Contemplation and Resilience:
Deepening Awareness to Embrace Transformation
A guided retreat for clergy and parish/community spiritual leaders from diverse denominations and ministry contexts seeking insights and tools for vocational balance and transformative next steps in the midst of anxiety, fear, and fatigue. This conversation is shaped for those in leadership roles who yearn for a space to reflect on the struggles we face and the desire we hold, both personally and communally.
Some nights stay up ‘til dawn as the moon sometimes does
for the sun.
Be a full bucket, pulled up by the dark way of a well then
lifted out into light.
Something opens our wings, something makes boredom
and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us, we taste only
From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, p. 230
Today’s ongoing calls for justice, peace, and healing feel endless. As clergy or persons in professions offering spiritual care and nurture, we are called to speak hope into situations of pain and grief, anger and frustration. But how can we, when,to be honest, it feels like despair is lurking just over our shoulders. We hear stories of broken lives, out of sync relationships, and the impossibility of rediscovering resilience. Yet, we feel compelled to keep pressing forward.
The problem is: we burn out. We reach the limit of our capabilities–both personally and communally–and we too easily view our limits as failures. How do we make sense–in our souls–of the truth of our vocations and the reality of our limits and fatigue?
Born of her own experiences in ministry and service, Bobbi Patterson brings new-found honesty to these deeper questions raised by our current experience as spiritual care-givers. Drawing on the wisdom of the Christian contemplative tradition as well as insight from Buddhist lineages and psychological research, Patterson names what needs to be named in order that we recognize our over-dependence on models of service that are exhausting and, ultimately, limited in their scope and very foundation. Her recent work Building Resilience Through Contemplative Practice: A Field Manual for Helping Professionals and Volunteers offers timely, challenging, and hopeful images for reflection and transformation.
…Learning to know ourselves–yourself–well enough in the ongoing cycle of service and burnout better prepares you to turn to practices and insights that reground you for the next work Bernard of Clairvaux, the medieval contemplative, captured this turn to our reservoir of resilience when he wrote “We each drink from our own wells.” As we learn to trust our own resources, drawn from the well of God’s compassion, we also acknowledge what we lack and are better prepared for team work. Without that, one can’t do the core work of community, which is central to contemplative life. (14).
Put another way, Patterson writes, At bottom, this book provides answers to Morton Kelsey’s question: “Is there something beyond this turmoil?” (34).
We hope this particular retreat is an introductory space to further conversations that explore how contemplative grounding nurtures our deeper awareness that we are held in Christ’s love, a reality that quickens our capacities to love ourselves and all beings. This resilience readily infuses our professional experiences. Sessions will offer opportunities to listen to the insights from contemplative wisdom as well as from our own life experiences, and help us “drink from our own wells” in Christ. Indeed, it is the same Spirit who is speaking through all!
Bobbi will guide us through reflections, drawing on her book; Stuart and Rebecca will guide us through practices of prayer that help nurture the space we all seek to cultivate in our lives and ministries.
About the Convenors
The Rev. Dr. Bobbi Patterson
Click HERE to learn more about Bobbi’s ongoing work with her book Building Resilience Through Contemplative Practice and a glimpse of the scholarly and pastoral foundation of this work. As well click HERE to learn more about Bobbi and her extensive work as an Episcopal priest and religious scholar in both the church and the academy.
The Rev. Rebecca Parker
Click HERE to learn more about Rebecca, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Executive Director of Mary and Martha’s Place, who brings a wealth of experience in contemplative practices.
The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham
Click HERE to learn more about Stuart, an Episcopal priest, author, and retreat leader who focuses on the intersection of contemplative practice, spiritual leadership, and congregational development at Grace Episcopal Church and the Center for the Practice of Prayer. Click HERE To learn more about Stuart’s recent work in the Christian contemplative community as co-editor of Contemplation and Community: A Gathering of Fresh Voices for a Living Tradition.
May 13 (evening) to 16, 2020
Camp Mikell Retreat and Conference Center, Toccoa, Georgia
Arrive Wednesday, May 13th for evening dinner
Depart Saturday, May 16th after lunch
Space for 20 people. Single occupancy (privacy); some rooms in cabin style sharing a bathroom.
$350 per person total cost
To register for limited spaces, please contact
Jessica Voyles, Ministries Coordinator
Grace Episcopal Church