The Hollister Institute at St. Benedict’s 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 Donna Ross at .

Upcoming Programs

Creation through Mystical Eyes

Join us to explore the world of creation through the eyes of Hildegaard of Bingen, John Muir, Teihard de Chardin and Mary Oliver.

Thursdays in September 10 – 11:30


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 (

Recent Programs

A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Bible

June 1, 15, 22, 19, July 6, 13 at 7 pm

(No class on June 8)

Many people feel intimidated by the Bible. They are uncertain how to approach a scared text which has caused so much inspiration, and so much strife. This class provides an overview of the scriptures and offers ways to read them for inspiration and understanding. It will be useful for anyone who wants to know more about the background of this book which has been so influential in our civilization as well as those who want to understand it in order to deepen their faith journey.

June 1:  Overview and ways of reading the Bible

June 8:  No Class

June 15:  The Old Testament – Pentateuch or Torah – the first five books

June 22:  The Old Testament – History and Prophets

June 29:  The Old Testament – Wisdom and Apocalypse

July 6:  The New Testament – Gospels

July 13:  The New Testament  – Epistles

The class will be in a lecture and discussion format. led by the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall

America’s Original Sin, A book discussion

Thursdays at 7pm  March 9, 16, 30 and April 6 (no discussion on March 23)

America’s problem with race has deep roots, with the country’s foundation tied to the near extermination of one race of people and the enslavement of another. Racism is truly our nation’s original sin.

“It’s time we right this unacceptable wrong,” says bestselling author and leading Christian activist Jim Wallis. Fifty years ago, Wallis was driven away from his faith by a white church that considered dealing with racism to be taboo. His participation in the civil rights movement brought him back when he discovered a faith that commands racial justice. Yet as recent tragedies confirm, we continue to suffer from the legacy of racism. The old patterns of white privilege are colliding with the changing demographics of a diverse nation. The church has been slow to respond, and Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week.

In America’s Original Sin, Wallis offers a prophetic and deeply personal call to action in overcoming the racism so ingrained in American society. He speaks candidly to Christians–particularly white Christians–urging them to cross a new bridge toward racial justice and healing.

Whenever divided cultures and gridlocked power structures fail to end systemic sin, faith communities can help lead the way to grassroots change. Probing yet positive, biblically rooted yet highly practical, this book shows people of faith how they can work together to overcome the embedded racism in America, galvanizing a movement to cross the bridge to a multiracial church and a new America.

Led by the Rev. Caroline Hall


The Worshiping Community *
Praying with the God of Becoming and Relationship
Meeting on Thursdays – March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 – from 10–11:45 am

* Inspired by Rabbi Bradley Artson’s “God of Becoming and Relationship”

Why do we pray?
Why do we reflect on Scripture and other sacred texts?
How do we make peace with each other?
How do we share God’s peace with the world around us?

To register for these discussions, and for more information, email


God of Becoming and Relationship

by Rabbi Bradley Artson

January 12, 19, 26 and February 2

Hollister discussions: For several years, people from many faith traditions have been meeting weekly at St.Benedict’s to discuss topics of common interest. All points of view are welcome, expected, and encouraged in these discussions.

Starting January 12, we’ll be discussing a pioneering book on process theology, God of Becoming and Relationship, by Rabbi Bradley Artson. In past Hollister discussions we have touched on ideas from process theology; now we welcome Rabbi Artson’s clear perspective, which adds so much to our understanding. To focus on the nature of God – instead of the differences between Jews and Christians – we’re going to consider Jesus as a rabbi and teacher, along with other rabbis through the ages.

Each week, we’ll prepare for the discussion by reading a few short chapters in Artson’s book. When we meet, we’ll share our own thoughts, reactions, and/or insights from the reading. Again, all points of view are welcome, expected, and encouraged in these Hollister discussions.

Follow the ongoing discussion at

Advent Lectio Divina with Isaiah the Poet

Thursday mornings at 10 am (December 1, 8, 15)

Isaiah was a great prophet; he was also a great poet. This Advent we’ll hear readings from Isaiah, and pair them with readings from modern poets. We hope to listen deeply, and to focus on these questions:

• In light of the poem, what do you hear Isaiah saying? • In light of the prophet, what do you hear the poet saying?

