Overview

Participants in

God’s Promise Fulfilled: Encountering and Embodying Grace in the Shadow of Empire

will experience seven elements:
  1. Discernment: Is this right for you? 
    Are you called to join this cohort of seekers?

School of the Spirit grads will tell you that a decision to enroll in a one- to two-year journey of spiritual nurture is likely to mark a turning point in your life; it will be one of the hardest – and most rewarding – decisions of your life. We encourage you to take up this invitation with both open-hearted curiosity and seriousness. Consider gathering a clearness committee to listen to your hopes and your hesitations and help you discern how to follow your leading. If together you find clarity to apply for the program, these people who have begun to witness your story might well be candidates to transition into being your Spiritual Care Committee (See #5 below)

  1. Four 2025-26 weekend residencies and/or four 2026-27 weekend residencies at 3-month intervals, with:
    a. Half the cohort attending on-site, (12 in-person attenders and up to 3 visiting on-line participants), and
    b. Half the cohort attending on-line, (12 zoom participants; up to three of whom may choose to visit a given residency on-site)

A 24-person cohort will gather four times in 2025-26, and some participants will continue for another program year in 2026-27, perhaps joined by new faces if openings have become available.  Each gathering will be hybrid — some of us will be on-line through zoom and others of us will gather physically in three locations. 

For 2025-26, those will be: 

  • Weber Center
    A retreat center for people from all faith traditions in Adrian, MI on Memorial Day weekend, May 22-26 (Thur – Mon), 2025.
    60 min drive from DTW (Detroit), 40 min drive from  TOL (Toledo)
  • High Point Friends Meeting (FUM) 
    Located in High Point, NC on Labor Day weekend, Aug 28-Sept 1, 2025 (Thurs-Mon), where Quaker hosts will offer lodging.
    25 min drive from GSO (Piedmont Triad airport); 90 min drive from RDU (Raleigh/Durham airport)
  • Pendle Hill
    A Quaker study, retreat and conference center in Wallingford, near Philadelphia, PA on Veterans’ Day weekend, Nov 7-11 (Fri-Tues), 2025.
    20 min drive from PHL (Philadelphia airport)

     

  • Pendle Hill (again)
    Presidents’ Day weekend, February 13-16 (Thurs-Mon), 2026

During each four-day retreat, up to three on-line participants can choose to attend in-person, allowing relationships that have formed electronically to have a face-to-face connection. 

The residencies take a deliberate path through a learning arc that extends across both years.  We expect many participants will continue through the full sequence as a community growing in wisdom, love and Light.  However, would-be participants have told us of life circumstances that make 2-year commitments unfeasible, so we have structured the two halves to be able to stand alone (or be paired with some other way of pursuing the other half). 

For more info on each residency, see below on this page. 

  1. Three all-zoom “meaning making” options, once between each residency weekend for reflection and conversation

Each year in April, July and October – nestled between the quarterly residencies to offer continuity of connection and some form of gathering every six weeks – we will gather on zoom to reflect together, ask questions, push back and listen carefully to each other – as a whole group and in breakouts for more personalized exploration.

  1. Small Spiritual Companioning Groups (SCGs) of 4 that meet every two weeks to witness each other’s search for Inner Guidance

Threading through the other elements will be a bi-weekly small group gathering during which three to four spiritual companions witness while each in turn takes time to work with Spirit. The animating purpose is to experiment with asking for Inner Guidance, be deliberate about following it, and record what happens as a result. Over time, the practice directs next steps in concrete ways, and builds an experiential trust that Spirit will start exactly where one is and open up God’s Promise.

  1. A Spiritual Care Committee to follow and support each participant’s journey – from one’s home meeting/church, or remotely organized
Each participant organizes a set of elders who listen to and provide feedback for the transformational journey as it unfolds. Usually based in one’s home meeting/church, it can also be remotely organized or hybrid. For more on the role of this kind of support committee, see the School of the Spirit’s pamphlet, which can be purchased in hard copy or downloaded here.
  1. A commitment to reading between each residency (from an interactive Reading Playground) and to reflecting with fellow participants about what grows from the reading.

A rich collection of wisdom (books, videos, podcasts, plenaries) offered by teachers, elders and experienced seekers has been organized into an on-line mind-map which cluster related (and annotated) content. Using it (along with their own accumulated wish-lists or bedside table piles) participants will assemble their own reading plan, post it along with other participants to form a collective learning plan each quarter, and discuss emerging themes and questions. We’re not setting a target amount, but recommend you choose the pace you intend to commit to – perhaps with the help of your Spiritual Care Committee.

  1. A quarterly Self-Examen in preparation for each residency (reflecting on their SCG experience, reading, care committee, relationship with their meeting)

In preparation for each quarterly weekend residency, participants will write and share with their care committees and teachers an overview of their spiritual formation work. Guided by queries, the self-examen affirms satisfying progress, notes knotty problems about which Guidance will continue to be sought, explores openings for new possibilities and generally offers an opportunity to step back and take a long view of how Spirit is working on one’s life.

Residencies

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Year one ~ Inhale

Residency One:  What IS God’s Promise in All Its Fullness? 

