[This retreat has been cancelled for this weekend due to a death in Pastor Erik’s family and is in the process of being rescheduled. For more on that, click here]
“Vocation” is a big word with big expectations. From the Latin vocare, it means “to call, to invoke, or name.” In the Christian tradition, we often think of what’s being called, invoked, or named as one’s God-given purpose or “true end.” In modern contexts, the word has gained popularity as more and more people expect and long for work where, in the words of Frederick Buechner, their deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. That’s no small hope, especially when relational expectations and financial realities are considered. The pressure to discern our vocation, and discern it early, is great.
The Work of Love is the first in a retreat series titled Spirited Work that will explore the topic of vocation through the lens of baptism, the Holy Spirit’s work in us, which bears fruit in our lives as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22) Rather than approaching the question of vocation as the answer to the question of “what to do with my life,” this series of retreats will invite participants to discover how the Holy Spirit is already working in us, bearing fruit in our lives.
While this first retreat is a full day, subsequent gatherings will be 2-3 hours, once a month, in small groups that will meet either at the church or in people’s homes. Small groups will be put together in age cohorts so that members of each group can pay special attention to how the theme of vocation takes shape differently at each stage of life. Where young adults may be asking questions primarily about careers and partnership, other stages of life address vocational questions about parenting, retirement, and preparations for death. All of these stages of life are part of what we mean when we speak of baptismal vocation.
This day-long retreat will begin with an introduction to the Circle of Trust ® approach, developed by the Center for Courage & Renewal and based on the pioneering work of Dr. Parker J. Palmer. In this approach, the native language of the Spirit is thought to be metaphor, meaning that in this work we will lean heavily on the use of “third things” — poetry, stories, music, and art — in order to give participants a safe space in which to explore their multiple and sometimes contradictory thoughts around vocation. Metaphors like fruit and branches, growth and decay, speak well to the complexity of the inner life.
Foundational to the Circle of Trust ® approach is its principle that there are no experts on the inner life. Instead, everyone has access to hearing and following the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) of God within and among them. In Quaker tradition, this voice is called “the inner teacher.” In the humanist tradition, it is called the voice of integrity or wholeness. “No matter what you call it,” Parker Palmer writes in A Hidden Wholeness, “it is a pearl of great price.” Many of us lack access to this interior voice due to inattention to ourselves or inhospitable conditions in our communities. Spirited Work offers a container and process whereby participants and leaders can together listen for the voice of God within and become more at home with themselves, amidst all their strengths, limits, and imperfections.
The Spirited Work retreat series offers a container and process whereby participants and leaders can together listen for the voice of God within and become more at home with themselves, amidst all their strengths, limits, and imperfections. It is designed to offer the gift of discernment in community, to relieve the pressure of having to have it all figured out. It reimagines vocation not as a destination to reach, but a path to walk with peers and companions. This path will feel more like a labyrinth than a straight shot, but such is the lifelong practice of vocational discernment. There is no arrival. There is only becoming less beholden to the pressures that drive us and more faithful to the work of God in us.
“The Work of Love” – A Spirited Work Retreat / Saturday, September 24, 9am – 3pm
*This program is generously underwritten by a grant from the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE). Learn more at https://fteleaders.org/