St. Mark Presbyterian Church invites the community to A Day for Contemplation and Compassion on Saturday, Aug. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
According to St. Mark Elder Deborah Mayhew, the retreat day is designed to deepen one’s skills and capacities for compassionate living.
“We know that love triumphs over hate and discord, but how do we practically live in that truth and retain our dignity and affirm dignity in others?” she said. “The retreat will offer tools for doing so, and introduce the restorative power of compassion through the use of stories, contemplative practices and reflection exercises.”
Susan Thornton, Director of Christian Education at St. Mark. explained why the church is offering the retreat in the community.
“We think Jesus’ way of compassion and inclusiveness is something that the world needs to hear from the church because those voices are often not heard. Quite often people’s perception of the church is that it is not welcoming, not tolerant, not inclusive of all, and we would like the community and the world to know that that is not the Jesus we know. Our God is a big God who loves all, and welcomes all into a community of faith.”
“The retreat is new to us, but it’s a practice that’s been around for several years,” she continued. “Cori Esperanza, our facilitator, has been trained in the practice of leading these retreats. It’s a contemplative practice to help people deal with stress, deal with violence, deal with the injustice that they see in the world. It appealed to us because we are all about sharing God’s radical love and inclusive justice with the world; that’s what we feel called to do at St. Mark. It’s very compatible with who we feel God has called as to be as a church and as people, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Cori Esperanza was trained at the Center for Engaged Compassion in Claremont. Susan said that the CEC offers unique processes of “engaged compassion” that transform the desire to help others into practical actions that benefit the world. The CEC has helped cultivate compassion in a wide variety of settings, including prison populations, terrorized communities in Zimbabwe, congressional staff on Capitol Hill, children in schools and hospital chaplains.
“I think there is so much dissention in the world, so much of us versus them, so much what I call “othering,” Susan said. “We often talk in faith communities about the ‘other’ – those who look different, or speak different languages, who believe differently, or are in different socio-economic groups, or are of different political persuasions. We can put them in a box, dismiss their thoughts and not recognize their full humanity or value as a human being.”
“Hopefully by grounding ourselves in compassion, we can look at our brothers and sisters whether we agree with them or not, and see our common humanity beyond political or cultural differences,” she continued. “We need to see the image of God in all. If we can see our shared humanity, then we can treat them the way we want to be treated, and to at least listen. We don’t have to agree with them, but we need to listen.”
The day will include some guided prayer/meditation, learning about the flow of compassion, and time for personal reflection and application.
The retreat is free, but participants are to bring their own lunch. Refrigeration is available. Coffee, tea and continental breakfast will be provided. For further information, or to register, visit stmarkpresbyterian.org.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected]