I am so gratified that I attended the Clergy Wellbeing seminar in Santa Barbara, CA. The retreat setting is lovely–La Casa de Maria. The 26 acres were once Indian land, of course, then became a ranch, then was turned over or sold to the Catholic Church for a novitiate, where young women prepared to become nuns. However, some time or other, the women got a bit uppity–they wanted to ditch the habits, for one thing. The Bishop said No way, and the women said, OK, we resign!
It became a retreat center. There are still religious statues and iconography like Mary, angels, and stations of the cross, but it is open to people of all faiths. There was a monastery on site until it burned a couple of years ago. No one was hurt, but the building was a loss. There are both a large chapel and also a small meditation chapel. The smaller chapel was donated by a Dutch family. Its focal point is a large circle of light on the back wall, bisected by a vertical line and a horizontal line, also of light. In the dark space, the image is striking. I had no desire to turn on the room light.
For the seminar, Larry Peers facilitated about 30 clergy of multiple faith traditions in a very interactive process of identifying our lives as they are, how we would like for them to be, and specific changes (however small) to shift in that direction. The participants often became the teachers, when they shared their stories and Larry asked questions to help them figure out new directions. We were Unitarian Universalist, United Methodist, Lutheran, Episcoplalian, Ukranian Orthodox, Religious Scientist, and seminary professor, all as equals. We made lasting connections.
I’m very glad I attended. It exceeded my expectations and has given me a lot of food for thought!