Recent Hollister Institute programs
God Speaks in Many Tongues by Joan Chittister, OSB
Each day during Lent, Joan Chittister presents a prayer or reading from a major religious tradition, chooses a line from the text where God spoke to her, and invites you to join her in reflective reading of the text. Why read and reflect with Joan Chittister on the sacred writings of other religious traditions during Lent? Why spend time together with Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Native American, and Christian texts? Why? Because your God can become bigger and you, as well. Because you can find that God speaks in many tongues, glows in many colors and calls to us in many voices. Because you may find new ways to see God and new ways to God. On Tuesday evenings during Lent there will be an opportunity to reflect together on some of the readings. This will continue our current theme of inter-spirituality in the great religious traditions.
Yoga 4 Geezers
Certified yoga instructor June Beck will be offering a weekly class using moderate stretching exercises and modified yoga postures to increase flexibility and build strength. We’ll use folding chairs, stay off the floor, and do what many now call Chair Yoga. A yoga mat is used only to keep the chair from slipping so bring one if you have one. No experience necessary.
Violent Verses in the Bible
On Thursdays in Lent the Rev. Caroline Hall and Lorienne Schwenk will lead a five week class on Violent Verses.
This class offers a rare opportunity to examine the unfamiliar texts of Scripture. These are the texts we don't usually hear in church because of their violence, and yet, they remain a part of the book we call Holy Scripture. How do we deal with the discrepancy between the vindictive God portrayed in some Old Testament stories and the God of love whom Jesus described?
We will also delve into the atonement concepts associated with the meaning of the violent death of Jesus. Why did Jesus die? Who required it? Who benefited from it? How does his death "save" us. Is there something Christians need to believe about Jesus' death in order to be saved?
Is violence a necessary part of Christianity?
God of Love: a Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, by Mirabai Starr
This book discussion group, led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, will explore spiritual aspects of the three Abrahamic traditions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Author Mirabai Starr teaches philosophy and world religion at the University of New Mexico-Taos, but God of Love is no ponderous comparative religion textbook. Covering topics such as “longing for the Beloved” and “Indwelling Presence”, Starr draws from the insights, teaching stories and traditions of all three faiths to enliven and enlighten our own faith journeys.
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr December 2012
In the first half of life, we are naturally and rightly preoccupied with establishing our identity – climbing, achieving, and performing. But those concerns will not serve us as we grow older and begin to embark on a further journey, one that involves challenges, mistakes, loss of control, broader horizons, and necessary suffering that actually shocks us out of our prior comfort zone. In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr – Franciscan priest and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation – offers a new paradigm for understanding one of the most profound of life’s mysteries: how our failings can be the foundation for our ongoing spiritual growth. With rare insight, Rohr takes us on a journey to give us an understanding of how the heartbreaks, disappointments, and first loves of life are actually stepping stones to the spiritual joys that the second half of life has in store for us. Led by Donna Ross and Marianne Stowe.
The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity by Cynthia Bourgeault
Mary Magdalene is one of the most influential symbols in the history of Christianity, but there are only a handful of verses about her in the Bible. How did she become such a compelling saint? Cynthia Bourgeault – Episcopal priest, writer and retreat director – examines the Bible, church tradition, art, legend, and newly discovered texts to look again at Mary Magdalene. Informed by the wisdom of the ages-old Christian contemplative tradition, Bourgeault presents a radical view of Mary Magdalene. She is seen as the disciple Jesus thought best understood his teaching – a teaching characterized by a nondualistic approach to the world and by a deep understanding of the value of the feminine. Bourgeault shows how a new understanding of Mary Magdalene can revitalize contemporary Christianity, helping us see Jesus’s original teachings and then applying them to our modern lives. Led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall.
