Alumni Quarterly — Fall 2019

Image of 6 team members that create the Alumni Quarterly

Dear Living School Alumni,

The new Alumni Quarterly is here—and this issue takes up addiction, a challenging theme for us all. If you are a recent Living School “sendee,” welcome! And if you are a long-time alum, a hearty hello to you, too. This electronic magazine exists to resource your daily lives at the intersection of action and contemplation, to keep you in touch with one another, and to remind us all that the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation is not done with us yet.

This edition leads us into the complex theme of addiction through multiple avenues: you are invited throughout to encounter paintings, artist Kyle Steed’s Stations of Jonah, as a way of personally engaging with your own “belly of the whale” experiences of suffering and addiction. CAC Core Faculty James Finley guides us, as only he can, in a video reflection on mystical sobriety. I interview neuroscientist Judith (Judy) Grisel (’18) about her recent book Never Enough and her own recovery process.  Kristi Walsh (’19) shares the direct recovery experience of four men she works with at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Tim King (’18) opens our eyes about America’s opioid crisis. Then there’s Ali Kirkpatrick’s (’16) new “Monk in Midlife” column, Debonee Morgan’s (’15) film corner, and more.

The Quarterly is crafted with care in the hopes that you will make a cup of tea, carve out some time, and engage in the type of slow and conscious reading process through which the Universal Christ speaks. May it be so.

Yours in addiction and grace,

Mark Longhurst's signature

Mark Longhurst (’15)

Download the Quarterly in one of these formats:

This issue features:

Editor’s Note
Mark Longhurst

Monk in Midlife (A new column!)
Ali Kirkpatrick

Contemplative Practice

Stations of Jonah, Art by Kyle Steed and Text by CAC staff

Contemplative Teaching

Never Enough—The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction: Audio Interview with Judith Grisel

Mystical Sobriety: Video Teaching by James Finley

Contemplative Community

Broken, Redeemed by Kristi Walsh

Canoeing with God by Lynn Johal

Contemplative Solidarity

What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us by Tim King

Centering Prayer and Prisoners: Video Interview with Ray Leonardini and Dennis McCain

Debonee’s Film Corner

Alumni News

CAC News


Judy Grisel Interview (click here to download or listen below; read the transcript)

James Finley, “Mystical Sobriety” (watch below; read the transcript)

Dennis McCain and Ray Leonardini Interview (watch below; read the transcript)

Guidelines for Submissions to Alumni Quarterly

Alumni Quarterly — Spring 2019

Dear Living School Alumni,

This Quarterly celebrates the recent CAC Conference The Universal Christ while embracing a theme of “Nature: The First Bible.” In the Contemplative Practice section, readers are invited to pray that God does indeed love things by becoming them. Dani Kruetter (’18) offers alumni a chance to engage in visio divina with her nature-based photo essay from Uganda. I interview CAC core faculty Cynthia Bourgeault, who suggests that the question about “Nature: The First Bible” might even be “jury-rigged from the start” by assuming a God who exists separate from nature in the first place. George and Matilda Angus (’18), writing from South Africa, share their artistic process of creating sculptures from rock. Gary Paul Nabhan (’16), a conservation biologist and member of the Ecumenical Order of Franciscans, asks, “What if getting our relationship right with the Earth and all its creatures is . . . as crucial as getting our relations right with our Creator, our family, and our neighbors?” There’s also an inspiring integration project report from Indonesia, a “First Incarnation” inspired song from songwriter Alana Levandoski (’15), and much more.

As usual, I welcome your suggestions and submissions. The theme of the next Quarterly in August will be the challenging topic of addiction. I invite your articles, personal reflections, poems, photographs, and more. Send them to [email protected] by July 8.

