Guide to Virtual Holy Week Retreat

The Elements

Let me begin by listing the four elements that will be available Monday through Holy Saturday. (Passion/Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday will each have only one recorded teaching/reflection.) Everything will be posted on the website early in the evening the day before. Because of the variety of time zones, this will hopefully insure that everyone will receive the recordings in a timely fashion.

 (1.) Morning Worship. The first recording will be a 45-minute morning worship as we have in our Wisdom Schools. The elements include an opening acclamation, a short reading, 15 minutes of silence, free and spontaneous moment to a short piece of music, a logion from the Gospel of Thomas, a chant, and another 15-minute period of silence. (I want to thank Hanna Lynn Mell and Bryan Vosseler for their beautiful voices in the chants.) This morning worship prepares us to receive the work, the teaching, the reflection and the practices in the other sections that follow. As important as this may be, this might be the segment that is skipped by those who are pressed for time. Alternatives might include doing your own morning sit for a shorter time, doing a part of the 45-minute worship, or listening meditatively to the teaching/reflection. Clearly, there are plenty of options here.

 (2.) Teaching/Reflection. The second recording includes the teaching for the day. This is generally about 20 minutes long and is the lynchpin for the day. Again, if time is limited, you could listen to this recording first thing in the morning instead of the longer morning worship. This is the segment in which the overarching Holy Week themes will be developed.

 (3.) Internet Group Discussion. The third segment is the Zoom group at 4 pm (EST). There is a great deal to include here, so I will come back to this below. 

 (4.) Evening Practice/Meditation. The fourth segment is the evening practice or meditation session that runs from 25 to 40 minutes. This segment is designed to take the themes developed earlier in the day and then to integrate them more deeply into one’s body and being. This segment will utilize energetic practices that may be new to many. Along with the teaching/reflection of the second segment, these two are the most critical to include in your work. 

Except for the Zoom discussion group, all the recordings will be able to be accessed throughout the week and beyond. They can also be downloaded. But one might wonder if it isn’t important that we all be doing the same thing at the same time. While conducive, this is not necessary. Being of one mind and one heart is what will draw us together more than efficient timing on the linear dimension. The efficacy of this work will hinge of the attunement of our intention.

What I am suggesting here, then, is an intentional approach that is at the same time relaxed and non-reactive. Let’s do what we can and not become obsessed with what we can’t do. And let’s work out of our desire rather than a sense of duty. In some sort of mysterious and paradoxical way, it is this surrendered attitude that will magnify our work. 


Directions and Guidelines for Small Groups

The afternoon group portion of our Virtual Holy Week Retreat will take place Monday through Saturday from 4 to 5 pm (Eastern). There will be a link that you can click on at that time, and it will bring you right to the meeting. That link will be sent to those who have signed up for the retreat. There is just one intermediary step, and that is to choose and click on “allow.” You will not have to download anything ahead of time. A laptop or desktop computer will work better than an I-pad or cell phone. A steady Internet connection is imperative.

This Zoom platform will allow me to gather our plenary group for a short time and then to divide the large group into small breakout groups. These small groups of three or more will be randomly assigned, and participants will have two periods of roughly 15 minutes in these small groups. Because these groups will be randomly assigned each time, we will not be in the same groups throughout the week or even on the dame day. Therefore, time utilization and directed group process will be supremely important.

Thus, potentially using discussion questions as beginning prompts, the participants will have the opportunity to put their learning and their experience into words. Why is this important? Struggling to put words to our experience is a very crucial way that we can integrate the material into our consciousness. Indeed, one important way that passing experiences get integrated into abiding stages is through putting our experiences into language and offering these in shared conversation. Rather than just expressingexperience, this kind of discussion can actually deepenexperience itself. The overriding purpose of these small groups, then, will be to support our unfolding throughout the week. 

But clearly, this cannot be any kind of lackadaisical conversation. It must be directed toward real depth and sharing. Additionally, the container of each small group must be safe and sturdy enough to hold the trust necessary for this kind of sharing. In most groups, this group development toward open and honest sharing takes time. Because we will not have such a luxury, we will have to bring a high level of intentionality and maturity. We ourselves, then, must be emotionally and spiritual prepared to engage in this vital group work.

Consequently, I am asking each and every one of us to come as prepared as we possibly can for this work together. Strikingly, the “surrendered presence” that will contribute to the efficacy of our small groups will be both the goal and the means of our Holy Week work together. Holding our smaller identities loosely will mean they will be less likely to get in our way.

Our time will begin with the plenary group. To prevent competing sounds and distractions, everyone’s microphone in this large group will be muted except my own. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, participants can choose a “gallery view” (in which they will be able to see all of the faces) or a “speaker’s view” (in which they see only my face.) After greetings and orienting directions, I will begin the readings—each one followed by a moment of silence. This brief practice will serve as the vestibule for the later discussion work in the small groups.

Each small group will develop its own structure and format.. It might be useful to begin with some very brief introductions. Then each group might dive into responding to the discussion questions, making sure that each person gets an equal share of the time. 

But what about the readings? Are we to reflect on them? The readings are with us as the gatekeepers to our work. They are pointing us to our own depth. They may or may not prompt some response directly; but, regardless, they help to provide the contextual container for each group’s work. (See the blog post, “Working with a Living Text”)

In such intensive time-limited small groups, the group norms are probably obvious. In our exchange we must move beyond right and wrong, beyond judgment and evaluation, and beyond trying to impress each other. Listening thoughtfully and carefully is imperative. Stretching ourselves to be honest and forthcoming will not only benefit us in the long run; it will also encourage the greater risk-taking of all. The deeper the level of exchange, the more everyone will benefit.

Like all of the other elements, this gathering on Zoom is optional. Many people will simply not be available at this particular time. My hope however, is that everyone will be able to process their experience in one way or another. One might write in one’s journal or share experiences with a trusted friend or family member. After the retreat is over, I will provide an opportunity for participants who so desire to write to me of their experience. I will then ask permission that certain responses be shared with the larger group.


Inviting others

If you have friends or family members who you think might also be interested, by all means invite them. I would ask that they sign up on the website so that I have their E-mail address in order to send them the password and other ongoing announcements.

 Music and Readings

After the completion of the program, I will be sending out a complete list of all of the readings and all of the music employed.


 Further Questions

Please E-mail your questions or concerns. What is unclear to you may likely be unclear for someone else. Your questions can help me shape things on the fly.



Again, let me express my gratitude to all who are joining in this work. We are at one and the same time forging new ground and doing important work for the benefit of the world.