common|life: a retreat for 20s and 30s

Posted on April 18, 2016

“It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for your leader…” Hopi Elders’ Prophecy

Twenty-six people in their 20s and 30s convened at The Bishop’s Ranch Friday, April 15 to Sunday, April 17 for common|life, the fourth annual spring retreat for young adults the Diocese of California. Participants traveled from every corner of the diocese, and beyond, to create community, share fellowship, and explore their faith at the Ranch.

Water, also the theme for the 2016 DioCal camp programs at The Bishop’s Ranch and St. Dorothy’s Rest, was the thematic guide to the weekend’s program and chapel devotions. The Rev. Spencer Hatcher, a third year Masters of Divinity student at Church Divinity School of the Pacific served as the Chaplain to the group. Together, Spencer and Andrea Foote crafted a program full of watery imagery and exploration, inspired by a writing of Hopi Elders, “We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For,” as well as scripture lessons: Jesus calms the seas (Matthew 14.22-32), and the woman at the well (John 4.1-15).

Friday night and Saturday participants brainstormed uses and abuses of water in human life, the natural world. In small groups those gathered explored the paradox of life giving aspects of water and also its capacity for destruction, as well as human’s inclination to contaminate, and place monetary value on water.

The Hopi Elders writing has a call to action that states “The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.  And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.”

Participants were given a piece of dissolving paper on which to write a symbolic shore they felt it was time for them to let go of. After a short hike, these papers were dissolved in Keepo Creek, a body of water on the Ranch property that flows to the Russian River and eventually the Pacific Ocean.

Water justice, water rights, and sacramental uses for water guided the Saturday evening program, with footwashing and forgiveness rituals included in the chapel service.

Aside from chapel program, common|life is an opportunity for young adults to spend time together and grow in community in the beautiful and relaxing setting that is The Bishop’s Ranch. Free time activities in the afternoon included card games, swimming at the pool, a rousing game of volleyball, wine tasting trips offsite, and hikes throughout the property. A social hour and campfire with s’mores were capstones to the social time.

On Sunday morning retreatants had the opportunity to participate in a nationwide water justice project, as the Diocese of Michigan is holding a retreat in Flint, MI and asking every diocese of send vials of water to be blessed and used sacramentally there in May. Water was retrieved from a pond at The Bishop’s Ranch and communally blessed with the Thanksgiving of the Water prayer from the baptismal rite.

The Hopi Elders’ writing ends a charge to remember “The time of the one wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.” The group reflected what is would be like to go back into the world to work and speak and live in a sacred manner, and to create intentional community throughout their lives.


common|life is a retreat program co-sponosored by the Diocese of California and The Bishop’s Ranch. More programs for Episcopalians and interested persons in their 20s and 30s can be found on the Discipleship Ministries page, and at the “common” Facebook page.