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2021 Year in Review

Me/Us/The World: Living Inside God’s Great Story

2021 Conspire Welcome Video

Welcome

We believe the task of nurturing contemplative consciousness in the world is more important than ever before. In this time of global change, our religious institutions can feel increasingly out of sync with the needs of the world. But grounding ourselves in a larger story of faith, hope and love can give us the courage to do the necessary work of action and contemplation.

We need a new way of being in the world together — one that embodies the reality that all life is sacred, precious, and connected. This spirit animated Father Richard’s founding vision for the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) 35 years ago, and it is the driving force for our mission today: to introduce Christian contemplative wisdom and practices that support transformation and inspire loving action.

This 2021 Year in Review offers stories and highlights from each CAC program area and an overview of our financial and operational stewardship. Me / Us / The World  — the theme of our final CONSPIRE conference — is the inspiration for this report.  We hope it invites you to explore the individual and collective stories woven in the fabric of God’s Great Story. Thank you so much for being on this journey with us.

2021 Year in Review Conversation with Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director and Ben Keesey, Development Director

A Time of Growth and Change

For the past three years, the leadership of the CAC in conjunction with its board and faculty, have worked closely with Father Richard to discern a plan for CAC that extends beyond his own ministry and lifetime. Together, we have documented the key themes of his theology, the foundations of his teaching methodology, and the operating values that support CAC’s mission and vision. In the video above, our Executive Director Michael Poffenberger talks with our Development Director Ben Keesey about this significant opportunity and the future planning process we are engaged in.

“As I happily enter my final years, we realize it is our responsibility to offer something more solid, broader, and beyond Richard Rohr—an organization that does not depend on me at all for its credibility. We have been moving in this direction for some years now. We are sincerely asking, “How can the CAC continue to be of service, building on what God has already done with us, and offer something of further value that has authority and believability on its own?”

– Father Richard RoHR

CAC Programs

Each of our six core programs is designed to help people discover contemplative wisdom and practices that are easy to understand and apply to their everyday life.

2021 Year in Review Conversation with Tisha Ford, Managing Director of Production and Outreach and Ben Keesey, Development Director

Daily Meditations

The Daily Meditations are email reflections featuring Richard Rohr and the CAC faculty, as well as guest teachers and authors, reflecting on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

In 2021, the Daily Meditations team shared 365 days of spiritual wisdom with our global community of more than 414,000 readers. Our theme of the year, “A Time of Unveiling,” provided an opportunity to encourage people to find their hope in God’s unfolding story of love, even amidst times of disruption. We also “unveiled” the team behind the DMs, to show readers that many hearts and hands go into creating these Daily Meditations. Three of the year’s most-read meditations, below, were read in combined email and web formats by over 515,000 people and covered Father Richard’s “Cosmic Egg” teaching and CAC faculty Brian McLaren’s work on overcoming biases.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, California—San Francisco Bay Area (detail), 1972, photograph, public domain. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/544731

The Contemplative’s Call to Nature

Monastic tradition has its roots in a call to be in intimate connection with nature. The monk’s path was birthed in the forests and deserts, the places of wilderness and other wild edges that reflect an inner reality as well.

My Story

The modern and postmodern world is the first period of history where a large number of people have been allowed to take their private lives and identities seriously.

Image credit: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. ca. 1953–ca. 1978, Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. Two long lines of some of the buses used to transport marchers to Washington (detail), photograph, public domain.

Recognizing Our Biases

People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion.

“As a woman of 64 years, I feel as if my heart is opening more and more as I am opened to the deeper wisdom from within that is lovingly supported by a God of infinite love that I now know exists rather than the punitive one I was introduced to in my very early years. I appreciate the broader invitation to read other authors and to explore many mystics. Such beautiful openness is such a gift in my life and daily journey.”

– Carrie, Daily Meditations Subscriber

Podcasts

Each CAC podcast is a series of intentional audio conversations hosted by a member of the CAC faculty and is designed to be accessible to the next generation of listeners worldwide.

