Welcome to the Hollister Institute

The Hollister Institute provides opportunities for stimulating discussion and thoughtful exploration for everyone, whether or not they are members of a church.  Courses are offered at St. Benedict’s Church in Los Osos.  For more information about Hollister courses, contact Lorienne Schwenk at singingkitchen@gmail.com.

Fall 2014 Programs

Second Saturdays
Saturdays, starting at 9:30: Oct 11, Nov 8, and Dec 13

Take some time out for quiet reflection and re-connection with your soul and the divine presence. On three Saturday mornings this fall St Benedict’s will provide an opportunity to delve deeper.

Saturday October 11, 9:30 – 11:30: First Steps in Meditation.

Nita Kenyon, a former member of St. Benedict’s is now a ministry intern at the Awakenings Interfaith Spiritual Community in Morro Bay. Nita will be teaching meditation for the complete beginners as well as for those who have dabbled but need a refresher.

Saturday November 8, 9:30 – 12: Journeying with Julian

Mother Julian of Norwich has been called ‘radically optimistic,’ and is perhaps best known for her comforting saying “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”  

Julian is often considered one of the most important of Christian mystics. At the age of thirty she became extremely ill and as she lay, apparently dying, Julian received sixteen visions. She recovered and devoted her life to a deeper understanding of these mysteries. Many years later she described not only the visions or “showings” but also the spiritual understandings she had gained from them. Published in 1395, her work, Revelations of Divine Love, is the first published book in the English language to be written by a woman.

Well-known in her own day, Julian’s insights remain remarkably pertinent today and have inspired many people to find a deeper peace and purpose for their lives.

Join St. Ben's spiritual director Celeste Pennington for a morning of quiet reflection on Julian’s “showings” and the understandings they give us of the mystical vision.

Saturday December 13, 9:30 -12:30: A Morning of Art, Poetry and Meditation

As the Christmas holiday approaches it is easy to get caught up in all the preparations and lose touch with the spiritual significance of the season.

This Quiet Morning provides an opportunity to re-connect with the deeper aspects of life and to prepare inwardly for the celebrations to come. Using poetry and meditative silence as a way to access a deeper level of connection with the divine and with their spiritual paths, participants will be encouraged to explore the yearnings of their souls through art, journaling or contemplative silence.  

The workshop will be led by the Rev. Caroline Hall, rector of St Benedict’s, and Bob Pelfrey, Art Professor Emeritus of Cuesta College. Materials will be provided and no previous experience is necessary.

Listening to the Word: The Prophet Isaiah Speaks to His World and Ours Thursdays, 10 am, Dec 4, 11, 18

scripture llighted by candle

On these three Thursday mornings, we will 'listen' - that is, open our hearts - to readings from the prophet Isaiah.  ‘Listening to the Word’ offers a meditative process for understanding the Scriptures: lectio divina, or 'holy listening', in a group setting.  First as individuals, and then together as a group, we will 'listen' to the Word - in the reading and in our own hearts - and then share what we are hearing.   Everyone is welcomed to these discussions - men and women, Christians and non-Christians.

Sessions led by the Rev. Donna Ross. Contact Donna ( donnaross@charter.net ) for further information and to pre-register.

Winter 2015 Programs

Embracing an Alternative Orthodoxy:
Richard Rohr on the Legacy of St Francis
Tuesdays at 7:15 pm, starting January 13

(This program was offered in October-November 2014 on Thursday mornings.)

Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher, the author of numerous books, and a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province, and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque.

In this series Richard Rohr introduces us to what he calls “an alternative orthodoxy,” lost to much of contemporary Christianity.  A provocative teacher, Rohr can help us glimpse new perspectives for faith and practice in the Christian community in our emerging global context.  He chooses five basic areas with which to investigate an alternative orthodoxy that he describes as rooted in Franciscan theology and practice, biblically grounded, personally challenging and ultimately liberating.  Through engaging video segments and the use of the Participant’s Workbook as a guide, we’ll embark on an exploration of faith that is simultaneously ancient and modern.

The topics for these five weeks are planned as follows:

Jan 13: Session 1 – Atonement Theology
800 years ago, Franciscans had a minority view of the atonement that was never deemed heretical by the Church of the time.  The majority view, largely inherited by Protestantism, is based on language and metaphors inherited from the Jewish tradition about sacrifice.  It is summed up in the popular phrase, “Jesus died for my sins.”   The import is that the death of Jesus is a transaction, ransom, or satisfaction to satisfy God’s righteousness.  The 13th century Franciscan theologian, John Duns Scotus introduced the minority view: “Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity, but to change the mind of humanity about God.”  Atonement is a unity to be named.  Jesus is not God’s Plan B to mop up a fallen human race.  Jesus is God’s Plan A, the image of the invisible God for all eternity.