Dreams and Spirituality
"Dreams and Spirituality" is a 6-week workshop applying Jungian dream theory to the practice of both interpreting and more fully experiencing one's dreams. Since the emphasis of the workshop is on each individual's dream experience, the sessions will deal with dream theory only insofar as concepts about dreams are needed in order to approach any meaningful level of interpretation. The basic Jungian model, for instance, envisions the dream as a natural expression of the psyche, and invites the dreamer to approach dream symbols or narratives in terms of how the symbols or narratives might relate to the individual's inner as well as outer relationships. A key assumption of Jungian dreamwork is that each dream carries "past" personal issues and also suggests how to "move" these issues into a future, more healing stage. Dreams, in other words, are always meant for some form of movement, however slight, towards wholeness.
This workshop will have a particular emphasis on "spirituality" and dreamwork, under the assumption that since wholeness is also God's plan for each individual, dreams can play a vital role in discerning and progressing along one's spiritual path towards alignment with the sacred in daily life.
Since dreamwork as spiritual discipline is a significant theme in contemporary Episcopalian theology, as reflected in the works of John Sanford, Ann Ulanov and best-selling author Robert Johnson, this approach to dreamwork is especially appropriate for St. Benedict's Hollister Institute. All dreams—and all dreamers—are welcome.
Led by Bob Pelfrey
Quest for the Living God, by Elizabeth Johnson
QUEST FOR THE LIVING GOD is for people are interested in questions raised by modern theologians: Why is there so much suffering in our world? Where was God in the Holocaust? Where is God in the world’s suffering today? What is Liberation Theology? Feminist Theology? Black Theology? Latino theology? Are all religions part of God’s plan for the world? Can fresh symbols be found for the reality of the Living God?
QUEST FOR THE LIVING GOD is for people interested in the contributions of women in today’s churches, including the Roman Catholic Church.
And QUEST FOR THE LIVING GOD is for those who, like Elizabeth Johnson, are not afraid to ask questions.
Language is at the heart of the dispute between the bishops and Dr. Johnson. Johnson writes: "All-male images of God are hierarchical images rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, and they function to maintain this arrangement." The bishops write: "The names of God found in the Scriptures are not mere human creations that can be replaced by others that we may find more suitable.” Johnson responds: “There have been times in the past when theology sealed itself off from pressing questions, failing to trust that the substance of Christian faith was up to a confrontation with new ideas. Such a failure of nerve does not plague theology today, which seeks understanding of God at once contemporaneous with culture and resistant to its wrongs.”
Come spend a day discovering and experiencing sources of nourishment – for the body, for the spirit. Lorienne Schwenk and June Beck weave food and movement into a tapestry of inspiration – and satiation!
Lorienne Schwenk, creator of The Singing Kitchen, sees her work as Natural Chef and Nutrition Mentor as an “extension of a lifetime of gardening and cooking.” “Health and our role in it have always been fascination to me,” Lorienne says. She is drawn to how the body deals with causes of disease and the “interplay of nutrition, spiritual well-being, community, environmental factors, and daily life in wellness and wholeness.”June Beck, author of How to Build Your Own Boat, a Spiritual Memoir and Workbook, teaches yoga and English. “It’s not easy being agnostic in a world of believers, especially when I yearn for communion with the divine,” she admits. “I work on resting comfortably in the mystery while consciously living my way. I want others to know that they can rest more comfortably if they consciously create their own way, a way that is more spiritual than religious.”
The Anglican Vision
Christianity After Religion, by Diana Butler Bass
Discussions after Vespers (5:30-6:10) and supper (6:15-7:10)—come to any or all. The book explores the shift churches and other religious institutions are undergoing in the face of declining membership and participation. Here is the author herself on her book: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-peter-m-wallace/a-conversation-with-diana_1_b_1372232.html
The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures, by Nicholas Wade
Why are human beings religious? Nicholas Wade, a science writer for the New York Times, tells an extraordinary story in which we come to see that human morality, community, and religion are actually three strands of the same rope. In a spell-binding and wide-ranging account, this book offers a natural history of religion and convincingly explains why it is here to stay. Both believers and atheists will find something to argue about in Wade's book. Our reading should lead to some fascinating discussions – and it will give us an opportunity to look at both the value and the drawbacks of religious beliefs and behaviors. Discussions led by the Rev. Donna Ross. You may want to read the Faith Matters blog.
Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, by Karl Giberson
Did you know? Almost 100% of scientists accept Darwin’s theory of evolution, but more than 50% of Americans reject it, and the scientific discoveries that confirm it – because they believe it conflicts with their faith. Karl Giberson grew up in an evangelical Christian home but was educated as a scientist, and then taught physics on the college level. As a student of science, Giberson discovered that his fundamentalist belief system couldn’t help him make sense of the world scientists were discovering. Wrestling first with science and then with his faith, Giberson not only came to accept Darwin’s theory but also found a way to remain a committed Christian. Reading Saving Darwin will give us an opportunity to hear Giberson’s personal story, to examine the theory of evolution with the help of a gifted teacher, and to understand why so many Americans still resist the theory for religious reasons. (We may also come to better understand our nation’s current struggles with religion and politics!) Discussions led by the Rev. Donna Ross.
Book discussion on "The Greatest Prayer" by John Dominic Crossan
We are very used to the Lord's Prayer - many of us learned it as children - and so we rarely think about it in detail. Yet we pray it every Sunday. Now foremost scholar John Dominic Crossan presents it in a whole new light. He describes it as "both a revolutionary manifesto and a hymn of hope. It is revolutionary because it presumes and proclaims the radical vision of justice that is at the core of Israel's biblical tradition. It is a hymn because it presumes and produces poetic techniques that are the core of Israel's biblical poetry." He sees this apparently simple prayer as sparking a revolution. In studying this together we have the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the meaning of the prayer thus enabling us to pray it with greater understanding, as well as learning more about the context of Jesus' ministry which will enliven our understanding of all his teaching. Discussions led by led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall.
Smiling at Fear
A thought-provoking video of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's retreat presentation "Smiling at Fear" will be shared in two Hollister Institute sessions on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12, at St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos. The Friday sharing will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Participants are asked to bring brown bag lunches to the Saturday session, to be held from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The video explores a 2009 retreat at the Omega Institute in upstate New York at which the main speaker was Pema Chodron, noted scholar and author of "When Things Fall Apart." Through the practice of meditation, a discussion of powerful teachings from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and question-and-answer sessions, the video investigates the topics of fear and fearlessness. Pema, as she prefers to be called, tells her listeners, "When you learn to smile at your fear, to be with your fear, you become an authentic friend to yourself, and thereby develop confidence."
Taking the Leap: New Reading Group
Starting September 6th, on Tuesday evenings at 7:15, we’ll be studying another book by Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist monk: Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits. According to the publisher: “Pema Chödrön draws on the Buddhist concept of shenpa to help us see how certain habits of mind tend to “hook” us and get us stuck in states of anger, blame, self-hatred, and addiction.” The good news is that once we start to recognize these patterns, they instantly begin to lose their hold on us and we can begin to change our lives for the better. “This path entails uncovering three basic human qualities,” explains Pema. “They are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. Everyone, everywhere, all over the globe, has these qualities and can call on them to help themselves and others.” This book gives us the insights and practices we can immediately put to use in our lives to awaken these essential qualities.
The Great Emergence
A workshop on "The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why" will be presented by the Rev. John Buenz. The workshop is co-sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Deanery and the Hollister Institute. Rev. Buenz is now serving St. Jude the Apostle Church in Cupertino in active retirement following more than 30 years' service including curate at St. Marks, Santa Clara; founding vicar for the Episcopal Church in Almaden in San Jose; rector at St Jude's and dean at the Cathedral St. John, Spokane. Early in that career, Rev. Buenz noticed that North American Christianity was beginning to undergo changes--still evolving--as radical as those of the Protestant Reformation. He is convinced that articulation and work of the Gospel requires attention to the culture in which it is offered--a hallmark of the Episcopal tradition.
