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Sacred Group Retreats to Make Change
By Douglas D. Germann, Sr.
c Copyright 2004, Learning Works, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
There is a power that shows up when a committed group of people gathers. You have seen it: something clicks, something flows, enthusiasm grows, and soon something unexpected happens. Something good and surprising.
How do you consciously tap into this power?
My experience is that you cannot command it, you cannot give it a schedule. This something--call it spirit or even Spirit--blows where and when it will.
What you can do, however, is invite. And open.
What that means on a practical level is that you gather the elements--seeds, water, air, earth and fire--and you provide the space, as much of it as possible, for divinity to happen. So it requires trust, but only a little, for we know that when invited, Spirit comes.
The seeds are the people and their hopes, fears, desires, passions, ideas: all the highest and best you have. Earth is grounds and the great outdoors: choose a retreat setting that will allow people to get out in nature, for many these days see God in nature.
Air is fresh air to breathe. We need oxygen and all the trace gasses in order for our brains to work and our spirits to fructify. Fire is sunlight--plenty of windows and maybe even a skylight or two so we can see a larger world, reach to touch the stars.
Water: we told we are 98% water; still, we know more than our minds can know when we walk or sit by a sparkling brook or a quiet lake. Seek out a place which has water.
It is not all setting, however. There is work to be done. We invite and open in the very invitation we send to our people. We want everybody there who feels strongly enough about the change we want to see and be in the world to accept the responsibility to act. So our invitation needs to touch the sparkling places in these people. It needs to be specific as to the change, yet open to the widest possibilities. For instance, "The role of St. John Church in the Future of Homelessness;" or "Improving Senior Healthcare in Manitowoc."
Inviting openness at the meeting is where you need to turn your attention next. How do you draw on the hopes and dreams of your people and still leave room for the spirit in the moment? Simple. Leave the agenda open to be written at the retreat. Sound scary? It usually is for the organizers. For divinity it is the best invitation.
So the question is, can you trust God?
The answer is, Always! God works through people. God works through circumstances. God works through gatherings. God works through silence. God works through the brook leaping and dancing outside the meeting room window.
How does this happen? When you give your people paper and markers and invite them in a spirit of openness and stillness, inspiration always comes. Most often it stampedes! Soon people are posting all sorts of topics: "What is beyond soup kitchens?;" "What do seniors need to tell their doctors?;" "Where could we raise the funds for this?" People really are fingers of the divine and are itching for a chance to expand and work!
If you would like step-by-step instructions on how to make this happen, ask me to send you a free article. Let's move on to the next stage: inviting action. You have people excited by the possibilities. They have even created some great ideas to make it happen.
How do you move from talk to action? The answer is simpler than you think: Ask and it will happen.
People are more anxious than you to get on with it. They want to jump out of their chairs and do something. Your job is to invite it--and get out of their way.
Why is this so? Because the ideas came from inside them. They know the validity and necessity of this calling. No one has dumped a project on them from a position of authority. Action sprouts from their core.
So you bring the whole gathering back into their circle to hear from each other and look at flip charts and reports that show all the work that has sprung up among them. Then you simply ask "What are the immediate next steps we need to take?" Get out of the way as people post the categories of work that needs doing and run off to smaller groups to devise their practical next steps. In an hour you will have everyone back in the circle, almost too excited to sit in their chairs.
Now that's how you make change... sacred!
Prayer? Of course. Remember, the whole event is a prayer.
Doug Germann facilitates sacred group retreats to make change. Need more ideas? You may contact Doug for the free step-by-step article, and to ask your questions.: 574/291-0022; mailto:Doug@FootprintsintheWind.com; Fax: 574/291-0024; Mail: P.O. Box 2796, South Bend, IN 46680-2796; http://www.FootprintsintheWind.com.