Friday night: Reconnecting, building trust and exploring the role of our physical selves in spiritual nurture.
4:00 Welcoming people as they arrive to check in (DK)
5:30 Dinner together
7:00- 7:10 Gather together for worship (JB)
7:10- 7:15 Introduction and plan for weekend (JB/WW): Welcome participants and briefly describe the weekend.
• Re-gather community and become present to one another.
• Hear the stories of our spiritual journey this past nine months.
• Explore our Quaker take on spiritual gifts and ministry
• Discernment and naming of individual gifts and ministry
• Evaluate the nine month program
7:15-7:30 Knowing ourselves: gratitude. Read Psalm 139 (omit v. 19-22, or use a rewritten version) Each person has a copy and reads a sentence. Reflect upon the wonder of ourselves, the wonder of the cosmos (WW/DK).
7:30-8:30 The Cradling—From Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life (JP/WW)
Introduction: Joseph Chilton Pearse in his book, The Magical Child, defined a matrix as a place of safety, energy and potential for growth. And that the mother’s womb was the primary matrix. As we experience our earliest times, after our birth, we experience the safety, energy and potential for growth in being held, cradled, carried in the arms of our parents, grandparents and other folks who care for us. We experience it when we awaken to the loving gaze of these folks, in the eye contact and smiles that come from enjoying each others presence. This safety and nurture allows us to explore the world boldly, and to learn how to engage it and grow.
In a very real sense, our Meetings and our spiritual formation groups provide this safety, energy and potential for growth as well. The experiences we are offering today are intended to help us reflect on how this all works, and perhaps open us to new dimensions of this nurture.
Purpose: A guided meditation on the body, the cradling exercise serves many purposes. It permits deep relaxation, all the more welcome after dealing straight on with fearsome issues. It builds trust among participants, and a kind of respectful cherishing. It widens our awareness of what is at stake in the global crisis, for the dangers we face—pollution, ecological collapse, famine, warfare—are dangers because of what they do to the body. The Cradling also taps deeper levels of knowing, stirring reverence for life and for its powers in us. Usually, in dealing with the deterioration of our world, we try to get our minds around it; we deal with it on the informational level, as if we were brains at the end of a stick. The Cradling stills for a while the chattering computing mind and opens it to the wordless wisdom of life.
Description: People work in pairs, taking turns. First you model with a volunteer how Partners A lie down and Partners B, following your verbal suggestions, will “cradle” them, which means lifting arms, lower legs and head.
Now Partners A, removing glasses and shoes, loosening ties and belts, lie down on the floor, close their eyes and relax. Assist with a brief guided relaxation (stretching, feeling the breath, letting weight sink down, releasing tension from feet, legs, hands, etc.). Soft background music like flute is helpful, but not essential. Carpeting makes a large difference, but even on a hard floor this exercise has worked well.
Caution: proceed with care and respect. Touching another person’s body is a sensitive and often problematic issue. In some cultures it is virtually taboo; don’t offer this exercise in south Asia, for example. In the U.S., even California, people can interpret touch as an invasion of their personal integrity, especially if they have suffered physical and sexual abuse. So inform people that the exercise involves letting their arms, legs, and head be lifted and held; ask them to choose a partner with whom they will feel comfortable.
Respect the participants for their trust and stay matter-of-fact in your manner, avoiding a portentous or sugary tone. Interspersing your words with silence, remain casual and reflective, as if observing some constellation in the heavens or a conch shell on the beach.
The following description of Joanna guiding the Cradling is offered for illustrative purposes only. You will not be repeating this word for word when you are the guide; you have your own style, your own experience to use. Now, however, read it reflectively to get a feel for the process, its pace and unfolding.
Lift gently your partner’s arm and hand… Cradle it, feel the weight of it…flex the elbow and the wrist, not e how the joints are hinged to permit a variety of movement… Behold this arm as if you had never seen it before, as if you were a visitor from another world… Observe the articulation of bone and muscle… Turning the palm and fingers, not the intricacy of structure… What you now hold is an object unique in our cosmos: a human hand of Planet Earth… In the primordial seas where once we swam, that hand was a fin—as it was again in its mother’s womb… Feel the energy and intelligence in that hand—that fruit of a long evolutionary journey, of efforts to swim, to push, to climb, to grasp… Note the opposable thrum, how clever and adept it is… good for grasping a tool, a pen, a gun…Open your awareness to the journey it has made in this lifetime…how it opened like a flower when it emerged from the mother’s womb…how it reached to explore and to do… That hand leaned to hold a spoon…to hold its parents hand while learning to walk…to tie shoelaces…to throw a ball…to write its name…to give pleasure…to wipe tears… There is nothing like it in all the universe.