Issues in social justice
Three Hollister Institute programs offered in September at St. Benedict's are designed to expand understanding of vital social justice issues: "Health Care for All," a two-part program will begin with a video at 10 a.m. on Thursday, September 1, followed by a discussion from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, September 8. "HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C" will be discussed by representatives from the AIDS Support Network from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 15. "Human Trafficking," a video presentation on the horrors of modern human slavery, will be offered by Call+Response from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 22
Exploring the Aramaic Lord's Prayer
Aramaic is the language that Jesus spoke, one rich with nuance and multiple layers of meaning. In this class, participants will learn the prayer in Aramaic, it's background and symbolism, and use it as the basis for meditation and spiritual growth. This is a fascinating look at this well known prayer which becomes totally transformed when spoken or chanted in the ancient Aramaic language. The workshop is based on the translation of the Lord's Prayer by Neil Douglas Klotz.
The class is taught by Liana Forest, PhD who is a psychological anthropologist and educator. Liana is currently enrolled in the Abwoon Interspiritual Leadership Program (AILP) out of the Shalem Center in Ohio.
Practicing Peace in Times of War
"If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to find that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That's the true practice of peace." -Pema Chodron
Pema Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun with a tremendous gift for communicating spiritual truths and practice. She has been teaching for some time and has published many books. Practicing Peace in Times of War is a very small and short but profound book which provides an excellent introduction to the spiritual practice of peace.
Several members and friends of St Ben's have been touched and transformed through Chodron's teaching. If you would like to gather with others to discuss and practice her ideas, this is for you. On Tuesday June 7 from 7:15-8:30 there will be an introduction to Pema Chodron and then for six weeks starting June 14 we will share our learning from reading Practicing Peace in Times of War, one chapter each week.
This is a study group and members will be asked to read and consider each chapter during the week before the meeting – this is not a good place for those of us who tend to forget all week and then grab the book off the shelf as we run out to the meeting! Everyone is welcome, and bring your friends too!
LEARNING TO LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT
If you are looking for “The Bible” to tell you what to believe, these sessions will not give you many answers. But if you are looking for an experience of God’s Spirit, these meditation sessions may point the way for you. Presentations by Donna Ross, Caroline Hall, Marianne Stowe and Lorienne Schwenk. On May 5 - Finding new ways to listen to Scripture Individual practice session: Lectio Divina Group practice session: Centering Prayer. On May 12 - Understanding the Biblical texts Individual practice session: Breath Prayers Group practice session: Taize and Psalm-singing. On May 19 - Inspired by the Spirit Individual practice session: Ignatian Prayer Group Practice session: Listening for the Spirit. On May 26 - Praying with great Biblical themes Individual practice session: Praying in Color Group practice session: Theological Reflection.
A discussion of The Rule of Benedict by Joan Chittister
January - May 2011
A weekly group studying Joan Chittister’s book The Rule of Benedict: a Spirituality for the 21st Century. Led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, priest-in-charge of St Benedict's.
February 5 - Brigid of Kildare, led by Lorienne Schwenk
March 5 - Evelyn Underhill, co-led by Lorienne Schwenk and the Rev. Caroline Hall
April 2 - Teresa of Avila, led by Marianne Stowe, with music of Spain from the era
May 7 - Julian of Norwich, led by Celeste Pennington
From the so-called dark ages to the recent past, women’s voices about the Divine have been a counterpoint to the patriarchal, hierarchical language of Holy Roman Empire, wars, nation-building, etc. These women call to us now with words of passion, abundance, and poetry that speak to a vibrant relationship with the Holy and the everyday.
A discussion of The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
“Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” (Psalm 128:1-2)
Yes, some days are like that.
And then there are all the other days and circumstances. Human history is chock full with strategies, dogmas, teachings for explaining and dealing away the desolate times.
Richard Rohr says in his lively book The Naked Now, “Until we love and until we suffer, we all try to figure out life and death with our minds, but afterward a Larger Source opens up within us and we ‘think’ and feel quite differently.”
Learning to think and feel differently, the “kenotic” way, the mystical way, the non-dual way takes practice and encouragement. Come to the Hollister Institute book group on Thursdays in March at St. Benedict’s to practice together.
