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Interfaith pioneer's search for the sacred

Peter Kirkwood |  29 November 2012

Stephanie Dowrick is one of Australia's most influential spiritual teachers. She has carved out a unique and independent niche in the realm of religion in this country.

She is a prolific, best-selling author, a qualified psychotherapist, and much in demand as a speaker. She leads spiritual tours and retreats, and is a pioneer among the handful of interfaith ministers in Australia.

As well as an interview about her latest book, Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and One Another, the video also contains excerpts of her speaking at an event held recently at Paddington Uniting Church in Sydney's east where she was in conversation with Uniting Church minister and theologian, Doug Purnell.

Dowrick was born in New Zealand. When she was eight, her mother died. This was a pivotal event in her life, and is one of the things she reflects on in this interview.

As a young adult she lived in Europe and England. She founded, and was first managing director of, London publishing house The Women's Press. In 1983 she moved to Australia, and has been based in Sydney ever since.

After two years study, in 2005 she graduated from the New Seminary for interfaith ministry in New York, and was ordained in that city's Episcopalian Cathedral of St John the Divine. Since 2006, on the third Sunday of every month, she has led interfaith services at Pitt Street Uniting Church in the heart of Sydney.

In 2000 she founded the Universal Heart Network. In her words, 'it is made up of people who care about the values that strengthen and connect us'. It provides a means for them to keep in contact online, and Dowrick sends members a monthly inspirational email.

As an extension of this network, this year, with writer Walter Mason, she started the Universal Heart Book Club, an online forum with blogs, discussion and reviews of 'books that matter for readers who care'.

From 2001 till 2010 she wrote a weekly column called 'Inner Life' in the Fairfax Good Weekend Magazine.

In 2008 Dowrick completed her doctorate at the University of Western Sydney on the visionary poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, considered to be one of the greatest modern writers in the German language. She is currently an adjunct fellow in that university's Writing and Society Research Group.

Her other books include Intimacy and Solitude, Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love, Creative Journal Writing, Choosing Happiness: Life and Soul Essentials, In the Company of Rilke, and Everyday Kindness. 

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Peter Kirkwood headshot smilingPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.