Christian Ashram

Dear R.,

Great to see you and meet you at the Religion Communication Congress in Chicago. Great event!

Really enjoyed the article on the Christian Ashram: “Ashram draws followers from across country” by Mallory McCall, Apr 23, 2010.

I recently spent the night at a retreat center/monastery with my son. It was a little spooky AND very peaceful. Here is my blog about it.

Retreats! I love the Women’s Division-sponsored Schools of Christian Mission. For me — to learn, to pray, to sing, to share meals, to worship, to simply be! It is so restorative!

Also, I’ve recently been thinking about retreats as an authentic experience with God. We often hear about Eastern faiths that include meditative practices. Yet Christian faith has a long history of meditation as a spiritual practice as well. We all need that direct and unfiltered time with God. I believe this is the reason that world religions which include and encourage retreats are so popular – in this multitasking world, people need time apart.

In the United Methodist Reporter article, Sandra Hancock says she waited until her children were grown to experience the Christian ashram. Yet, I encourage and invite women and parents with children of all ages not to wait. Consider a retreat with their local United Methodist Women or Conference School of Mission now. I’ve taken all three of my kids to schools of mission. They love them. Tons of schools of mission happen all over the United States, often in June – at retreat centers, college campuses, church basements – and they are awesome.

To learn more about School of Christian Mission in your area, ask your local United Methodist Woman or United Methodist Conference leader. – mb

PS I’m cc’ing colleagues who might be interested in the UMReporter article.


Sacred Chow

At lunch time, the author and pastor Donna Schaper spoke about creating community and communion through food. She was awesome.

The discussion reminded me of last summer when I taught the the adult spiritual study, “Food & Faith” in the schools of mission at Western Connecticut State University and at Dillard University in New Orleans. I loved hearing people’s rich stories of food memories.

One older woman remembered being on the farm, sitting at a picnic table with relatives of many ages after a barn raising. Food was definitely both a fueling and a feasting. Donna wrote about this kind of communion in her book, “Sacred Chow.”

Food has the capacity to bring us together. But there is also, as Donna mentioned, a divisiveness or a righteousness when we discuss food. We’re right about the way we eat and others aren’t.

There are small, good, spiritual things we can do with food, including writing about food, teaching about food and faith, saying grace, opting out of corporate food manufacturers’ offerings, choosing farmstand foods. We can also remember our childhood dinner tables.

When I was a kid, we took the phone off the hook. All seven of us ate dinner together in the dining room every night. We argued, we discussed the day, we ate. I’m going home to get that party started right now.

Donna Schaper spoke as part of Raising Women’s Voices, workshops on women and health offered by the Interchurch Center. Interesting that the event came on the heels of the healthcare legislation.

Schools of Christian Mission are dynamic adult learning opportunities offered in thousands of venues usually in the summer for United Methodist Women and their friends.