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News from the School of the Spirit Ministry 
December 2008
In This Issue
The Idea of a Retreat
On Being a Spiritual Nurturer
Testing the Waters retreats
A Report from The Way of Ministry
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Dear Reader,

The articles and reports in this issue of Snapshots challenge each one of us to ask what are we ready to surrender in order to be more available to God's liberating love.  The theme is ripe for this season as we welcome the free divine gift of the Christ-child in each one of us.

In this issue you can read (and listen to!) why we need to go on retreat and what we need to leave behind in order to do so.  Reflections from the Spiritual Nurturer and The Way of Ministry programs tell us what might be found when we surrender ourselves. And a prayer on forgiveness reminds us how central this is to welcoming the unconditionality of God's love.

Thank you to all those who completed last month's survey. Ninety-five percent responded that they would like the newsletter to include soul-nourishing essays and articles.  In the coming months Snapshots will feature projects from the most recent class of the Spiritual Nurturer program.  Please take a new short survey to help us know how you might best receive these essays and presentations.

For those of you who did not receive the inaugural issue of Snapshots, it can be read on our website.  And please forward Snapshots to a friend; the link is in the Quick Links sidebar to the left.

Michael Green
for the School of the Spirit Ministry

The Idea of a Retreat by Gilbert Kilpack

Many Friends who have prepared to go on retreat have found Gilbert Kilpack's essay The Idea of a Retreat a useful companion.  Friend Gilbert was a writer, lecturer, and from 1948 a staff member at Pendle Hill. He was appointed Director of Studies in 1954. The essay is presented here with the permission of Pendle Hill Publications. While the essay dates from the late 1940s, the author's plea is no less relevant today.

"Now that the world's sorrow is so visibly poignant, the necessity of making a retreat is greater than ever. The aberration of war-mindedness and the complexity of our mechanistic ["digital"? ed.] civilization have robbed us of all human steadiness."

On retreat, the author challenges us to spiritual honesty. "This is the hardest thing of all. It is such an easy step from feeling religious to the assumption that one really is. . . . We love to be the discoverers of truth but we hate to be discovered by her; yet those momentary flashes of absolute honesty which cleave the darkness of our lives and reveal our petty pretensions are necessary to clear the ground for growth."

The entire essay can be listened to or read here.

A reminder:

Linda Chidsey and Carolyn Moon will facilitate their annual winter silent retreat at Powell House, the retreat home of New York Yearly Meeting, January 16-19, 2009. The cost of the long weekend is $260 prior to January 1, and $280 from January 1. To register, click here.
On Being a Spiritual Nurturer, 2007 - 2008

It has been the tradition since its first class that those participating in the Spiritual Nurturer program organize their closing ceremony on the final morning of the last residency.  For the seventh class, this closing ceremony included a moving examen in which each claimed what they were taking through the gate that led from the program to whatever might be next. Here is a selection from that examen.

I take away integration and the knowing that the bridge is the Holy Spirit within me. I am grateful for the grace of this knowing and of you holding me in that knowing. You are my blessed community and I'll take you in my heart.

I take from the whole experience the courage to share brokenness and shame. I share that brokenness with the world because I know you are with me.

I don't know where the road goes, I just know I'll follow it, taking with me the clear conviction that I am God's and knowing I have left behind the burdens I do not need--maybe not all, but enough to make my steps light and my heart clear.

I take away my choice to live in prophetic witness, spiritual companioning with a decided Quaker flare, awareness of self as recorder of Truth, and gratitude.

I take away the gift of paradox: freedom and bondage. Freedom in God's love for me through Christ; bondage to serve when called upon, to preach God's word.

I take away greater self-knowledge and more compassion for myself. I take away a surprising realization that where my earth witness meets the witnessing I need for myself, there is a central point where they come together, a point which is about embracing the Other.

I take away a new capacity for patient trust that something is waiting to be born; that the pain we see in the world is the love that is trying to be born.

Testing the Waters retreats and the next Spiritual Nurturer program

For those interested in the next class of the program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer, go to our website to read the prospectus and to download the application and scholarship forms.

The program begins in September 2009 and the deadline to receive applications is May 25, 2009. To help with your discernment we are holding two Testing the Waters retreat days:

February 7, 2009 at First Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC
March 28, 2009 at Alexandria Friends Meeting in VA

The requested donation for each day is $25. To register, please send us an email with your contact information and indicating for which retreat day you are registering.

A Report from The Way of Ministry

Following upon the theme of surrender and liberation, we share with you here an extract from a report written by Michael Wajda, clerk of the SOTS board, who was person-of-presence at the very recent second residency of our new program The Way of Ministry.

"In another session one of the teachers shared the story of her journey in ministry, which included negotiating with God, submission, and being invited by Jesus to join him on the cross.  Her first response was "Yuk."  Then, she relinquished and joined Christ.  Instead of pain what she found was "sweetness" that consoled her.  Jesus gathered up her current suffering and her past sufferings and she was changed.  In this experience Christ joined her more than she joined him.  You could hear a pin drop in the large room of Brinton House as she was sharing this story.  I was taken to a place of deep gratitude and prayer."

The complete text of Michael's report can be read here.


To remove obstacles blocking the free flow of God's love within and through me,
I must forgive my shortcomings, my mistakes, my failures whether perceived or real.

God forgives me when I stumble and allows me to try again.

God shows me what to do; I must develop the habit of forgiveness.

Forgiving my own sins is not enough, but it is a starting point.

I must also forgive the inadequacies I perceive in others.

God knows and accepts us as we are.

When I see with doubting or critical eyes rather than the eyes of love, my vision is not clear.

To truly see the reflection of the beloved other,
I must practice unconditional love or the mirror of my soul will remain cloudy.

God loves and forgives me just as He loves and forgives you.

I can do no less.

Janis Ansell, Spiritual Nurturer class of 2008

Annual Appeal
The SOTS Annual Appeal letter has been mailed. Whether or not you have received the letter, we welcome your gift of whatever size. Tuition from our programs covers 75% of our annual budget; the rest (around $30,000) must come from grants and contributions from individuals like you. Details as to how you can give are at the foot of this newsletter. Thank you.

Spiritual Renewal Weekend

If you are, or will be, a graduate of On Being a Spiritual Nurturer or The Way of Ministry, mark November 12-14, 2009 on your calendars. Over this weekend SOTS will hold a retreat at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, PA, for the spiritual enrichment of program graduates. More details will be announced in the months ahead.

New Website and Email Addresses
SOTS now has new, easier to remember website and email addresses:
   on the web http://www.schoolofthespirit.org
   email info@schoolofthespirit.org

In the months ahead Snapshots will be in touch with program participants regarding articles, essays, photos, audio and video presentations that might gift this newsletter and enrich the spiritual lives of readers. However, if you wish to propose your own work, then please send us an email.

Mindfulness Bell
Many of us spend many hours working at our computers, forgetting the deeper internal space that we might inhabit.  As a reminder, you can download a widget to your computer that will sound a mindfulness bell at specified or random times of the day. Find this widget here.

River Dart 1
A Ministry of Prayer and Learning devoted to the School of the Spirit
is dedicated to all who wish to be more faithful listeners and responders to the inward work of Christ.

Donations are always welcome. Checks may be sent to the address below, made out to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting earmarked for the School of the Spirit.

A Ministry of Prayer and Learning devoted to the School of the Spirit is a ministry under the care of
the Worship and Care Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
the School of the Spirit Ministry | c/o 1306 Hillsborough Road | Chapel Hill | NC | 27516

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Document last modified on Wednesday, 18-Feb-2009 19:22:49 EST