Yours in a Christ-soaked universe,

Mark Longhurst's signature

Mark Longhurst (’15)

Download the Quarterly in one of these formats:

This issue features:

Editor’s Note

Contemplative Practice
Visio Divina (art) by Janet McKenzie
God Loves Things by Becoming Them (prayer) from The Universal Christ Liturgies
The Love of Wonder (photo essay) by Dani Kreutter

Contemplative Study
Interview with Cynthia Bourgeault
How Do We Move Things Forward within Institutions that Constrain Us? (video) by Jacqui Lewis at The Universal Christ conference
First Advent (Ex Nihilo) (song) by Alana Levandoski

Contemplative Community
“Can I Have That Rock?” (on streaming The Universal Christ conference) by Liz Walz
Listening by George and Matilda Angus
Being with Animals by Linda Hand

Contemplative Solidarity
Getting the Earthʼs Sacredness Right Every Earth Day by Gary Paul Nabhan
A Xennial Franciscan by Rhett Engelking
Play Structures for Disadvantaged Children by Marc-Andr. von Allmen and Aprile Denise

Deboneeʼs Film Corner
Jim Jarmuschʼs Paterson

The Universal Christ Conference: Alumni Voices

Alumni News

CAC News


Cynthia’s Interview (click here to download or listen below)

Cynthia Bourgeault Interview (Transcript)


First Advent Song (click here to download or listen below)


Jacqui Lewis Workshop unedited transcript


McCain-Leonardini Interview transcript

Alumni Quarterly — March 2019

Dear Living School Alumni,

This month, I’m thrilled to share with you a new format for the Alumni Newsletter. CAC Creative Director Nicholas Kramer and Graphic Designer Izzy Spitz have crafted something special for us, an interactive PDF that we’re calling the Living School Alumni Quarterly. In addition to an updated design, an inviting reading experience, and a navigable style, the contents of the newsletter are now organized around the Living School Rhythm of Life areas: Contemplative Practice, Contemplative Study, Contemplative Community, and Contemplative Solidarity. The Quarterly is an invitation to reflection, prayer, and “quantum-entangled” community. We’re hopeful that this will continue to serve as a significant resource for the alumni community to learn, share, and connect. Jump in, and I hope you enjoy!

Yours in “Yes” to divine presence,

Mark Longhurst (’15)



Download the Quarterly in one of these formats:


This issue features:

Editor’s Note

Contemplative Prayer and Meditation
Killing the Butterfly: Writing and Transformation by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
Introducing Icons to Children by Kathy Hendricks
Ancient Nest (poem) by Leigh Schickendantz

Contemplative Study
Parenthood as a Hermit’s Cell by Dani Walker Kreutter
The Universal Christ interview with Fr. Richard Rohr (scroll below for audio and transcript)

Contemplative Community
Tending the Seed of Community (peer group report) by Kerri Power
Parenthood Contemplated by Kirk Drake
Letting Go by Mike and Emily Schweppe

Contemplative Solidarity
Sacred Journeys and Barmen Today by Susan Stocker and Roy Hoagland
Hope in Focus (photo essay) by Steve Pavey

Debonee’s Film Corner
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse reviewed by Debonee Morgan

Alumni Remembrances of Fr. Thomas Keating

Alumni News

CAC News

The Universal Christ interview with Fr. Richard Rohr (click here to download or listen below)

Unedited Transcript

Reflecting on CONSPIRE 2018

LS Alumni and Students Reflect on CONSPIRE 2018
Mark Longhurst (’15)

CONSPIRE 2018 dared to open a thematic gateway to challenging terrain that few spirituality conferences tread: the path of descent as the path of transformation. As Fr. Richard Rohr said in his conference video invitation, “Failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers. . . . We come to God . . . much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.”

The crucified Jesus may be a universal Christian symbol pointing to a descending path, and yet typically large Christian conferences are not known for their emphasis on suffering, oppression, and grief. Nevertheless, 1,000 pilgrims descended to Hotel Albuquerque in New Mexico for a sold-out conference emphasizing those very themes.

The CONSPIRE program featured riveting keynote talks from writers and teachers such as Richard Rohr, Barbara Holmes, Mirabai Starr, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Brian Mclaren. The conference design also allowed attendees to encounter God through their own experience and embrace descent as a learning method.

Leaders invited participants to descend from the rational mind’s “tower of thought” into the holistic knowing of hearts and bodies. For example, participants walked through Stations of Jonah portrayed in art by Kyle Steed. They joined in chanting, drumming and dancing with a brass marching band. Musicians lifted up African-American musical traditions as embodied inspiration. Interspiritual teacher Mirabai Starr read poetry from Teresa of Ávila, led a Shabbat ritual from her own Jewish tradition, and guided collective meditation practice. Brown Taylor facilitated journaling. McLaren orchestrated a rotation of small group conversations about social justice.

