November 2, 2017—An Immersion Experience: An Invitation to a Deeper Spiritual Life. What a grand and unusual invitation. In this fast-paced, busy world we live in, we are inviting you to pause for a long weekend . . . to be still and to be present before God and to immerse yourself in both the story and spiritual practices of our Christian tradition.
The Immersion Experience is for anyone — curious, hungry, yearning, eager, confused, or weary. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome to join us. The gift of the Immersion Experience is that it places our personal journeys in conversation with the experience and wisdom of those throughout Christian history, past and present, who have left testimony to their encounters with the Holy in their lives. The Immersion Experience also provides the opportunity to engage a variety of spiritual practices – contemplative prayer, labyrinth walking, guided journaling, lectio divina, silence and sabbath, and the prayer of examen — just to mention a few.
As the former director of the spirituality program in the Center for Lifelong Learning, I have been a part of well over 20 Immersion Experiences. Each time I am engaged in a different way and I learn something new. However, sometimes I still find myself becoming frustrated because what I learn is not so tangible. I know that it is and has been a transforming experience. I have come to know God more intimately within my own story and have heard testimony of God’s love and grace within the lives of others. I have been renewed and transformed.
Yet, you see, sometimes I find that even though I “know better,” there is still a part of me listening for a prescriptive answer: How to “do” Spirituality with an ABCD outline; Here are the top 3 ways to “be” spiritual; Or, this is the best way to go about my spiritual journey. I am reminded each time that there is no one right way to “do” spirituality or “be” spiritual. Just as we are all beloved and unique creations of God, we each encounter and experience God uniquely in our daily lives and journeys. Spiritual growth comes from deep listening, sharing in sacred community, recognizing and claiming one’s own encounters with God and hearing the experiences of others, both past and present, with the Holy.
James Finely, in response to his mentor Thomas Merton, describes how spiritual growth takes time:
“How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun. A small green apple cannot ripen in one night by tightening all its muscles, squinting its eyes and tightening its jaw in order to find itself the next morning miraculously large, red, ripe, and juicy. Like the birth of a baby or the opening of a rose, the birth of the true self takes place in God’s time. We must wait for God, we must be awake; we must trust in his hidden action within us.”
Come sit in the sun with us, during our next Immersion Experience. The upcoming retreat, April 12-15, 2018 allows you to extend your experience and conversations beyond the weekend with pre-and post-retreat readings and online discussions. These discussions and readings are an important component of the experience and we ask that the participants be able to fully participate in both the retreat and the pre-and post retreat discussions.
Deedra Rich is a teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader. She has worked with the Spirituality Program at Columbia for over 10 years serving in a variety of capacities – facilitator, instructor, program coordinator, former director, and practicum adviser. She also serves as an instructor and spiritual direction supervisor in the Certificate in Spiritual Direction. Deedra received her DMin from Columbia Theological Seminary and is ordained through the Baptist tradition. She has served both Baptist (CBF) and Presbyterian (PC USA) churches. Her current area of study is in integrating Benedictine Spirituality, specifically their spiritual practices and intentional rhythm of life, into one’s every day life and spiritual journey. She also enjoys practicing centering prayer, yoga, gardening, and hiking. She lives in Atlanta with her two young daughters and her husband, Matt.
Deedra is also leading an online class, Prayer: Deepening Your Experience with God on February 5 through March 9. There’s still time to join in!