Jan 20: Session 2 – Eco-Spirituality
Christianity is the only religion that concretely believes the Divine took on human flesh.  But much of our history has been more about “ex-carnation” than “in-carnation,” how to get out of this world than to live in it.  We have considered Incarnation in only a very narrow sense.  Now we are paying the price for this with the huge dying off of species and the pollution of the Earth.  We’ve misinterpreted the scriptural tradition that says God cares about a new heaven and a new earth.  Instead we’ve emphasized an individualism that says God cares about “just us” and not very many of us actually.  Yet, we cannot give up on religion that grants inherent sacrality, holiness, goodness, value and worthiness to the material world and no religion does that better in theory than Christianity.

Jan 27: Session 3 – The Cosmic Christ
Christian views of Jesus Christ have missed the difference between the two names, “Jesus” and “Christ.”  To use the two names together should bring us to the “non-dual” essence of Christian faith, the Divine and the human joined together.  For 2000 years we’ve fallen in love with the person of Jesus, the personal incarnation of the Christ mystery.  Franciscan John Duns Scotus draws our attention to overlooked biblical passages that speak of Christ as the first idea in the mind of God.  That is to say, that the Christ mystery has been available since creation.  We may speak in the language of contemporary cosmology to say that the first incarnation of the Christ mystery was the Big Bang, 13.6 billion years ago.  If we don’t balance out our views of “Jesus” with “the Christ,” our theology is going to become a very limited world view in competition with other world religions.

Feb 3: Session 4 – Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy
It is ironic that the very religion that believes the Word became flesh, has put so much credence in words and right belief.  Most especially, Western Christian theology has been about clarifying ideas.  This session is about a return to Jesus’ emphasis on a lively practice.  St. Francis, the most popular saint of all time founded his order as “mendicants,” living among the people and taking Jesus’ directions to his disciples seriously.  Francis put his entire emphasis on how you live.  You can live yourself into a new way of thinking,…but you cannot think yourself into a new way of living.  Christians have largely followed the human history of tribalism up to modern times and turned much of faith into belonging and belief systems.  We must move instead to a practice based religion as the emerging global spirituality is making practice essential.  People don’t believe you unless you’ve done it.

Feb 10: Session 5 – Mysticism Over Moralism
People initially attracted to religion often are interested in social order, about laws that can tell me what I should do or not do.  The Ego needs this to create a moral buttress for ourselves in the first half of life.  Yet, the saints all say that religion is not to make us perfect, but to bring us into unity with God.  Pursuit of perfection drives us back to individualism.  What undoes this legal based moralism is a moment of “unitive consciousness,” a moment of grace, a moment of unearned love or forgiveness.  Only this will break down the “quid quo pro” world of morality and move to a level of consciousness where the soul can overtake the ego.  Unless you come to the mystical level of consciousness, an experience of God, you will obsess about moralism.  Most people have these kind of God experiences but there is no one to tell them they just had it, like the moment of enjoying that wild flower and feeling the joy in your heart. That’s it!

Each 30 minute program in this series features a presentation of Fr. Richard Rohr and interaction on site with a small group of adults.  Our own group discussion will follow the format of the Participant Workbook containing all the material needed by class participants.  The Participant’s Workbook, entitled Embracing an Alternative Orthodoxy is available from Cokesbury.com for $18.52 which includes tax and shipping.  Or, we can make bulk orders for $13 per person with preregistration by or before Dec 28

Sessions led by the Rev. Barry Turner. Contact Barry at carltonba@gmail.com and mail checks for the workbook (made out to Barry Turner) to 891 Vista del Brisa, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405.

Continuing Programs

Dream/Spirituality Group
first and third Thursdays, 7:00-8:30 pm

St. Ben's Drop-in Dream Group meets every first and third Thursday at St. Benedict's. The format is similar to twelve-step meetings: confidentiality is required regarding any dreams shared with the group, and sharing is not required (everyone supports by their presence). The group is "open" to newcomers but there is no commitment to attend on a regular basis. There are no instructional or workshop-related activities unless noted in advance. The interpretative assumptions and language are Jungian (see Robert Johnson's Inner Work).

Anyone who would like to be notified of future meetings should send an email address to Bob Pelfrey (bobpelfrey@charter.net).

For those interested in a year-long study

see the Education for Ministry program