Father Richard Rohr opened the conference with a reflection on “Ascending and Descending Religions.” Rohr spoke of Jesus’ incarnation as the ultimate “descending” movement. As God becomes human, surrendering Spirit into matter, Jesus the Christ is revealed in all reality. Yet the Christ mystery, Rohr pointed out paradoxically, moves seemingly fixed categories of “down” and “up” into one circular flow. “Lower” matter itself yearns for “higher” divinity; Christ “descends” but then affirms the unity of all things. One of Fr. Richard’s asides struck me: a Christian, he said, is one who sees Christ everywhere.

Several alumni and students I surveyed highlighted Barbara Holmes’ presentation as a transformative teaching moment. Holmes incorporated lecture, music, art, and poetry to speak of “crisis contemplation,” when oppressed people encounter God in moments of historical horror and injustice such as the Middle Passage, the Holocaust, and Apartheid. As Holmes puts it, “The word contemplation must press beyond the constraints of religious expectations to reach the potential for spiritual centering in the midst of danger.”

Jonathon Stalls (’17), founder of Walk to Connect, said, “The session where Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes used video, music, and group engagement to bring us into all that moves and rattles inside of and between a contemplative stance and engaged action alongside justice inspired all of my edges.” Living School student and CAC Board Member Phileena Heuertz (’20) said, “Barbara Holmes made a huge impact on me. I’ve never experienced the transformative nature of a public talk like she offered us. And so, the work that she’s doing on rethinking contemplation from oppressed and repressed people groups is really crucial for our times.”

Other alumni identified a common inspiration in Howard Thurman. The witness of the longtime Boston University Chaplain, mystic and mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., wove through the conference through multiple speakers. Brian McLaren used Thurman’s life as an example of one finding depth and freedom in descent. Thurman calls all of us to hearken to “the sound of the genuine” within, McLaren said, referring to Thurman’s 1980 commencement address at Spelman College.

Swami Omkar (’18), who served as a volunteer greeting attendees at the doors, said, “I personally found myself wanting to go back to watch Brian [McLaren’s] session over and over again. I learned a lot from his slides and was especially grateful to have an in-depth introduction to Howard Thurman, especially from a white man who had been so inspired by him.”

The emphasis on Howard Thurman caused Hendree Harrison (’16) to delve into Thurman’s work more thoroughly. Inspired by Thurman’s teaching on the necessity of resisting hatred in the world and in oneself, Harrison said, “I came home from CONSPIRE inspired to drop everything, and love. The world needs extremists in love, and followers of Jesus are perfectly poised for the work.”

For some, the CONSPIRE 2018 experience—whether in person or watching online—provided spiritual renewal in a time of global crises. Susan Funk (’17) said, “In the current political climate we may at times feel discouraged, but Brian [McLaren] encourages us to fortify through our contemplative practice and be spiritually prepared to not throw in the towel.” Daniel Vrooman (’15) watched the conference webcast with other Living School alumni in California. He reflected on CONSPIRE not long after the Kavanaugh-Blasey Ford hearings in the United States and said, “The conference gave me such added meaning to the courageous testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The movement begins when we become ‘soul friends’ to one another on the path of descent, journeying together from cheap certainty to deep faith and connection.”

CONSPIRE 2018 stirred participants toward a broad and compassionate understanding of contemplation. This is not a self-satisfied and individualized contemplation that, as Brian McLaren put it in his social justice workshop, “is a little bit like building your own private, gated community.” Rather, CONSPIRE challenged contemplative practitioners to encounter Christ on the path of descent in the chaos, conflict, and heartbreak of reality. A Christian is one who sees Christ everywhere, then, and especially in liminality, crisis, suffering, and uncertainty.

Book Review: Race and the Cosmos

Book Review
Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently by Barbara Holmes
Byron McMillan (’19)

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. —Machiavelli

Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently by Barbara A. Holmes introduces us to a new order of things by answering the question that most people who have committed their lives to social justice and racial reconciliation have been afraid to ask: Can we overcome racism and become the Beloved Community that Martin Luther King, Jr., helped us envision?

Like many, I began to think the old order of things would never perish. The complexity of the problems is too great and our will to confront racism is too little. However, this book, written sixteen years ago, offers prophetic hope that we can overcome racism through broadening our worldview and creating new language that propels us to construct a new world where everyone belongs. This language will come from physics and cosmology, disciplines revealing a unified, connected universe held together by something akin to love.