Gently lay down that hand, move now to your partner’s leg and slowly lift it… Feel its weight, its sturdiness… This species stands upright… Bend the knee, the ankle, not the play of bone and muscle. It allows this being to walk, run, climb… Holding the foot, feel the sole, no hoof or heavy padding… It is this being’s contact with the ground… Feel that heel; when it kicked in the womb: that was what the parents first felt through the wall of the belly… “See: there’s its heel!”… And such journeys that leg has been on since then…learning to take a step and then another…walking and falling and getting up again…then running, climbing, kicking a ball, pedaling a bike…a lot of adventures in that leg…and a lot of places it has taken your partner…into work places and sanctuaries, mountainsides and city streets…gotten tired…sore…still kept going… Gently putting it down now, move around to the other leg and cradle that one, too.
Observe this companion leg and foot…which shared these journeys…and many yet to come… For all its weight and sturdiness, it can be broken, crushed…no armor…just skin that can tear, bones that can fracture… As you hold that leg, open your thought to all the places it will take your partner in the future…into places of suffering perhaps…of conflict and challenge…on missions that your partner doesn’t know about yet… As you lay it back down, extend your wishes for its strength and wholeness.
Lift your partner’s other hand and arm… Observe the subtle difference form its twin… This hand is unique, different from all other hands… Turning it in yours, feel the life in it… And note also its vulnerability…no shell encases it, for those fingertips, that palm, are instruments for sensing and knowing our world, as well as for doing… Flexible, fragile hand, so easy to break or burn… Be aware of how much you want to stay whole, intact, in the time that is coming… It has tasks to do, that your partner can’t even guess at…reaching out to people in confusion and distress, helping, comforting, showing the way… This hand may be the one that holds you in the moments of your own dying, giving you water or a last touch of reassurance… The world of sanity and decency that lies ahead will be built by hands like this one. With gratitude for its existence, put it gently down; move now around behind your partner’s head…
Placing a hand under the neck and another beneath the skull, slowly, gently lift your partner’s head… (Partner A keep your neck relaxed, your head heavy, loose). Lift that head carefully, cradle it with reverence, for what you now hold in your two hand is the most intricate, complex object in the known universe… a human head of Planet Earth…a hundred million neurons firing in there…vast potential for intelligence…only a portion has been tapped of that capacity to see, to know, to envision…
Your hand holding your partner’s head—that is likely the first touch your partner knew in this life, coming out of the womb into hands, like yours, of a doctor or midwife… Now within that skull is a whole world of experience—of memories of scenes and songs, beloved faces…some are gone now, but they live still in the mansions of that mind… It is a world of experience that is totally unique and that can never be fully shared… In that head, too, are dreams of what could be, visions that could shape our world…
Closing your eyes for a moment, feel the weight of that head in your hands. It could be the head of a Chinese soldier or an Iraqi mother, of an American General or an African doctor… Same size, same weight just about, same vulnerability, same capacity for dreams that could guide you through this time.
Looking down at it now, think of what this head may have to behold in the times that come…the choices it will make…the courage and endurance it will need… Let your hands, of their own intelligence, express their desire that all be will with that head… Perhaps there is something that you want your partner to keep in mind—something you want them not to forget in times of stress or anguish… If there is, you can quietly tell them now, as you lay their head back down…
Allow for the recumbent partner to stretch, look around, and slowly sit up. Then A and B reverse roles, and the verbal cues are offered again, with some variations.
If the number of workshop participants is uneven, the guide pairs up with the extra person, then leads the whole exercise while acting as Partner B, but not reversing roles. The extra person can then join another pair as a second cradling partner, if desired.
When participants lie down, remember to have them place themselves so that there is adequate room for their partners to move around them to cradle arms, legs and head.
8:30-9:00 Process the experience Share in groups of 4 (20 min) (JP/WW)
At the conclusion of the whole process, time to reorient is important. Let the partners talk quietly or remain in silence for a while; then let them gather in foursomes to speak of their experience.
Whatever words or images are used, it is good to touch on certain themes. Interweaving through the spoken words, these motifs renew and sharpen awareness of what it means to be a living person. They include:
The uniqueness of the human species in the cosmos,
Its long evolutionary journey,
The uniqueness of each individual, and of each personal history,
The intricacy and beauty of the human organism,
Its universality, linking us to other humans around the globe,
And its vulnerability:
In large group (10 min) (JP/WW)
Then participants are invited for share in the large group about their own experience. Not all are required to share
What was this experience like for you?
Did any themes emerge for you?