March 3 & 10: Part 1 of the book and the first three Appendices
March 17 & 24: Part 2 and the middle three Appendices
March 31: Part 3 and the last three Appendices
A discussion of Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault
“The Wisdom Jesus” offers a fresh perspective on Jesus’ teachings. The author (the Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest, teacher, and popular retreat leader) writes, “I see Jesus first and foremost as a wisdom teacher, a person who clearly emerges out of – and works within – an ancient tradition called “wisdom” …which is in fact at the headwaters of all the great religious traditions of the world today. The wisdom tradition is concerned with the transformation of the whole human being. Transformation from what to what? Well, for a starter, from our animal instincts and egocentricity into love and compassion; from a judgmental and dualistic worldview into a nondual acceptingness. This was the message that Jesus, apparently out of nowhere, came preaching and teaching, a message that was radical in its own time and remains equally radical today… Have we really yet unlocked the power to deeply understand and follow this Jesus along the radical path he is calling us to?” Intrigued? So are we – the Revs. Brian McHugh and Donna Ross led these discussions on seven Thursday mornings.
Bible Study for the Skeptical: Reading Isaiah as Literature
The Book of Isaiah is one of the most profound theological and literarily expressive works in the Bible. Compiled over a period of about two centuries (the latter half of the 8th to the latter half of the 6th century BCE), the 66 chapters of Isaiah are generally divided by scholars into two or sometimes three major sections. Some passages are well known to us in the libretto of Handel's Messiah.
This four week class will
- consider the circumstances within which Isaiah was written,
- explore its intended audience and probable authorship
- engage with the major themes of the book
- delight in some of the most well-loved passages
If you have ever tried reading the Bible from beginning to end you may have wished for a guide. This class is intended for people of any faith or none who wish to explore the Bible in greater depth. Many people can enjoy reading and learning more about it without necessarily believing it as “Bible Truth.” However “skeptical” (or not) you may be, there is room in this class for you as we approach one book of the Bible in a spirit of open inquiry. Led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, priest-in-charge of St Benedict's.
SUGAR AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING ... Nice?
During the holidays we often find ourselves in situations that are lots of fun, but are not so nice for our diets, waistlines, and overall health. Please join Lorienne Schwenk, Natural Chef and Nutritional Mentor, for a group of classes that will look at Party Food Pitfalls like egg nog, gravy, pie, appetizers with more calories than meals, pie, candy, stuffing, and pie. In these classes, we will look at strategies for healthy choices so you can have fun at all the holiday gatherings and wake up happy the next day, whether you are hosting or visiting. I will also address your questions about food and your health. And, naturally, we will eat. Every class will include snacks and recipes so you won't leave hungry or empty handed. We get to use the brand new St. Benedict's kitchen!
DANCING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF EVE, with Dr. Heather Mendel
What if the story of Eve is wrong? Beneath the literal surface of text, Eve, the quintessential hero and positive feminine archetype for our evolving consciousness awaits our recognition, remembrance and reclamation. Symbolic of the innate curiosity that moves our human adventure forward, Eve can lead the way to hope and healing for the global human family as she reaches for the forbidden fruit once again. Dancing in her footsteps, we joyfully commit to taking the next step in the spiritual expansion of consciousness. The book Dancing In The Footsteps of Eve is a multi-layered odyssey of transition that moves to a feminine beat. It is based on the mystical Four Worlds of Kabbalah— Intuition, Thought, Emotion, and Action, approached by the archetypal Mystic, Student, Dreamer, and Humanitarian within. Their interaction reveals an evolving image of Divinity, constantly present and continually changing, as ancient as Judaism and contemporary as the moment. In a quantum era of multiple possibilities, Heather Mendel offers a timely image of God that speaks to the transformation potential of the present moment. As children of Israel with Eve as our guide, we reach for the radiance of the promised land — our own spirituaal maturity. Are you ready to join the dance? All are welcome for a presentation by Heather Mendel and midrash, discussion, and meditation on Eve. Her book will be available that day for purchase.