Changing the language we have used to construct systems of oppression and domination over people—because of race, gender, class, and many other things—can free us to create new language and construct a new world. Holmes states, “We use language not so much to convey factual information as to construct worlds.” Throughout the book, she makes the re-construction of our world as “a community called beloved” seem possible.

This is a powerful and transformational book that expands and grows in density and importance as you read it. Holmes has introduced us to a new order of things, where racism is overcome, just not utilizing traditional paradigms. The way ahead is to embrace revelations and potentialities from quantum physics and cosmology and synthesize them with the disciplines we have used to create our current dissatisfying world. Infusing theology, law, sociology, psychology, and economics with the unifying and connecting principles discovered in physics and cosmology may usher in that new order. The old order’s human construct of race and its child, racism, will be overcome when we look to the stars and realize through the metaphors, symbols, and analogies of physics and cosmology that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent upon everything else. When we create human systems that are out of sync with the realities of the universe, they will fail.

There is profound significance to this brilliant piece of work which brings forth great distress and angst in my soul. If we begin this transcendent journey it will cause great disruption and profound change. As Machiavelli noted, this is difficult and perilous work with no guarantee of success. It’s the kind of work that gets people hung on crosses and ostracized by powerful institutions, like government and church. Holmes eloquently states that the world isn’t as it seems and we need to change the way we view and talk about it, even if it changes our views on the divine and everything we’ve held sacred. Sixteen years after she wrote Race and the Cosmos, time has proven wildly prophetic.

Enlightenment begins with disillusionment, with seeing things as they really are, admitting that they are not working and then charting a new course. There is much to be disillusioned about the systems that are running our world and creating such division and separation. These concepts are a few that she unpacks: the idea of winners and losers, white supremacy and the cult of whiteness, the failure of Liberation Theology, our persistent equation of light with good and dark with evil, the acceptance of reason/logic and western scientific methods as superior to intuitive indigenous practices for obtaining knowledge.

This is a book about so much more than race. It’s about being human and using our powers to create a world where all things work together for good. It is for all humans who have heard the call to justice and need inspiration for the journey. Holmes ends the book:

Our desire for justice is deeply rooted in systems that are holistic and relational. We have not forced, created, or dreamed this shared destiny; it seems to be the way of the universe.

A new order is possible, and we’re being shown the way.

Alumni Newsletter — November 2018

A Note from the Editor

Dear Living School Alumni,

Most of us, having been “sent” by the Living School, are doing the work of integrating action and contemplation. Fr. Richard Rohr tells us “and” is the most important word in the Center’s name. One way to describe Living School alumni is those who are “sent” to dwell in the ephemeral sweet spot of “and.” Some days we experience this more fully than others. I know I have more days of reactivity and anxiety than I do spacious, heart-centered presence. But it’s the continued quest that makes it real. As our teacher James Finley says, we commit to “assuming the inner stance of letting go that offers the least resistance to grace.” Then, in the midst of our action-contemplation, we encounter grace as utter gift.

Pulsing through this newsletter is a continual expansion of how we conceive and define “contemplation.” Or, to put it another way, each interview or article excavates further meaning from the transformative space of “and.” CAC Customer Service staff member Cliff Berrien speaks of the spiritual practice of customer service and the contemplative depths of drumming. We invite you to watch Barbara Holmes’ teachings for the 2018 symposium (made available only for alumni). Holmes’ work reframes contemplation and action for justice in critical ways; through a lens of cosmology, she sees a unifying way to navigate polarizing racial justice issues. We want to make sure the alumni community has a chance to learn from her.

There’s more, too: Byron McMillan (’19) reviews Holmes’ book Race and the Cosmos. Dennis McCain (’15) interviews Prison Contemplative Fellowship founder Ray Leonardini. I interview several alumni and current students about CONSPIRE 2018, and Sarah Lutterodt (’16) and Kathy Deal (’16) tell us about a recent Washington D.C. alumni retreat.

I pray that this newsletter equips you in some way for your own unique work of becoming incarnate love in our world.

Yours in action-contemplation,

Mark Longhurst


Staff Reflection

Cliff Berrien

Interview with CAC Staff Member Cliff Berrien

Cliff Berrien on CONSPIRE 2018, contemplation and drumming, the impact of Barbara Holmes, and the spiritual practice of customer service. Listen to the interview below or read the transcript.