9:00-9:10 Reflections on evening (JB)
9:10-9:20 Closing Circle (WW)
Framing tomorrow, offer spiritual disciplines for the morning and retire for the evening
(Each person leading a spiritual will relate to the theme of discernment of gifts and ministry) Birding-, Outdoor worship Celtic prayers, Anyone wish to do journaling? Even if participants choose not to attend one of the disciplines this time can be used to prepare for the themes of the Day
7:15-8:00 Spiritual Discipline (each person leading a spiritual will relate to the theme of discernment of gifts and ministry) Birding-John, Outdoor worship , Dreams- Celtic prayers- Diane, Wade? Anyone wish to do journaling. Even if participants choose not to attend one of the disciplines this time can be used to prepare for the themes of the
8:00- 8:45 Breakfast
9:00-9:45 Worship (JP)
9:45- 10:15 (30 mins.) Reconnecting and plan for the retreat (JB/JP)
1. In pairs of folks who are not in the same reading group/don’t know each other well…Facilitator reads the questions one at a time to the pairs. Let’s them know when to switch (7 minutes for each question)
• What do you need to acknowledge and let go of in order to be fully present?
• What is your intention in being here?
• What are you most grateful for?
• What do you want to ask for from the other person for the rest of the weekend?
10:15-10:35 Break 20 mins
10:35-12:35 (2 hours) Sharing Spiritual Journeys (WW/DK)
Journaling re the questions below:
• What do you want to tell about your spiritual journey this year?
• What are the blessings, discoveries, resistances, joys doubts, questions that have affected you?
• How have you let Spirit into your life?
• How have you kept it away?
Then in triads (also of strangers) share journaling regarding the same questions. Questions on newsprint for triad to consider. Facilitator will let them know when time to switch speakers
Lunch 12:35-1:15 (work group arrange chairs into reading groups; 2 groups (NJ and PA)
1:15-3:15 pm (2 hours) 4. “Worship seeing” re spiritual gifts (JP/JB)
Discernment of Gifts
Introduction: some part of spiritual growth can only happen in community. Part of the purpose of spiritual formation is to become spiritual nurturers to one another, to see and name gifts for the community in one another. The two articles and survey we send as a prelude to the final retreat was a way to begin to getting you thinking about spiritual gifts. Now we want to give you an opportunity to begin to name some of the gifts you see in others in you friendship/accountability groups.
§ Gather into 3 reading groups. Each reading group will have a facilitator and an elder. Facilitators will be —-. Each facilitator will pick an elder for their reading group
§ Everyone will have a chance to perform one of the following roles. The roles rotate around the circle:
• Guide/nurturer: Will open with spoken prayer as led, thanking God for the focus person, expressing gratitude for their presence and their gifts, and asking that the group be given insight as to what gifts are being called forth, and be given the courage to risk speaking… This person will end the session with a prayer or handshake, and will facilitate a few minutes of response by the focus person: “How did you find this process? Any insights or comments?”
• Focus Person: will be in center, and in worship, the rest of the group will name gifts to which this person seems called to stewardship. This is a prayerful process, and images and metaphors that arise should be shared.
• Recorder: will keep written record of what is said, to be given to the focus person at the end of the session.
• Time keeper
3:15 pm 3:35 pm -Break (20 mins.)
3:35- 3:45 pm (10 mins.) Discernment of ministries (JB/WW)
A. Frame the Quaker understanding of ministry. Some topics to cover:
• Name the particular settings in which your ministry(ies) are manifest:
1. Household, close friends, family—near and far.
2. The community: neighborhood, school, city or village, country, nation, world
3. The Monthly Mtg, Quarterly Mtg Yearly Mtg, or wider Quaker fellowship
4. The workplace, paid or volunteer.
§ Where in this arena do you find your greatest joy? Where do you find Life? Name the ministry to which you are called…(or the participants in the group, in worship sharing, might speak to this: what is the ministry we see this Friend living? Or being called to?)
§ Another approach: do a timeline of one’s spiritual journey, teasing out the seeds of ministry that were planted far in the past, noting the sometimes long germination time. This process can be an ongoing one that becomes more clear after ministry has been named and claimed….
§ What are the blocks and fears to claiming one’s ministry?
B. 3:45 to 5:15 pm (90 min) Reading from I Corinthians (I Corinthians 12:4-14:5, 12, 26b, 32-33, 40 int.) (JB/WW)
Introduction: We will all sit in a circle and each person will be given a few verses to read in turn. Each section will be read prayerfully. Then we will pause and have a time of silent worship where anyone can share how they reacted to the previous reading. After the silence and sharing, the next person will read the next passage and so on until we are done.
Queries to Consider:
I want to lift up the following queries and ask you to hold them as we read from I Corinthians.
“Is there a way or do I feel called to use my experiences and learning from the spiritual formation program to enrich or promote the spiritual growth of my meeting?”
How is my Meeting being called to serve God and how do I fit into that call?
Group Reading of Portions of I Corinthians
Paraphrase the thoughts in the first full paragraph on page 121 of Loring, Vol. 2.