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING EPISCOPALIAN, BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK....AND A WHOLE LOT MORE
Why do we use the Book of Common Prayer all the time? What makes the Episcopal Church different from other churches? Do we still send out missionaries? If you’ve ever wondered about these questions or others like them, we have the program for you! This five-week course is offered on Wednesday evenings October and November. Join us for an exploration of Anglican poetry, history, theology and the global communion of which we are part. The course will include quizzes, games and discussions as well as door prizes! This is also a great opportunity to learn about the church for the first time or to refresh your memory. Each evening will be independent of the others so come to as many or as few as you wish. Sessions led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall.
Oct 20: From Pentecost to the 21st century in an hour or less – a whirlwind tour
through Anglican history.
Oct 27: The Book of Common Prayer – bane or blessing?
Nov 3: Anglican poets and writers – a sampler. (You’re invited to bring excerpts from
your favorite Anglican writers).
Nov 10: Thinking theologically or straddling the three-legged stool.
Nov 17: When is polygamy OK? Adventures in Worldwide Communion & Mission.
THE CASE FOR GOD, a Book/Discussion Group: Part 3
“The Case for God” (by Karen Armstrong) guides readers through the history of the world’s major religions, underlining the call to compassion that is shared by all faiths. The last third of Armstrong’s book examines the modern era, looking at 19th and 20th century developments in science, philosophy and theology. Our discussions will focus on modern faith perspectives, including agnosticism and atheism. All points of view are welcome, and it is not necessary to have attended previous sessions to participate. Discussions led by the Rev. Donna Ross.
TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF UPHEAVAL
Every 500 years the church goes through a big upheaval – when there is a conflict and some things are thrown out and others are reclaimed. It has been described as being like a rummage sale! The last one was the Reformation when the Protestant churches began. We're in the middle of one now. This three-week class looks at the last three periods of upheaval and asks what clues, if any, they can give us about what is happening today. Taught by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall.
The Case for God, a Book/Discussion Group: Part 2
THE CASE FOR GOD is the newest book by Karen Armstrong, the author of 19 previous books on the world’s religions. Her latest book discusses the foundations of religion, the origins of the world’s major faiths, and the principles that all the major faiths share. Moving from 30,000 BCE to the present, Armstrong begins by examining the religious yearnings of our remote ancestors, guides us through the foundational history of the world’s major faiths, and then underlines the call to compassion that is shared by all faiths. Led by the Rev. Donna Ross.
The Case for God, a Book/Discussion Group: Part 1
April and May 2010
THE CASE FOR GOD is the newest book by Karen Armstrong, the author of 19 previous books on the world’s religions. Her latest book discusses the foundations of religion, the origins of the world’s major faiths, and the principles that all the major faiths share. Moving from 30,000 BCE to the present, Armstrong begins by examining the religious yearnings of our remote ancestors, guides us through the foundational history of the world’s major faiths, and then underlines the call to compassion that is shared by all faiths. Led by the Revs. Donna Ross and Brian McHugh.
Different Christianities: Part 2
January and February 2010
Picking up where Part 1 leaves off, this three week class will consider the major controversies that have divided Christians through the centuries. Was Jesus really God? Who has the authority to define what it means to be Christian? Are we reconciled to God by what we do or by what we believe? There are some perennial problems in Christian thinking which don't have easy answers. This class will lay the foundations for understanding why there are so many different Christian churches today and why some churches seem to emphasize moral codes and others emphasize God's love. Taught by Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, Priest in Charge of St. Benedict's.
The Holy Way: Quiet Day led by Paula Huston
Is leading a simple life possible in a world of chaos and complexity? Is it possible to live a more peaceful less cluttered kind of life in the 'real world'? Paula Huston has documented her search for a simpler, holier life in her book "The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life". Now she shares it in this special quiet day which will includes group time and time for silent reflection. Paula has published fiction and essays for more than twenty years, as well as several books on the spiritual life. She teaches in the English Department at CalPoly and has a website www.PaulaHuston.com.