Alumni Spotlights

Teaching Centering Prayer to the Incarcerated
Dennis McCain (’15) and Ray Leonardini

“I came to realize that the incarcerated, marginalized in every way by society, have their own well-springs of grace. . . . I found that I needed less ‘effort’ and more ‘presence.’ . . . We are ministering to each other.” Dennis McCain (’15) interviews Prison Contemplative Fellowship founder Ray Leonardini.

Read more here…


Report Back from Washington D.C. Alumni Retreat
Sarah Lutterodt (’16) and Kathy Deal (’16)

A group of alumni in the Washington D.C. area planned a retreat with Living School Spiritual Director Carolyn Metzler. They reflect on their time together learning about wilderness spirituality and offer tips for other alumni who wish to plan retreats.

Read more here…


LS Alumni and Students Reflect on CONSPIRE 2018
Mark Longhurst (’15)

CONSPIRE 2018 opened a thematic gateway to challenging terrain that few spirituality conferences tread: the path of descent as the path of transformation. The conference and theme impacted alumni powerfully. As Hendree Harrison (’16) said, “I came home from CONSPIRE inspired to drop everything, and love.”

Read more here…


Book Review
Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently
Review by Byron McMillan (’19)

Race and the Cosmos offers prophetic hope that we can overcome racism through broadening our worldview and creating new language that propels us to construct a new world where everyone belongs.

Read more here…


Alumni News

Alana Levandoski’s (’15) Song “Divine Obedience”

Listen to musician and alumna Alana Levandoski’s song in support of “Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration,” written by Living School students and alumni. Read Barmen Today here.


Passing of Therese Lynch (’18)

With deep sadness we share that alumna Therese Lynch (’18) has passed away into God. This video featuring Therese singing and Alishiya Kapoor (’18) dancing is from the March 2017 intensive and captures Therese’s loving heart. Watch the video of Therese and Alishiya below.

Art at top of message and above “Report Back from Washington D.C. Alumni Retreat” from “Stations of Jonah” (detail) by Kyle Steed

Staff Reflection: Cliff Berrien

Interview with CAC Staff Member Cliff Berrien

Cliff Berrien reflects on CONSPIRE 2018, contemplation and drumming, the impact of Barbara Holmes, and the spiritual practice of customer service. Listen to the interview below and/or read the transcript.


Teaching Centering Prayer to the Incarcerated

Dennis McCain (’15) interviews Prison Contemplative Fellowship founder Ray Leonardini.


Dennis: Tell us how the call to serve in prisons began for you.

Ray: Some time ago I read something by Thomas Merton that stung me. He said, in effect, to nourish a contemplative lifestyle one needed to pursue a “seeming aimless leisure, and a thoughtlessness of time.” From my routine, task-oriented world view, I took it as an invitation to “move out of my comfort zone.” Although I had a contemplative prayer practice at the time, I couldn’t find a prayer group suitable for me. I heard a homilist suggest that one ought to “volunteer at nearby Folsom Prison.” This was indeed outside of my comfort zone. I wasn’t thinking of a Centering Prayer group when I told him to count me in and left it at that. Six or seven months passed, and a Folsom Prison volunteer called and invited me to join a Centering Prayer group at the prison. (He didn’t remember how he got my number.)

Before even going into the prison, my fear emerged along the lines of: How will I connect if I have nothing in common with the inmates? More personally, I wondered if I would inadvertently reveal my own inadequacies as a man. Would I overplay my own personal need for recognition and affirmation and make a fool of myself? What I actually experienced that first night ten years ago, and what I continue to experience nearly each time I go to Folsom and other prisons, was beyond my imagination. I needed to have the prison experience to understand how much I did not understand about contemplative prayer and its astonishing transformative power. I needed to sit and meditate with the incarcerated to discover new depth in this prayer practice. These experiences opened my awareness to the great gift of living a contemplative lifestyle in the world. I’m a different person because of it.


Dennis: How has praying with the incarcerated changed other aspects of your life, your relationships?

Ray: Sometime during my volunteering years, I came to realize that the incarcerated, marginalized in every way by society, have their own well-springs of grace. I was less a channel of ministerial grace and more a convener. They draw topics out of me. They spark ideas in me; I prompt them. As they respond, our deeper selves are allowed out of hiding in a relatively safe environment. We are ministering to each other. It gives me a much more comfortable notion of grace and how grace works in all of us, regardless of race, any or no denominational commitments, and personal development.

