participating in God's Power

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What is the Participating in God’s Power program?

February 2024-February 2025
Core Teacher: Christopher Sammond Elder: Leslie Manning Guest Teachers: Cynthia Bourgeault, Walter Hjelt-Sullivan, Rebecca Mays, Paulette Meier, Joann Neuroth

Through 5 residencies and 4 virtual gatherings, over a 12-month period, with ongoing small groups and accountability groups, this program invites participants into a crucible of transformation. The program works with Quaker worship, structured exercises, and small group practices to allow opening more deeply and honestly to God’s presence, guidance, healing, and power.

Through this process-oriented program, participants gain awareness, skills, and support to live from that interior place where humanity and divinity meet. This surrendered, vibrant discipleship becomes more and more heart-centered, authentic, and grounded in real life. We envision that Friends thus equipped will go out and be seeds of transformation in our Society and in the wider world. The intent of this program is nothing short of furthering the love/power of God in the world.

The name of the program, Participating in God’s Power, draws in part from a quote by Saint Symeon the New Theologian who wrote “I have seen the Totality, received not in essence, but by participation.  When you light a flame from a flame, it is the same flame that you receive.”  It is through participating, through our actions in the flow of Love, that we become more and more aligned with that force.  As these times become more and more perilous, many of us feel a deep need to have a right and positive impact in our world.  By aligning ourselves with the Divine, listening for how we are led, and giving “legs” to those leadings, we hope to meet that hunger and have a positive impact–both within ourselves and on behalf of others.  

This program welcomes any and all, whatever their religious tradition or desire to seek the Divine, on behalf of the common good.

Themes

While each residency will have a general focus, there are eight themes that will be interwoven throughout the program.

Opening our heart on deeper levels and knowing ourselves as God’s Beloved

Working through spiritual scar tissue and internal resistance

Accessing guidance from the Inner Teacher

Awakening our consciences

Giving ourselves fully to the Love that is the structure and fabric of the Universe

Becoming spiritually accountable to a group of peers

Reordering our lives to live in ongoing spiritual connection

Listening for leadings, and experimenting on following them

RESIDENCIES

The residencies are all on holiday weekends to minimize time off from work.  They run from Thursday afternoon through Monday lunch, except for the closing one, which is Friday afternoon through Sunday lunch.  The residencies combine worship, experiential learning, building the Blessed Community, some didactic teaching, and time for small groups and accountability groups.  There will also be enough unstructured time for the participants to absorb and process all they are encountering, and to informally hang out with one another.

First Residency

Connecting With the Root: Thursday evening through Monday lunch

President’s Day Weekend, 2024, Pendle Hill Conference Center

Teachers: Christopher Sammond, Walter Hjelt Sullivan, Joann Neuroth; 

Elder: Leslie Manning

 

Forming the community; opening to each other and to the Source; Incarnation/knowing ourselves to be the Beloved; Giving over/opening to being transformed as the access point to guidance; launching small groups and accountability groups; exploring Spirit-led action; the invitation to live in “the Large Love,” the Kingdom, Christ’s Reign of Unity, and social concerns as extending that invitation

 

Second Residency

What Does Love Require: Thursday evening through Monday lunch

Memorial Day Weekend, 2024, Light on The Hill Retreat Center

Teachers: Christopher Sammond, Joann Neuroth, Paulette Meier

Elder: Leslie Manning

 

Opening to Divine guidance; refashioning our lives to support continuous connection to God; becoming conscious of how we resist God; encountering “spiritual scar tissue;” befriending our shadow; practice labs in accompanying each other in leadings

 

Third Residency

The Light of Conscience: Thursday evening through Monday lunch

Labor Day Weekend, 2024, Pendle Hill Conference Center

Teachers: Christopher Sammond, Cynthia Bourgeault, Paulette Meier

Elder: Leslie Manning

 

More on seeking guidance; self and Self, practices to undermine the small-self lens on reality; un-numbing the conscience;differentiating between spiritual bypassing and freeing us of old wounds; continuing small and accountability groups

 

Fourth Residency

Living Out an Integrity of Self: Thursday evening through Monday lunch

Indigenous People’s Day Weekend, 2024, Light on the Hill Retreat Center

Teachers: Christopher Sammond, Cynthia Bourgeault, Rebecca Mays

Elder: Leslie Manning


The relationship between Conscience and Consciousness; more on growing beyond self-referential reality; strengthening the Conscience; entering into the alchemy of suffering/ “the joy of the cross;” more time with small groups and accountability groups

Fifth Residency

“Here I am, Lord” : Friday evening through Sunday lunch

President’s Day Weekend, 2025, Pendle Hill Conference Center

Teachers: Christopher Sammond, Walter Hjelt Sullivan

Elder: Leslie Manning

Listening for next steps; celebrating our time together; small and accountability groups; closure; sending forth

other components

4 Virtual Gatherings

The four virtual gatherings will be on Saturdays roughly mid-way between each of the residencies. These are times to maintain the community through checking in as the large group, meeting in small groups, and an opportunity to share about the readings.


