Clergy Retreat 2015: Walking the Mandala of Christ

From the afternoon of Wednesday, September 23, to the afternoon of Friday, September 25,, 130 clergy congregated at The Bishop’s Ranch to learn, support, and rest together. After the time of connection during the social hour and dinner, everyone piled into the Swing Pavilion to hear Bishop Marc introduce the retreat’s theme and practice: the mandalic journey. The image that guided the flow of the weekend was an illuminated page of the four gospels from the Vivian Bible, with Christ featured at the center. 

Each session throughout the retreat began with a song that corresponded to the content of the session. The introductory session was appropriately begun with a musical version of the prayer of St. Patrick “Christ above me, Christ below me…” Using several versions of mandalic representation of the gospels, Bishop Marc discussed that the flow was Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke — how it is in the lectionary rather than contemporary bibles. Drawing from gospel knowledge and the work of Alexander Shaia and Carl Jung, Bishop Marc suggested each gospel corresponded to a core question that people sit with at one season or another:

Matthew — How do I accept change in my life?

Mark — How do I deal with suffering?

John — How do I receive blessing?

Luke — How do I serve?

The order of the gospels corresponds to the order in which peopled move through each stage. The mandala is cyclical, so Bishop Marc suggests, everyone is at one of the four stages currently. He asked the clergy to reflect on which question they were currently with, and then had everyone raise their hand to identify where they would enter into the mandalic exercise all would participate in the next day. He also took time to discuss Christ at the center of the mandala, and how the group would “return to the center” a few times throughout the exercise. After the introductory session was Compline and social time.

After breakfast the next day, each clergy began in the gospel-themed room they most identified with. For 40 minutes, the group would reflect on the question together through song, prayer, art, and heart-felt discussion. There would be a break, and clockwise through the gospels, the groups would rotate rooms and questions.

 

After the first two sessions, everyone returned to Center in the pavilion where Bishop Marc gave a reflection, everyone had a chance for silent prayer, and a few clergy offered some observations on the mandalic journey thus far. After the second two gospels, the Center time was spent in small group discussion before all were dismissed for personal recreation time. Many went hiking, biking, or wine tasting, while others retreated to their rooms for solitude. Over communal dinner, Bishop Marc led the group in a celebration of the Rev. Cn. Stefani Schatz’s birthday. Back in the Pavilion after dinner the group focused on being a community of clergy through the blessing theme of John. After Bishop Marc offered some further teaching notes on Christ and the Mandalic Journey, each of the gospel room facilitators shared a testimony of their personal experience in relation to which gospel theme they facilitated. It was a tender time of connection, vulnerability, and inspiration. Later in the evening, the group was dismissed. Some competed in lively Scrabble tournaments, others enjoyed a versatile open mic night.

The last day of clergy retreat, the clergy already present were joined by a number of bi-vocational and retired clergy. Bishop Marc discussed an abridged version of the mandalic journey for the newcomers, and the DioCal staff made a few announcements. The pavilion was then transformed for a mandala-themed Eucharistic celebration, where each of the four gospels was represented on the table. In the afternoon, Bishop Marc facilitated a discussion on Luke’s theme of service. The group was then adjourned to go in peace to love and serve the Lord! To see more photos, see the clergy retreat photo album on the DioCal's facebook page