Knowing God experientially (what Quakers call “convincement”) … Listening underneath each others’ different languages … Taking stock of the cost of emigrating to live in God’s Kingdom … Leaning into continuous revelation

Residency Two:
Naming the Powers

How then shall we live? How do we align our outer life with our inward knowing? … Trading coercion and violence for openness and compassion … Claiming a home amid a violent and unraveling world where Powers of Domination and Empire hold the world in thrall

Residency Three: 
Surrendering to a Flow Larger Than Ourselves

Inviting the Light to “show and discover” what needs to change (what Quakers call “conviction”) … Welcoming mistakes, shortcomings, guilt, numbness, shadows as openings … Surrendering to the dance of God’s rhythms of retirement and engagement

Residency Four:
In The Image of a Creator

Birthing Inward Truths into Outward and Tangible Forms … Claiming the joy of being co-creators with God … Making art/Making Life in Empire … Spiritual Gifts and Community as artists’ tools …

Year two ~ Exhale

Residency Five: 
…And Not One Thing More

Finding the work God has for us alone … Distinguishing a call from a good idea (making space by saying “no) … Using spiritual gifts to point to calls …  Trusting instead of Fixing:  sitting with suffering and embracing grief … Claiming spiritual authority

Residency Six: 
Engaging The Powers

On not becoming the evil we resist … Instead resisting by claiming the freedom to become fully ourselves … Embedding in Empire; walking against the current … Expecting resistance and responding with curiosity and calm … Free in obedience

Residency Seven:
Spiritual Muscle Building

A new look at safety (promises to ourselves) … making brave spaces … beefing up our care committees … asking for what we need and speaking our truths … looking foolish when necessary … 

Residency Eight: 
Claiming Joy

Celebrating each other’s ministries … affirming diversity and complementary gifts … layering support … Exploring how to sustain joy when the going gets tough

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What does it mean to be “A Successor to the On Being A Spiritual Nurturer program”?

The School of the Spirit Ministry was born as “a ministry of prayer and learning.” Three founders, Kathryn Damiano, Fran Taber, and Sonny Cronk felt a call to deepen the contemplative capacity in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Kathryn explained:

This ministry arises from … a recognition that God is leading some Friends to a life centered in prayer as an active witness in the world. (This leading parallels the way in which God calls certain Friends to work in such areas as peace and social justice.) … Many Friends have also expressed a need for doing serious reflections and study on ministry and the call to live in faithful relationship with God. They would like to do this work within the context of a community of prayerful commitment.

Eleven classes of participants over the 30+ years since have experienced the transformation possible when one sets aside time for cultivating the inner life, for becoming part of a cohort who undertake study and prayer together, for prioritizing relationship with Spirit, and for supporting each other in faithfulness. Click to view a video of previous participants sharing their experiences.

As the course got further in time from the vision that had inspired it, the governance board seriously entertained the possibility that this call had run its course. Over the next three years, prayerful discernment convinced the School of the Spirit board that they were not, in fact, released from the concern for nurturing spiritual vitality and depth at an individual level. Instead, two complementary programs have emerged:

  • This offering, “God’s Promise Fulfilled: Encountering and Embodying Grace in the Shadow of Empire,” (which begins in 2025) is designed to accompany participants through establishing a robust relationship with the Divine, listening for guidance from one’s Inner Teacher, aligning one’s outer “doing” with that inner “knowing,” and discerning from that grounded place what constitutes one’s unique work in the world.
  • Participating in God’s Power (whose second cohort begins its year-long work in February of 2024) is designed to explore, identify and dismantle barriers to faithfulness that keep us from being fully responsive to what we know is ours to do, when we worship with our whole selves – body, mind and spirit.

We understand both these undertakings to be offspring from the original call felt by the School of the Spirit founders, and we hope that they would recognize the shared core commitment to “study and prayer.”

In case you wonder ...

What does it mean to live “in the shadow of Empire”?

When the Church was born in the heart of the Roman Empire, it was situated in a civilization at the height of its power.

Rome’s superpower status was evident in its military might, as the feared Roman legions marched on three continents, defeating, enslaving and dispersing native populations that dared resist. Its engineering prowess was unmatched, manifesting itself in innovations of architecture and infrastructure – roads, temples, stadiums, aqueducts – that still stand to this day. Its cultural sophistication in philosophy, drama and religion were exceptional, enriched as they were by the tension between Rome’s ancient traditions and the fresh perspectives constantly being assimilated through conquest and trade. It was a monument to human ingenuity and creativity. It was a monument to human power.

But at the core of that monument was rot.

Because the soul of the Roman Empire, and of every system of Empire, is a vicious dynamic of domination and control. Empire’s economy relies on extraction, creating fabulous wealth for a small class of people by subjugating the masses and Creation itself to an existence marked by exploitation, abuse, and inevitable exhaustion. Relationships in Empire are characterized by predation, with the powerless – children, elders, the poor, the fragile, those unprotected by status – used up for the pleasure and enrichment of the powerful until they have no remaining value, then discarded. Recreation in Empire tends away from the useful and creative and toward the violent and degrading, as its subjects seek distraction from their increasing sense of misery and futility. The logic of Empire is the logic of the pillager or the unfettered marketplace, with nothing so sacred that it cannot be stolen, destroyed or corrupted by greed. And the smooth functioning of the Empire system is guaranteed by the power of the sword.

Empire is not a specific time or place but a spiritual reality that reasserts itself periodically in human history, as knowledge, power and appetite detach themselves from compassion. And right now, that reality is where we live. But what could it look like to live in the shadow of the Empire but nevertheless to reject its deadly logic?