The 341st Annual Sessions 2021 commenced with a virtual Spiritual Formation Retreat that was led by .O (she/him/?/they/them) and organized by the Spiritual Formation Collaborative. The retreat was offered to ‘prepare and till the soil of the soul,’ so that Friends are empowered to move forward with the work of addressing and removing injustices, and nurturing justice.
The retreat was attended by 40 participants of all ages from around the globe, and began with a land acknowledgment. .O had shaped these three sessions for the day: Loving Humbleness, Loving Mercy and Kindness, and Loving Justice. They focused on the power of breathing, stillness, and deep listening, inviting attenders to a place where sacredness could be empowered.
A taste of one of those sessions is offered below.
In this session, .O invited Friends to give themselves ‘permission to reclaim and relocate the truth of loving humbleness.’ They invited everyone to “fall in love, to grow in love with the Earth of who you are, even the dirt of who you are, and the soil of who you are.” They asked Friends to love those who truly love humbleness.
Participants then shared what ‘seeds’ they had brought along with them. They named these in the group chat (named were: bean, Lenten rose, day lily, caraway, ash tree, coneflower, sunflower, magnolia, okra, orange flower, nasturtium, and pine seeds). People then wrote about those seeds they brought with them.
.O asked a community member to read a quote, and reflect on dust, breath, man, soul/soil after they focused on this passage from Genesis 2:7
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul… (A living Soil!)
Friends were urged to listen to the intimacy of this biblical story. As .O put it: God was playing in the dirt. God brings the dirt to his face and intimately, ever so sweetly, breathes life into it. So, imagine this: every time you breathe, you are breathing in God’s love.
This was followed by an exercise where participants were asked in what ways they were like what they had written about the seed.
It was an interesting exercise and one that Friends could do on their own at home; asking themselves–‘in what ways are you like the seeds you bring into rooms?’
Other Work and Take-Aways
In the five-hour retreat, there were two sessions that focused on Loving Mercy and Kindness, and Loving Justice. Towards the end .O drew participants into a conversation about the ways “G.O.D”. offers love and Justice to the seed in each of us. Asking, ‘what ways does the seed give love and justice to us? In what ways is the kingdom/kin-dom/governing systems of G.O.D. within you?’
In answer, an attendee spoke up with the words; “The Lord is my shepherd. I have all that I need.”
At the retreat’s close, PYM’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Olivia Brangan, described the experience as a “beautiful retreat which helped to prepare all participants to open themselves to the love and important work of our yearly meeting community.”
Members of the Spiritual Formation Collaborative reflected on the retreat and shared these thoughts:
After many weekly, loving, planning meetings for a couple of months, we brought the Spiritual Formation Annual Sessions Retreat to Life today. .O brought us to a deep heartfelt place of Spiritual grounding for our Annual Sessions by quite literally addressing the title of sessions and the retreat–Uproot Injustice, Root Justice: deep listening, loving humbleness, kindness, mercy and justice. We grew with each other to ground and open to our sacredness and the sacred gifts of Annual Sessions’ Loving Radiance. — Dale Myrtetus
.O, following her life’s mission of being a listening heart in love, took Friends on a journey that had us see how we were like seeds with the power to nourish and transform the world from violence to a loving community uprooting injustice. — Diane Kesler
Together as family, we connected in Love to grow with each other from seeds to thriving plants so that we might move into sessions with a fullness to breathe Life and Love into Annual Sessions as one. — Wanda Wyffels
Jeanne Elberfeld who attended the retreat shared her artwork as her reflection on the time together:
About the Collaborative
This is the fourth Annual Sessions Retreat offered by the Spiritual Formation Collaborative. With thanks to .O for her powerful ministry, PYM Support was provided by George Schaefer, PYM’s Care and Aging Coordinator, and Olivia Brangan, Community Engagement Coordinator. PYM elders and pastoral care Friends were also important contributors to its success. Overall, Friends’ sense of faith was supported and their connection with compassion, love, and empathy was nurtured.
Feature Image Credit: Canva