Small Groups 

These groups of 6-7 participants are a forum for exploring how internal blocks, resistances, and old hurts inhibit our “falling into Creator Spirit’s warm embrace” and impede connection to the Root which gives life and power to our worship and witness. The groups give practice at “listening with our whole being,”* listening to each other with our heart, soul, and gut, without falling into the temptations of sharing parallel experiences, imagining giving advice, or otherwise projecting the listener’s own material onto the speaker. Through this process, the group creates a space where those things which impede our fuller connection to the Root can be discovered, named, and transformed. We explore internal resistance, heal old hurts, make conscious old patterns, and through this practice, deepen in self-awareness and our capacity to be present to one another. These groups also serve as a base community within the larger community of the cohort and are a space for integrating some of the experiential learning from the large group sessions during the residencies.

*In poet Denise Levertov’s words

 
Accountability Practice Labs/Groups 
These are made up of three to four participants, and draw from each of the different small groups, to broaden the overall connections in the community.  These groups would meet at each residency, and also at least every two-three weeks between those times.  The group members serve as witnesses to each other’s leadings and experimental learnings as they ask for and follow Inner Guidance.  When asked, group members can provide accountability and reflection/feedback to help a speaker know when and how Spirit’s movement can be felt through their work.  

Tools and Experiences Include:

 

  • Quaker Worship

  • Structured exercises, dyad and triad debriefing

  • Opening our heart and spirit on deeper levels

  • Connecting with the Inner Light, becoming attuned to being with and guided by it.

  • Becoming more aware of what gets in the way of full-bodied, whole-hearted acceptance of co-creating a new life in God

  • Small groups remaining together for the year, with rotating facilitators, modeling different styles and voices in facilitation, teaching group work

  • Surrendering habits of mind and heart that keep us closed off from the Divine

  • Practicing spiritual accountability with a  small group of peers

  • Being real with what is in the room
  • Encountering and befriending our shadow- those individual and collective bits of our rejected and repressed experiences, beliefs, and biases. 

  • Un-numbing the Conscience

  • Individual and communal forgiveness

  • Exploring an ongoing vibrant life of faithfully walking with the Divine

  • Becoming more conscious of our unhealed material, and how we project that onto others, and the world

  • Exploring embodied wisdom and discernment

  • Giving over our own willing

  • Exploring different modes of Spirit-led action

  • Experiment with Light/Accessing Guidance

  • Practicing acting on our leadings

  • Growing beyond self-referential reality

  • Entering into the alchemy of suffering

  • Hands-on energy work for those who want it

  • Play 

  • Free time

  • Structured silence

 

Through this process-oriented program, students gain awareness, skills, and support to live from that interior place where humanity and divinity meet. This surrendered, vibrant living out of deep faithfulness becomes more and more heart-centered, authentic, and grounded in real life. We envision that Friends thus equipped will go out and be seeds of transformation in our Society and in the wider world. The intent of this program is nothing short of furthering the love/power of God in the world.

 

The program may not always feel like a “safe place,” there are certainly going to be times when you feel pushed.  Neuroscience teaches us that we learn best when we are in a place of moderate safety and we have the inner felt sensation of being stretched. We are going to do some things that are fun, and some that are hard, and some that are uncomfortable, and all of them will be life-giving. But we have found these “brave spaces” to be fertile ground for honing open heartedness and increasing the ability to connect with God and others.

 

Sample Daily Program

(This may vary a little between Pendle Hill and Light on the Hill, given their respective schedules.)

7:00-7:30 Optional Quaker worship or other group spiritual practice

7:30-8:00 a.m.Breakfast

8:30 Quaker Worship

9:15- 12:00 Gather for large group experiential learning, using dyads and triads to debrief

12:00-1:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00-3:15 free time, or movement centered spiritual practices (hatha yoga, Qi Gong, and etc.)

3:15-5:45 Small groups of 6-7 persons (times vary on different days)

6:00- 7:00 Dinner

7:15-9:00 Large group experiential learning, using dyads and triads to debrief

9:15 Compline

 

Some Nuts and Bolts:

  • The program is highly experiential.  There will be some required readings, less than 75 pages per month. We will also be sharing lists of written and video resources for each retreat for those who want to delve more deeply.
  • We ask each participant to commit to a daily spiritual practice of their choice.
  • We will gather Thursday evenings for the first four residencies, and Friday afternoon for the fifth residency.  We close after Monday lunch.
  • Rooms at Pendle Hill and Light on the Hill are all singles
  • Pendle Hill is easily accessible by rail. Light on the Hill is accessible from Ithaca and Elmira airports, Pendle Hill from Philadelphia. Carpooling from nearby airports will be encouraged and coordinated by the program.
  • Both retreat centers are fully accessible and can accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets.
  • There are limited funds for childcare, and participants seeking that support would need to work with the program coordinator to make those arrangements.
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