of women sharing elements of life together in the community,” Rogers explained. “It occurred to me how much of a game changer it would have been in my life if I had that inclusive space with women of all backgrounds – all ages, faiths, heritages, sexual orientations and socio-economic levels.”
Soon after Rogers learned about the Red Tent movement, she became a member and ultimately lay leader of UCMH. She was particularly attracted to its Spiritual Growth and Community Center, an outreach program open to the community at large.
Supported by the outreach program, Rogers got help from other women to construct the tent that has been used for gatherings at UCMH since 2011. For the web gatherings, she creates a facsimile in lieu of the tent in her home.
“When people call in, they see the red space behind me,” she explained. “I do what I can to visually create that restorative red space to help them get through all this chaos. It can transport them a little bit away from everyday life. That’s the purpose of the physical tent: to create a restorative space.”
Each gathering – web or in-person – averages about 15 to 20 participants. Rogers was determined to continue gatherings remotely and increase frequency during the coronavirus outbreak. The first weekly web gathering was March 20.
“We’re all being called upon to literally isolate from one another,” she noted. “We’re all struggling with the different emotions and logistics of this crisis – whether it’s feeling anxiety, grief, or so much uncertainty if our jobs are affected.”
Rogers was comforted by participants of a web gathering as she mourned the loss of a relative.
“Grieving a beloved family member is when you need people the most – and yet we can’t be together physically, we can’t give hugs,” she shared. “It’s emotionally rugged right now. Indeed, it’s a time to feel, to deal and to heal.”
While Rogers currently facilitates web gatherings, she’s considering the future possibility to offer both online and in-person gatherings when the pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“The Red Tent always lives in my heart,” she said. “It’s an event as much as a resource. It’s a force unto itself that I can put into the world.”