We expanded our offerings on the podcast network in 2021 by adding two new shows to our existing lineup. The Cosmic We with CAC core faculty Dr. Barbara Holmes, explores our shared cosmic origins through a cultural lens that fuses science, mysticism, spirituality, and the creative arts. Also, Love Period with Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis explores the transformative potential and urgent need for radical love in our times. Together, these shows explore our cosmic interconnectedness and how love is at the center of it all. After five seasons of unpacking The Universal Christ, Richard, Brie, and Paul began the year by bringing Another Name for Every Thing with Richard Rohr to a close. James Finley and Kirsten Oates continued their journey through the mystics with two seasons devoted to St. John of the Cross and Guigo II. Brian McLaren, joined by our Living School and Program Design team members, expanded on his work on transforming our personal biases in Learning How to See.

Altogether, our podcasts received just over 3.5M downloads from people across 202 countries and territories worldwide. Click the podcasts below to listen to our favorite episodes from 2021:

The Cosmic We

Ritual Journeys Through Grief and Joy with Dr. Walter Earl Fluker

Season 1, Episode 5 of The Cosmic We

On this episode, Dr. Walter Earl Fluker joins Dr. Barbara Holmes and Dr. Donny Bryant in conversation for this episode of The Cosmic We.

Love Yourself Unconditionally with Wajahat Ali

Season 2, Episode 1 of Love Period

In this conversation, Wajahat explains what loving himself unconditionally has meant to him, and how he was able to pass that on to his children.

Learning How To See—A Podcast featuring Brian McLaren

The Big Ditch

Season 2, Episode 1 of Learning How to See

On this introductory episode for Season 2 of Learning How to See, Brian, Gigi, Mike and Paul review the biases and talk about two biases that set the stage for all the others: confirmation bias and complexity bias.

Turning to the Mystics with James Finley.

Turning to Guigo II

Season 4, Episode 1 of Turning to the Mystics

In this episode, Kirsten Oates and James Finley are turning to Carthusian monk Guigo II to discover the roots of contemplative practice with Guigo’s work on The Ladder of Monks.

Thank you so much for these podcasts which have changed my life, deepening my relationship with God and people around me! I was really moved, and my heart was enlarged when I heard Jim saying that God protects you from nothing but sustains you in all things.”

– Giovanna, Podcast Listener

Online Education

In 2021, the Online Education team offered in-depth opportunities for personal transformation to CAC’s audience. Created in tandem with our CAC core faculty, our online courses provide participants the opportunity to enter deeper into the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

In 2021, 7,975 people participated in our courses. To remove a price barrier to access these courses, over $141,000 in scholarships were awarded to participants through a simple application process.  Through the generosity of our donors, these scholarships allowed those who could not pay the full course price the opportunity to discover the wisdom of the Christian contemplative traditions.

“How many years have I intended to send a message of great gratitude?  So today I am going to finish this and send it, although it could never be enough to let you know how much your ability to communicate the Mystics has blessed me!”

– Heather, writing to Jim Finley

Publications

In 202I, CAC Publishing released Every Thing is Sacred with Richard Rohr and Patrick Boland, a companion guide to The Universal Christ that invites readers to engage with the book’s themes through spiritual practice.

We also released the new book by CAC core faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village. This important work examines two entry points into contemplation that are seldom considered: crisis and community. Crisis Contemplation explores the village response that arises from our individual and communal experience of crises like pandemics, natural disasters, and systemic abuses—offering a roadmap for spiritual connection, healing trauma, and grounding ourselves in our shared cosmic origins.

Additionally, a new tenth anniversary edition of Breathing Under Water as well as a companion journal, were released by Franciscan Media (FM).

Established in 2013, ONEING is the biannual journal of the Center for Action and Contemplation. Renowned for its diverse and deep exploration of mysticism and culture, ONEING is grounded in Richard Rohr’s teachings and wisdom lineage. The two issues from 2021, ONEING: Trauma and ONEING: The Cosmic Egg, featured a themed collection of thoughtfully curated essays and critical perspectives from spiritual teachers, activists, modern mystics, and prophets of all religions.

The Mendicant, CAC’s quarterly donor newsletter, was released to approximately 45,000 recipients and included articles focused on organizational values, strategies, and developing CAC’s financial philosophy.

“Thank you for opening my world to a richer, fuller gospel. As a white, British ex-evangelical, emerging ex-homophobic, ‘realising my normal is privileged’ Christian I have learned so much from the many gracious voices. Thank you so much, I am richer for listening to these precious people. God bless you and your work.”