In sitting with inmates, I found that I needed less “effort” and more “presence.” I learned this is true, not just with prisoners, but also with my wife, family, and friends. I don’t have to earn this presence by “efforting” some state of mind. It is just there waiting for me.


Dennis: What have you discovered, or what insight was revealed to you, about yourself that you may not have had if you did not respond to this call?

Ray: I discovered that the more transparent I become in describing my inner spiritual experience, the more prisoners respond. It’s as if my deepest secret longings are not unique to me, or unique at all. These subtle interior wounds are no different from prisoners’ own deepest longings. My sense of abandonment, estrangement from God, aloneness in the universe matches theirs. What started as self-revealing disclosures ends in a community of relationships that I never expected.


Dennis: How do you deal with what those of us on the outside would imagine as the extreme negativity and oppression of prison life?

Ray: If you mean the negativity of prisoners, I don’t experience their negativity as any different than my own. Without exception I am always aware of the depth of gratitude they have for our coming into the prison. If you are referring to the brutalizing and arbitrary nature of prison life, I often am horrified by the routine depersonalization of inmates. The dehumanizing atmosphere is in the air they breathe. Yet, more astounding still is the common non-violent strategies that prisoners adapt to mitigate the brutalization. I learn a lot from them.


About Ray and Dennis:

Ray Leonardini has taught Centering Prayer in prisons for over ten years and is the Founder and Executive Director of Prison Contemplative Fellowship (PCF), a community of prisoners, former prisoners, prison Chaplains, and volunteers who practice Centering Prayer. PCF sends contemplative books and materials to prisoners and volunteers in over 700 prisons around the country.

Dennis McCain, a member of the 2015 LS cohort, lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife of almost forty years. After his retirement in 2010, he taught centering prayer in Texas prisons for over five years. He continues his ministry by helping men gain parole and providing necessary resources once they are released from prison. Ray has been a valued friend and mentor throughout the entire experience. For further information, please contact Dennis McCain at [email protected].

Alumni Retreat with Sarah Lutterodt and Kathy Deal

Report Back from Washington D.C. Alumni Retreat
Sarah Lutterodt (’16) and Kathy Deal (’16)

Desirous of spending extended time together when we could immerse ourselves more deeply in the spirit of the Living School, the DC-MD-VA group of Living School alumni and students decided to plan a weekend retreat in July 2018. Five group members volunteered to serve as an organizing committee and began a nine-month planning process. Each committee member assumed responsibility for one aspect of the retreat, e.g., finances, communications with the retreat center, liaison to the retreat leader, communications with participants. Critical first steps were selecting a retreat location, deciding on a date, and finding a retreat leader.

The venue we chose, Dayspring Retreat Center, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is surrounded by woods and meadow. A large comfortable meeting room and light-filled dining room offered pleasant places to gather. Dayspring has a capacity of 18. This size initially seemed somewhat restrictive. However, after advertising the retreat to LS alumni, particularly those on the East Coast, we ended up with exactly enough participants to fill the space.

Key to our decision to move forward was securing the services of Carolyn Metzler as retreat leader. We knew that she would be an authentic voice for the mystical teachings of the Living School. We would be in good hands. Carolyn led the way in preparing the program with input from the committee.

In terms of our schedule, time was spent between Carolyn’s presentations, Circle Groups, unscheduled time, and worship, providing opportunities for in-depth sharing as well as personal prayer and reflection. The woods and trails of the retreat center provided an oasis of calm that was well-suited to Carolyn’s theme of wilderness spirituality. Two participants introduced the practice of ‘Energy Medicine’ which we all enjoyed.  In addition, during one early evening session we shared favorite poems. We broke silence for evening meals, which allowed us time to share laughter and good news, voice hopes for the future, offer one another support, and simply enjoy being together.

Alumni retreat with Carolyn

Connecting with each other emotionally and spiritually was a very important part of the retreat. Spending several days with others who spoke the same language and shared freely felt like “coming home.” In written evaluations of the retreat, participants mentioned the importance of experiencing a sense of community that left them renewed, refreshed, and re-committed to living out the teachings of the Living School in their lives. Some expressed a desire for more silence, highlighting the delicate balance to be found between time for conversation and connection and time for silence.