• From what we’ve heard and shared today, what do we believe God is saying to us in our time?

hope to listen deeply, and to focus on these questions:

• In light of the poem, what do you hear Isaiah saying? • In light of the prophet, what do you hear the poet saying?

• From what we’ve heard and shared today, what do we believe God is saying to us in our time?

Led by the Revs. Donna Ross and Barry Turner, and poet Carol McPhee.

Dec 1 Isaiah 2:1-5 and “The Hostages”, by Muriel Rukeyser

Dec 8 Isaiah 11:1-10 and “There was a Child went Forth”, by Walt Whitman

Dec 15 Isaiah 35:1-10 and “Another Planet”, by Dunya Mikhail

bonhoefferBonhoeffer – The Life and Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

October 13 – November 3  1oam

October 11 – November 1, 7:15pm

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship became a modern classic.

Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.

This DVD-based class will consider the major themes of Bonhoeffer’s writing and speaking, his resistance to Nazism and how his beliefs continue to impact the church today.

Thursday October 13: What is the Church?

Thursday October 20: Living in Christian Community

Thursday October 27: Religionless Christianity

Thursday, November 3: Come and Die

The conversation was led by the Rev. Caroline Hall. A study booklet, Bonhoeffer Study Guide: The Life and Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Care for Creation

carecreationClimate change is a wake-up call that we need to transform our attitudes about the planet on which we live if there is to be anything left for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. This five week study group builds on the insights we gained from the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si; bringing together ecological science with Franciscan theology to help us understand new ways of looking at the relationship between humans, God and creation.

Sunday August 28 7pm Film: The Journey of the Universe; From the Big Bang to the epic impact humans have on the planet today, this film is designed to inspire a new and closer relationship with Earth in a period of growing environmental and social crisis.

Tuesday August 30 7pm Creation and Incarnation

Tuesday September 6 7pm Creation as Family

Tuesday September 13 7pm Creation and Contemplation

Tuesday September 20 7pm The View from the Center of the Universe; a film which uses recent advances in astronomy, physics, and cosmology to frame an exciting new way to understand the universe as a whole and our role in it.

Tuesday September 27 7pm Creation and Conversion

The class was taught by Hollister Institute faculty: Rev. Caroline Hall, John Horsley, Joe Morris, Bob Pelfrey, Barry Turner, and will be based on the book Care for Creation by Ilea Delio, Keith Douglas Warner and Pamela Wood. Participants may wish to read the book as a companion to the class.

Embracing an Adult FaithMarcusBorg

Five weeks starting Thursday June 30 at 7pm

Join Caro+ in a small group discussion to revisit some of Christianity’s most fundamental questions: Who is God? What does salvation mean? What place does Jesus hold in contemporary Christian faith? Each session of this five-session class will be introduced by a video of scholar Marcus Borg in dialogue with a small, diverse group of adults as they honestly — and sometimes painfully — confront the big questions and work together toward authentic answers. The video will be followed by our own discussions of the questions raised and questions and ideas of our own. There are no stupid questions and no locked in stone answers.

The five sessions cover God; Jesus; Salvation; Community and Practice

We all struggle with revisiting our ideas about God and the world as our faith matures. This class will be helpful for those who have recently started worshiping at St. Benedict’s as well as those from all backgrounds who would like an opportunity to think more deeply together. Everyone is welcome.

Active Hope

ActiveHopeStarting on Tuesday March 15, Linda Seeley of Mothers for Peace led a Study-Action Group using the book Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone as the cornerstone.

A study-action group allows everyone to participate equally, and it helps people discover their own gifts and resources for healing the world. Active Hope is a great guide to work from. Participants will read 2 (or so) chapters before each meeting, discuss the chapters, and practice the Work that Reconnects together.

The group will meet at St Ben’s for 6 weeks on alternate Tuesdays, beginning March 15th. Meetings will be at 7:15 March 15, 29, April 12, 26, May 10, 24. You don’t have to be at every meeting in order to participate.

You can read more about the book here:  Please contact Linda if you plan to attend,

Linda has been studying with Joanna Macy since 1999, and says, “the Work that Reconnects helps me more than anything else to stay grounded while working in these times of great challenge for the world.”