Different Christianities: Part 1
This four week class will examine the early roots of Christianity. What was gnosticism? Were metaphysical and mystical teachings suppressed and if so, who did the suppressing? How much can we actually know about the first few centuries of Christian teaching? This class will examine the different ideas held by early Christians, and ask why some came to be seen as heretical and others as orthodox. This investigation can help to to show that there has never been agreement among all those who identify as Christian. Taught by Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, Priest in Charge of St. Benedict's. (This is a repeat of the course taught on Wednesday evenings in October and November 2009.)
Friends on a Spiritual Journey: Reclaiming Our Hearts
October and November 2009
We invite you to join us on a mythical and spiritual journey! Each of us lives a fairy tale. That is, some unconscious myth, some guiding "story", has been at work on us, forming us and even serving up our fates. And until we know that "story" - the myth that lives within us - we may have little grasp of our own value, and little sense of who we are really meant to be. But as we share our stories with others, we can create a circle of friendship that will help us understand ourselves and grow into the persons we are meant to be.
Using Gertrud Mueller Nelson's book, Here All Dwell Free, we'll re-tell two classic fairy tales - The Handless Maiden and Briar Rose. These tales, and Nelson's commentary, give us opportunities to look at our own stories, and then find the healing that brings spiritual growth. The class will be led by Marianne Stowe, M.T.S. and Donna Ross, M.Div.
The Many Different Christianities: Part 1
October and November 2009
This four week class, taught by Rev. Caro Hall, forms the first part of a four part program considering the many different forms Christianity has taken and does take today. Why are there so many different churches? Why do people who call themselves Christians have such different beliefs? (There can be a daytime class if there is enough interest so please let Caro know if you want to come but are not able to come during the evening.) In Part 1, we consider how the early church developed and examine the different ideas of the Christian message which developed in the first few centuries. This was a time of many different groups and ideas who were, in modern terms, quite isolated from each other. Some of them read texts which did not make it into the New Testament as we have it. This class will argue that there never has been only one way of understanding Jesus Christ, his message, life and work.
Parts 2, 3 and 4 will follow in 2010. Part 2 will look at the major schisms that have happened in the history of the church. Part 3 will analyze the major differences between the principle Christian groups today in North America and Part 4 will invite some people from other churches to share the way they think about aspects of Christianity. (Part 1 is being repeated in January 2010.)
A THINKING PERSON'S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE
August and September 2009
A four week course on reading the Bible and understanding how it all fits together, led by Rev. Caro Hall, priest-in-charge of St. Ben's, on four Wednesday evenings.
The classes covered:
August 12, Torah and History
August 19, Prophets, Wisdom and Apocalypse
August 26, Gospels and Acts
September 2, Paul and other Epistles
Participants read one of two books, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg and/or Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong.
WOMEN FOLLOWING JESUS
April and May 2009
Women following Jesus looked at the history of Christian women – Catholic and Protestant – from the Reformation to the present day: women who founded schools for women and girls, served as missionaries to New World colonies, established hospitals and health care systems, and organized to feed, clothe and house the poor. (Teresa of Avila, Dorothy Day and Teresa of Calcutta were only three of these remarkable women.) Our study will conclude with a look at women’s spirituality today, and the ministries opening up to women in the twenty-first century. Led by Donna Ross, Episcopalian, and Marianne Stowe, Roman Catholic.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
Is this written into our constitution? What does it mean? How has it been understood legally and historically? Is it meant to protect the church or the state? Does it mean that churches should not be politically involved?
These questions and many others will be considered in this two session class. On April 15 legal expert Berkeley Johnson and history professor Katharine Murphy will offer their persepctives, and then on April 22 the Rev Caroline Hall will consider the religious implications followed by a thirty minute video which reviews the substance of the debates that took place during the Constitutional conventions and examines the evolution of Christianity in the U.S. reflecting upon the growth of religious diversity as well as trends toward secular humanism.
HUNGRY FOR JUSTICE
March and April 2009
Hungry for Justice is a 6-week guide for Christians who want to build community by praying daily, meeting weekly, and working together to build a more just world. Hungry for Justice comes from Sojourners, a Christian organization based in Washington, DC whose mission is to articulate the Biblical call to social justice.