The well-known passage on love in the quotation that we have just read is often read out of context as exalting personal love. In fact, it’s embedded at the heart of a passage on relationships in spiritual community. It is the ultimate expression of Paul’s vision of the loving, forgiving, forbearing, “un-self-centered behavior appropriate in spiritual community. Here love is plainly stated to be a gift of the Spirit, as it is called one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians. In Galatians, love is the first fruit listed. Here love is called the greatest of the gifts – and the best way of all. All three descriptive phrases express that real love is beyond simple human capacity. They hint at the mysteriousness with which it arises in us.
C. Life in Community (JB/WW)
Introduction Most of us are called to life in community. This can be one our greatest blessings as well as one of our greatest challenges. It is challenging to submit to God’s will as an individual, but it can be even more challenging to determine God’s will for an entire community such as a Friends Meeting. I have found that after my intense experiences with spiritual formation, my meeting seemed pretty tame and shallow for a while. I was often judgmental of others who did not seem as “spiritual” as me. This is a great trap where this false spirituality becomes a source of arrogance and separation. It is our challenge to look past this perceived barrier and see that God is in everyone and that everyone can be our teacher if we open ourselves to their Light. We also need to be patient. We have been given this great gift of nine months of forming close spiritual relationships and spending a great deal of time exploring the world of Quaker spirituality. Rather than thinking we may be better or more spiritually advanced than others in our meeting, we need to share this great gift in ways that will open to us if we stay connected to the source.
My recent experience of doing SF at my home Meeting.
Closing thought: Spiritual life is a life in community. We did not get to this moment alone. (Pause and let echo and then go into the Closing Worship)
5:15-5:25 (10 mins.) Reflections of the day (WW)
5:25 – 5:45 Closing worship (DK)
7:30- 8:30 Time of sharing: (WW) Each person is asked to share something that is meaningful to them. It can be a song, poem, story, musical instrument. It can be done individually or in a group.
7:15 – 8:00 Spiritual Disciplines continued
8:00- 8:45 Breakfast
9:00-9:30 9 (30 mins) Gathering together in Worship (JB)
9:30-10:30 ( 1 hour) Written evaluation of the program (WW/DK)
1. Tell a little about your experience with a spiritual practice/discipline in the nine months of the Spiritual Formation Program… How helpful was this experience to your spiritual life?
2. Tell about the usefulness of your friendship/accountability group in deepening your spiritual life…
3. Tell about your experience with the readings….
4. Tell about your experience of the monthly reading discussion….
5. Are you more able to nurture others spiritually as a result of this program? If yes, in what way(s)…?
6. Name the most important learning/benefit that you have gained from participation in this program…
7. Has your Meeting benefited as a result of your participation in this program? If yes, in what way(s)?
8. What do you think about the importance of the discernment of spiritual gifts to a Meeting community?
9. How clear are you with regards to your “ministry” as a member or attender of the Religious Society of Friends? Would you name it, briefly?
10. Do you have any advice for the Spiritual Formation Working Group as to how to improve this program?
10:30-11:30 Praying out/ sending forth. We will do prayer circles about what we need to move forward. (JB/JP)
Holding One Another in the Light
In small groups we will take time to hold each person in the Light, to pray for them and bless them silently and aloud. This is the same exercise that we did at the opening retreat and we will now use it to support each other as we go forward in our ministries. This can be a very wonderful experience and I encourage everyone to push beyond inhibitions and to pray for or bless one another generously and with a whole heart.
Doing this within an hour requires a disciplined procedure, as follows: Form a small circle, with chairs close together and one in the center of the circle. A member of the group sits in the center chair.
The clerk asks if there is a special request especially concerning their ministries. The person in the center may speak briefly. The clerk asks if the person welcomes being touched. For six or seven minutes, the group holds the individual in the Light. Group members are encouraged to pray aloud or bless the individual.
Some suggested ways to do this—as moved by the Spirit:
Thank God for the gifts of this person, for the beauty of their soul, for what they have contributed to the gathering, etc.
Affirm that the loving spirit of God is always present with, to, and in this person.
Ask God to help, be present with, heal, console, or give attention to helping this person discern their ministries and how to move forward.
Describe an image that may come to you during the silence
Express appreciation, affection, or love for the person; and/or faith in them.
The clerk says “Amen” to end the time of holding this person in the Light.
The focus person is given a minute to tell what their experience was like.
That person leaves the center chair and another person sits down.
Since time is limited, it is important to move quickly from one person to the next, maintaining a quiet atmosphere of prayer during the change.
After all members of the group have had a time in the center, take hands around the group for a moment of concluding prayer together.
If your group finishes early, speak quietly so as not to be disruptive to other groups.
11:30-12:00 Farewell worship (JP)
12-1:00 lunch ALL—— check out by 2 pm