Carolyn’s presentations on wilderness spirituality were a crucial factor in the richness of the retreat. She invited us into a wilderness experience through sharing personal narratives, describing stages of wilderness we could apply to our lives, and posing penetrating questions for reflection. She challenged us to go deeper in exploring the meaning of wilderness in our lives, introduced us to new practices, and led us in prayer. She encouraged us to use the wilderness experiences in our lives as a unique opportunity to develop an authentic inner sense of our own authority.

Nourishing body and soul, renewing old connections and making new ones, feeling confirmed in how the teachings of the Living School continue to influence our lives, inspired to go forward—these were some of the blessings and gifts of this retreat.

This article was written by Sarah Lutterodt ’16 and Kathy Deal ’16 with thanks to Barbara Vellmerk-Halpern, Kevin Bliss, and Carrie Briggs-Adams, members of the organizing committee. 

About Sarah and Kathy: Since her retirement, Sarah Lutterodt (’16) spends several months each year in Ghana where she immerses herself in the life of the country and, with her husband, sponsors small businesses in the northern part of Ghana. Kathy Deal (’16) recently completed the Stillpoint Art of Spiritual Direction Formation and Training Program at Ghost Ranch; she teaches a class for women in a local jail on emotional and spiritual growth.

Image credit: “Stations of Jonah” (detail), Kyle Steed.

Alumni Newsletter — August 2018

A Note from the Editor

Dear Living School Alumni,

If you’re at all like me, the injustices of the world are weighing on you significantly these days. From global climate change to the scapegoating of immigrants in America, the times we are living are breaking hearts and bodies. What does it look like to pray and act during a time of moral crisis with a contemplative consciousness? I feel compelled to pray more than ever, and yet the limitations of prayer prick my conscience. Our global moment yearns for people who live their prayer at the cutting edge of action and contemplation. As Father Rohr has taught us, the most important word in the CAC’s name is “and.”

This newsletter contains examples of people searching for that faith-filled nexus of action and contemplation. I interview CAC’s Executive Director Michael Poffenberger, who describes how the CAC is laying groundwork for a courageous vision of new spiritual reformation, all while committing to embody diversity, equity, and inclusion. Core Faculty James Finley tells us liberating yet challenging truth that the suffering of our days and lives contains God’s loving depths. As he puts it, “there’s no refuge from suffering, but suffering has no refuge from the deathless love that permeates suffering unexplainably, all pervasively, and in all directions.”

A black and white photo of Mark LonghurstLaura Snyder Brown ’16 reflects on contemplation, racial justice and her city of Charlottesville a year after a rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis turned deadly. I also interview a pioneering practitioner of prayer and action named Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove. Jonathan is the author of the recent Reconstructing the Gospel, and is a leading activist working with Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign. He points a way forward in particular for white Christians who feel called to join God’s movement of love and justice.

May the apostle Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians be that of ours, too: “We are pressed on all sides but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair. “

Your in suffering, yours in love,

Mark Longhurst (’15)


Leadership Spotlight

CAC Executive Director, Michael Poffenberger

Interview with CAC Executive Director

Michael Poffenberger talks with Mark Longhurst about what led him to the CAC, its future and vision, its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and what it’s like to work day-to-day with Fr. Richard Rohr. Listen to the interview below or read the transcript.


Faculty Reflection

Finding Peace in a Troubled World

James Finley reflects on how the mystics can help us keep from growing cynical during disheartening times. Watch the video below or read the transcript.


Alumni Spotlights

Beyond Us vs Them in Charlottesville
Laura Snyder Brown (’16)

“It is my hope that, in the work for racial justice, we will all cooperate deeply with God…” Laura Snyder Brown (’16) writes about her city, racial justice, and contemplation a year after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Prayer, Action, and Unlearning Racism

“There is a still point in the turning world, and we practice contemplation as we ground ourselves in that place, not apart from action, but in the center of it… Read Mark’s interview with speaker, writer, and activist Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

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Our Worldwide Zoom Community
Sara Harris (’15)

We are less sendees of the Living School in any formal sense, and more a far-flung group who remind each other that we are not alone on this path.

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Update from Akron Catholic Worker
Mary Beora O’Connor (’16)

Catholic Worker Akron provides tremendous emotional and practical support to immigrants during the ongoing stress, injustice, and complexity of current national policy.

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