– Charmaine, CAC

Events

Me / Us / The World — the theme of our final CONSPIRE conference—invited us to explore the individual and collective stories woven in the fabric of God’s Great Story. Over three sacred days, five thousand participants from dozens of countries participated in CAC’s first-ever interactive virtual conference.

The conference featured teaching and wisdom from the emerging Christian contemplative movement and alternative orthodoxy. The theme “Living Inside God’s Great Story” was a journey of expansion, widening the stories inside us to include more love and forgiveness—much-needed healing for ourselves and the world.

Conspirare. Breathe with us.

We Conspire is a new monthly email from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement and alternative orthodoxy.

Join spiritual seekers from around the world on a journey of transformation and discover your place in the Great Story Line that connects us all in the One Great Life.

“Many axial moments occurred during the Conspire conference, and many have occurred since.  As I ponder God presencing itself in infinite love in me, I am filled with a sense of being enough, and I feel less need to strive. My heart is learning to not skip over the deep and often painful places where God is at work, allowing my hurt to be dissolved by love.”

– Tony, Conspire Participant

The Living School for Action and Contemplation

The Living School, CAC’s signature two-year formation program, continued to move forward and support nearly 350 currently enrolled students despite all the COVID-related challenges in 2021. The transition to virtual teaching for both the Living School intensives as well as the annual Symposium was an invitation to creatively adapt and learn about how best to foster connection and spiritual integration in this new format. The school continues to benefit immensely from incorporating CAC core faculty Dr. Barbara Holmes and Brian McLaren in the program curriculum, a significant priority since they joined as core teachers.

Last year we paused Living School applications to develop and expand the program in several key areas, including updating the curriculum, upgrading our processes, and developing ways to deepen engagement and expand what is possible at the Living School. So far, this work has been very exciting, and progress continues. Applications for the newest cohort of students will reopen once that process is complete.

“When the world becomes topsy-turvy, I recall Richard Rohr’s lessons to contemplate and to serve with a glad heart. To have empathy, to walk with those society has marginalized. That is the gospel, to share my acceptance and love, my true self. For our soul is found in service in relationships, in community based on love.”

– Kristin, student reflection

Digital Products

In 2015, CAC adopted an ambitious Digital Product Team model and approach to our technology to ensure we’d have the technical backbone needed to do our work well and deliver on our mission effectively all around the world. To share our programs at scale requires a complex and connected set of digital tools and technology systems made up of three core elements: Web, CRM (Salesforce), and traditional IT. Our Digital Products team made impressive strides in 2021 by continuing to create elegant, efficient, and effective technology solutions that help us deliver on our mission.

Learn more about this team in the video below.

2021 Year in Review Conversation with Ananda Robie, Managing Director of Digital Product and Ben Keesey, Development Director

“I no longer feel comfortable in my church and no longer participate, as have many others. But God took care of me, and sent me Fr. Rohr and CAC, in the form of the Daily Meditation. As I struggled with the loss of fellowship and service, I found a new ‘home’. I found the Franciscan way. And so much more.”

– Kathy S.

Financials

What We Believe About Money

CAC completed a complex process that codifies our relationship with money: how we raise it, manage it, and spend it. Our financial philosophy centers Father Richard’s values concerning donations and the stewardship of resources. The key financial principles are:

  • We operate from a clear definition of “enough.”
  • We practice transparency.
  • We seek for money to never be the barrier to participation.
  • We understand exchanges of money first and foremost as vehicles for advancing our mission and message.
  • We commit to spend simply, equitably, and sustainably.
  • We lead with giving and generosity.

Movement Support

Since CAC’s founding, Father Richard has encouraged CAC to be responsible – yet generous when sharing our resources with partner organizations and mission-aligned projects. CAC is formalizing our spirit of generous stewardship and naming the strategy Movement Support.  Under this banner, CAC supports the broader Christian contemplative movement with highly leveraged pledges of resources, funds, and logistical support. 

Partners

In 2021 we deepened our movement partnerships with several incredible organizations that share a commitment to awakening a more just and connected world including five that hosted breakout sessions at Conspire:

  • Contemplative Outreach
  • Spiritual Directors International
  • Illuman
  • The Poor People’s Campaign
  • Wisdom & Money

We were honored to be able to support many other incredible partners in 2021 including providing the seed funding for the Ayni Institute to develop a pioneering small group contemplative action model, based upon Fr. Richard’s work.

Our work is meant to nurture and support a broader “ecology” of organizations and teachers that are working alongside us in helping nurture the Christian contemplative movement. This strategic orientation—as a non-profit in service to a broader movement—focuses us on the health of something much greater than just CAC: a movement that can make lasting change in the world. These efforts are born from Fr. Richard’s founding values, CAC’s financial philosophy, and our worldview of abundance, stewardship, and solidarity.  

Financial Stewardship

2021 Year in Review Conversation with Cindy Kroll, Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics and Ben Keesey, Development Director

“Wisdom & Money (W&M) is grateful for our growing multi-dimensional partnership with the CAC. This partnership has released the flow of many new contemplative constituents from CAC to our work. Additionally, CAC has provided critical funding for our Trailblazing Institute, enabling us to expand the prophetic and healing work of connecting people across race, class, gender, power, and money. Finally, friendships between members of the staff of both organizations have been mutually life giving and supportive over the last year.”

– Jon Hokama Associate Director Wisdom & Money

2021 Financials

42,303 people from over a dozen countries donated to CAC in 2021. This represented the most individual donors in CAC history and a 20% increase from the previous year. The average donation was $77.14. We are especially grateful for the 4,960 people who were recurring donors, giving a consistent donation every single month. In 2021, over 1,300 people became recurring donors for the first time.

Our Financial Philosophy holds CAC to the highest standards of sustainable and responsible stewardship. Below is a snapshot of our 2021 financials, to see our comprehensive and independently audited financial statements, please click here.

Sources of Funds
Donations$8,423,740
Conferences$1,362,477
Living School$949,651
Royalties$337,732
Online Education and Bookstore$1,571,168
Investment & Other Income$163,978
Total Support and Revenue$12,808,746
Use of Funds
Program Services$7,321,914
Management and general$2,763,581
Fundraising$428,382
Total Expenses$10,513,877
Total Net Assets$14,505,817

2022 & Beyond: Returning to the Center

On Oct 12th, 2022 CAC is celebrating its 35th anniversary. In the first letter Fr. Richard ever published about CAC in 1987, Richard shared his hope for the organization to become a “school for prophets” rooted in contemplative wisdom that supports social and spiritual renewal by forming individuals and sending them back out into the world — a founding purpose succinctly captured in our new mission: to introduce Christian contemplative wisdom and practices that support transformation and inspire loving action.

We firmly believe our integrity as an institution is a function of our ability to be faithful to what Father Richard founded us to be. That means CAC programs will continue to serve as a gateway to the contemplative path — affirming the questions that increasing numbers of people are asking and walking with them on the way of loving action. Though the already-arriving future looks different in some ways than the CAC of old, in other ways it feels like a return to what we’ve always been about. As we continue to prepare for life beyond our founder, we are reminded by Richard to welcome the future from a posture of trust.

This opportunity invites each of us to play a part — a whole body, a whole community, a whole movement of people grounded in a shared vision, values, and experiential knowing of God’s presence in our life showing up in the world together.

Thank you so much for being partners on this journey with us. To continue reading updates and reflections on the growing and evolving CAC, follow our ongoing series Returning to the Center.

Returning to the Center will be an opportunity to reflect together with our community on our discoveries and growing pains as an institution on the path of praxis and prayer, action and contemplation. You can expect regular updates on our progress in this work as well as institutional history, community stories, staff essays, videos, and even opportunities to contribute. You will find the latest posts on our website as well as social media and in the News from New Mexico, the CAC’s monthly newsletter.

“We must help people connect to The Story, the mystery of God and the universe, so that they can understand the significance of their lives as part of the body of Christ and the Great Pattern, what Jesus calls “the Kingdom of God ” More than ever before, our species must discover a common meaning, a shared story, to give our lives purpose and harmony.”

– Richard Rohr

Support

The work of the Center for Action and Contemplation is possible only because of friends and supporters like you. By introducing seekers to the Christian path of transformation, we believe that the CAC can become a catalyzing force for change of consciousness within Christianity and in each of our communities. CAC is not sustained by any large institution, foundation, or corporation; we exist because of thousands of people around the world who participate and give freely because this work has impacted them. Your financial support of CAC’s mission allows us to make the contemplative path more accessible — introducing more people to the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition, many for the very first time. To support CAC or consider making a legacy gift, visit cac.org/support.