Book Discussion of The Shack
Best-selling novel The Shack, by William P. Young, poignantly deals with the experience of human loss. It also raises some fascinating ideas about God and about the pain and difficulty in our world. Who is God and why doesn't s/he do something? Led by local psychotherapist Jill Denton.
MYSTICS, MARTYRS, AND MOTHERS
January and February 2009
Women have been relegated to subordinate roles throughout the history of Christianity. However, when we look again at the Christian Scriptures – and at early Christian history – we discover that Jesus had women disciples as well as men, and that women were co-workers with Peter, Paul, and other early church leaders.
The Christian women of the middle ages continued to serve their God and their faith communities in the footsteps of the women who went before them. There were some fascinating women in this era – Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, Clare of Assisi, and Hildegard of Bingen.
Mystics, Martyrs and Mothers is for women and men who want to learn more about these saints and many others. We will also be reading Mary Malone’s book, “Women and Christianity: From 1000 to the Reformation.” Led by the Rev. Donna Ross.
THE ELDERQUEST: DEEPENING THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
Aging has been described as soul making -- a spiritual enterprise. The evening of our lives is the time to transform knowledge into wisdom. It is time for the elder's quest with its distinct set of trials and triumphs that are met by using different tactics and abilities than early adulthood.
The archetype of the elder will guide this exploration through selected folklore, poetry and film. We'll look at how the elder's inner and outer journeys discover new treasures: perspective from pain, passion from purpose, and energy from a sacred partnership with the Divine Within.
This workshop was offered by Berta Parrish, whose background is in Jungian and archetypal psychology. She teaches at Cuesta and is the author of "Wise Woman's Way: A Guide to Growing Older with Purpose and Passion".
MYTH IN WESTERN RELIGIONS
Much of religious talk is mythical; that is, religions tell foundational stories which are not meant to be taken literally but are meant to be taken seriously. We live, however, in a culture that does not have much time for myth, that does not probe for serious meaning. For instance, how do most Jews understand the following concepts: God as creator; the prophets speaking for God; and Israel being the chosen people? How do most Christians understand the narratives of Jesus' birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, and ideas of atonement and the trinity? What do Christians and Jews understand by God as a person, a covenant with God, and an afterlife? Led by Lenny Erickson of St. Peter’s Church, Morro Bay.
October and November 2008
GOD, GAYS, AND FAITH
In the last few years the press has been full of arguments within churches over the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people, especially within the Episcopal Church following the ordination of a gay man as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. In this class we examine how Christians have understood and understand sexuality, especially homosexuality, and why it seems to be so divisive. We look at the relevant Bible passages as well as the experience of people who feel that God calls them to be gay. Why do some chuches say that you're welcome if you're gay but only if you're celibate while others welcome partnered gay people? Why does religion make such a fuss about sexuality? What's the difference between civil marriage and marriage in a church or synagogue? Led by the Rev. Caroline Hall, priest-in-charge of St. Ben's, who is completing a doctorate in this subject area.
September and October 2008
DOES GOD PLAY DICE? Reconciling Evolution and Faith
Presentations on evolutionary theory, the challenges the theory presents for people of faith and the ways in which scientists and theologians have responded to these challenges. Led by three scientists: Ed Himelblau (geneticist), John Horsley (theoretical chemist), and Rob Ross (biochemist). source materials for "Does God Play Dice?"
June and July 2008
MINISTRY TO THE AGED AND/OR THE HOMEBOUND
“I never know what to say.” I’m afraid I’ll say or do the wrong thing.” Sound familiar? Even people who are very comfortable visiting the sick and/or homebound often do not realize that there is a difference between just a social visit and a pastoral contact. Is visiting the sick and/or homebound a Christian obligation, or are we called to do more? Can we actually be instruments of spiritual healing for another? Led by the Rev. Faye Hogan.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WOMEN?
This class is for men and women who want to take a closer look at the New Testament and early Christian history to learn more about Jesus’ women disciples and Paul’s women co-workers, and discuss the issues of equality left unresolved by the early church. Led by the Rev. Donna Ross.