Way of the Spirit—Online Retreats

As residential Way of the Spirit retreats were cancelled in 2020, participants have marveled at the endless creativity of the Holy working among us in online format. Quaker spirituality invites confidence in the Spirit of God between us, in relationships, community, and now across thousands of miles of digital connectivity. The “magic” doesn’t come from any particular place, or passively watching someone else do or say something “holy”. It’s within us and actively weaving us, even online.

Highly Interactive

online retreat screenRetreats in Way of the Spirit gather using Zoom video conferencing in a highly interactive format, far from a passive webinar. Online sessions include content presentations, discussions, guided exercises, and personal sharing in small groups. Between online sessions, participants integrate retreat themes through individual reflection exercises.

The schedule flows from and returns to prayerful centering worship. The program’s gently guided, experiential approach is uniquely attentive to the movements of the Holy within each participant. During longer retreats, participants may meet one-to-one with program staff for personal spiritual accompaniment.

For Profound Soul Work

We build a respectful, trustworthy community that nurtures profound soul work. Using carefully structured group processes based on Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust, we speak authentically of our own spiritual experience. As we respect differing theological terms and perspectives, they stretch us and encourage growth. Our listening becomes contemplative practice. We hear movements of the Holy Spirit “where the words come from” (to quote a story of Quaker minister, John Woolman)

WotS 2019 Class May 2020

Online retreat participants share an item that represents their sense of self in Spirit-led service to others.

Retreat from Home

  • How could you foster a prayerful space and time apart in your home? 

Before retreat, participants are asked to reflect and pray around what they need to be more present to self, others and the Holy during online retreat time.  When you cannot displace yourself physically from the ordinary sights and sounds of your life, how could you foster a kind of temporary alternative reality for online retreat sessions?

Consider the baggage that comes with “screen time”  in our society. Often screens ask little of the “viewer.” We listen or watch. We may anxiously track what’s happening in the world. Or maybe we are pleasantly entertained and fill empty hours. Many of us have experienced too many tedious or chaotic online meetings. Plus, “Zoom fatigue” is a true physiological phenomenon. “Online” and “retreat”  can seem somewhat oppositional at best

Instead, imagine how the best retreats, whether residential or online, invite full presence to self, others, and God. “Retreats” aim for intentional withdrawal from ordinary time and space. Way of the Spirit retreats ask for full engagement and active collaboration. How might participants resolve the tension of expectations toward best hopes for “retreat”? Answers will be unique to each temperament, living situation, and resources.

Here are some possibilities gleaned from research and conversation with other Zoom retreat facilitators. They aim to help make online “retreat” different than other online meetings:

  • Abstain or “fast” from screens for a time before online retreat. The morning? A day before?
  • Allow no interruptions from other electronic devices during retreat sessions. No email, texting, phones etc.
  • Set up your screen in a different location, one not associated with regular online tasks.
  • “Close the door”: Arrange for private space and sound. No one else needs to see or hear your device. Jesus’ metaphor for the value of praying inwardly and privately applies to online retreats.
  • Light a candle.
  • Wear a prayer shawl.
  • Settle to prayer/worship 15-20 minutes before the session start. Our online meeting room will open early for silent centering.