Here’s a link to the book: and to more information about Joanna and the Work that Reconnects. If you order from Amazon please remember to support St Benedict’s by using our link: Support Us . Thank you

Finding Christ Through Buddha


Four Thursday evenings. April 14 & 28 and May 5 & 12 from 7:00-8:30 pm.

During this four week class we will explore the ways that an understanding of some aspects of Buddhism can enhance our experience of Christian spirituality. Group members will be encouraged to share books, authors and practices that they have found useful. The key text will be “Without Buddha I could not be a Christian” by Paul F. Knitter. Knitter describes his difficulties with Christianity – many of which will seem familiar to Hollister Institute readers, and how his understanding of Buddhist insights helped him to resolve these issues.  Led by Rev Caro+.

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality ThingsHidden

Our discussion of the themes in Things Hidden will be held at St. Benedict’s Church on Thursday mornings in January, and online at

Discussions begin January 14 and conclude March 17.

The author of Things Hidden, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He is the author of numerous books, including Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life and The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Rohr writes,

“The development of consciousness is a gradual, lifelong process; it’s not typically a straightforward jourRichardrohrney. We may catch a glimpse of Divine Reality, but often it’s too much for our small self, and so we recoil until great love, suffering, or contemplative practice help us surrender a bit more.

“We see this dance – three steps forward, two steps back – mirrored in sacred texts. Human authors at different
levels of consciousness portray God in different ways. At times in most religious histories God has been described as violent, exclusive, and judgmental. It’s easy to point the finger at other religions and forget our own religion’s lower levels. For example, despite recent criticism, the Quran is not more violent than the Bible; our scriptures also hold many punitive, dualistic, and exclusionary passages. But also running throughout the world’s sacred texts is the thread of God’s desire for union, inclusivity, non-violence, forgiveness, mercy, and healing.

“At their most mature level, religions cultivate in their followers a deeper union with God, with each other, and with reality–or what is. The work of religion is to re-ligio–re-ligament or reunite what our egos and survival instincts have put asunder, namely a fundamental wholeness at the heart of everything.

“My calling has been to retrieve and re-teach the wisdom that has been lost, ignored, or misunderstood within the Judeo Christian Tradition. Any truth that keeps recurring and gathers humanity’s positive energy is called wisdom and most assuredly has to be from the One Holy Spirit.”

Interested in discussing these ideas and more?

Email to register for the Thursday discussion group and/or to receive notification when new posts go up at

Lectio Divina in Advent

Advent speaks to us about living in God’s Kingdom with a different story about time. It’s a story larger than our own lives, beyond optimism or pessimism. It’s been called a future or an “eschatology of eventfulness.” It is a way of being attentive to our inner lives and at the same time seeing all creation alive, in the rhythm of reality and promise.

Reality is anything that happens at any moment. The change which comes to us moment to moment is a gift. We are invited to receive these moments as events worthy of our loving and a challenge for our living. Accept the moment with thanksgiving and trust the promise that it is a gift from God. It points and carries us into God’s future. Advent reminds us to pray for strength to do what is necessary to fill the present with faithfulness and with genuine waiting for God.

An opportunity for contemplative reflection upon several of the scripture texts appointed for Advent will be offered again this year at St. Benedict’s on Thursday mornings, Dec. 3, 10 and 17 following the first three Sundays of Advent, at 10 am. We will follow the practice of Lectio Divina, the contemplative reading of scripture. The sessions will be jointly led by the Rev. Donna Ross and the Rev. Barry Turner.

laudatoLaudato Si (the Pope’s encyclical on the environment)
Thursdays, August 20 – September 24 at 10 am

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs”. Those are the opening words of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. You’ve heard the media’s take on it. This class is an opportunity for us to go beneath the hype in order to consider what the Pope is saying and how it relates to our own understandings of the challenges facing humanity today. The class will be led by the Rev. Caroline Hall, Bob Pelfrey, Carol McPhee and other members of the Hollister Team.. We will probably take one chapter each week:
• What is happening to our Common Home?
• The Gospel of Creation
• The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
• Integral Ecology
• Lines of Approach and Action
This is an exciting document and the conversation will pick up some of the themes from Johnson’s “Ask the Beasts” and expand into areas of economics and development. It promises to be an exciting conversation. Thursdays at 10am starting August 20 for six weeks.

For more information, contact the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall