Dancing with God—Living in Love in Trying

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Line St-Pierre

By Line St-Pierre, Québec, Canada

After more than 15 months without being able to meet, would it be possible to create the proper atmosphere in an online retreat?

The four of us—Katharina Becker, Doreen Heyne, Carolyn Prentice, and I—decided to do some experimenting. First, we wanted to assess the possible discomfort or technical difficulties before gathering a small group together in “the cloud!” In particular, we wanted to ensure our ability to see the participants and then address each woman accordingly. This is not always easy on a small screen!

With a touch of this new retreat experience on Zoom, and more preparation and practice on our part, our plan was ready for action.

We invited women who had already participated in one of our previous retreats. Since these attendees already knew how the in-person retreats worked, we were confident they would be able to adjust their participation to the small screen.

On Saturday, December 12, we scheduled a two-hour get-together as an icebreaker. We enjoyed an aperitif in our own homes and interacted with the group online. It was wonderful to see each other again and catch up with news and updates.

The retreat began the next day. Before regrouping at noon in the first of the three circles of trust that we would facilitate, we spent time in prayer and meditation. This set the tone for our four-and-a-half-hour retreat.

The 11 participants had settled into a quiet place in the comfort of their homes, without any disturbance by electronic devices. The intimacy of this ensemble was experienced as standing in a sacred bubble, thus promoting the authenticity of each one in our sharing in this union of souls. We introduced and considered the question: The universe is meant to be a dance of cooperation and love, so how can we find the courage to progress and dance through these difficult times?

The format used in our retreats is called the Fishbowl Experience, with the four facilitators going first to set the example. The four of us were “in the center,” with our cameras on, while the participants turned their cameras off. After some prayerful silence, we began to engage in an intimate discussion on the question posed above. We set the space, allowing the rest of the group to silently witness the process that the four of us experienced. The participants were invited to observe, feel, and absorb the discourse privately. Later each woman was invited to take a seat in the fishbowl, where they were able to express themselves in that very safe and intimate environment. Hearts were opened and were filled with love from our Heavenly Father and His spiritual helpers.

As Catholic priest, author, and theologian Henri Nouwen wrote, “Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.”

All of us appreciated the level of trust, respect, and vulnerability in our sharing. Our individual contributions came from the Spirit, which does not differentiate whether we are together virtually or in person. The Spirit recognizes the state of the soul. In the afternoon on Sunday, we all felt uplifted and supported in this sacred circle.

Katharina Becker, Line St-Pierre, Doreen Heyne, Carolyn Prentice, Charlene Lutes, Karen Larsen, Peggy Brown, Bobbie Dreier, Lila Dogim, Angela Lippi, Cecelia Lampley
Top Row: Katharina Becker, Line St-Pierre, Doreen Heyne, Carolyn Prentice
Middle row: Charlene Lutes, Karen Larsen, Peggy Brown, Bobbie Dreier
Bottom row: Lila Dogim, Angela Lippi, Cecelia Lampley.

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