The Presence of Love Retreat was held from Monday 11th to Wednesday 13th January 2021 on Zoom. Rev Christopher Marcus, a OneSpirit Guest Tutor, led the twelve participants. Christopher used open forum conversations, poetry, guided meditation and wisdom. The twelve participants included OneSpirit ministers, OneSpirit students and members of the public.
The aim of the retreat was to open participants to be the Presence of Love. Preparation involved preparing an altar, and making a space at a computer at home where participants could work in a quiet and private manner. Materials were available before the retreat and contained pieces for reading and contemplation for each day’s work. There were three sessions each day, with breaks from time to time, including a longer lunch break. Christopher’s warm, inclusive style lent itself to all participants working well together and a sense of trust was built up very early on. The group developed a strong cohesive atmosphere, which was respectful and gentle. It held its members with openness and grace, and Christopher led with a light touch. There was room for ministers of long standing as well as people with no earlier experience of OneSpirit or the seminary, to gain from the experience.
Through discussion, sharing, silence and body prayer, participants were drawn through three ‘loves’:
PHILIA, as a love between or among individuals. The importance of listening was emphasised as a tool to enhance this love, getting closer to each other through understanding and compassion. Participants shared their experiences of Philia in groups of two. Then they formed small groups to create rituals developed together, on Zoom, to celebrate this love. Presenting ceremonies on Zoom was new for most participants – and it was a rewarding, creative experience!
EROS, the passionate sometimes obsessive love that can overwhelm, was explored delicately and with an emphasis on the safe space in the retreat, enabling participants to open up to each other in groups of two. This was a very powerful day and a fitting end to a strong retreat.
AGAPE, the love that manifests itself through awe and wonder, was the first explored. Christopher gave the image of the star-filled sky on a clear night to lead the participants into their own space of imagination and spirit. Participants each wrote ‘A Prayer for the World’ from their response to Agape, which you can see below:
A Prayer for the World
As it was from the beginning, so it remains. Now birth, now death. Now awe, wonder, agape. Now death, fear, despair. Now darkness, now light. Now an explosion of budding leaves, now to death, despair, rotting matter returning to the earth. Now exuberant belly laughing, now weeping silent screams of grief. Now hungry in body and spirit, now nourished and sated in Love, replenished by our mother earth. Now beings of one planet we tread upon, in the single moment that we live now. United in the pulse of the newness of the Great heartbeat. Now may our senses softly sharpen into this heart-full awareness. Now we are embraced in the mighty arms of Great Love, the energy that shares with the other, cares for the other and allows the other to be. Now, emboldened by this circle of Greatness, we are One with all beings. From beginnings through to endings, may we touch into the Nowness of Divine Love. So it is.
– Aine Moloney
I pray for the wellbeing of the world; its peoples, animals, birds, insects, creatures of the waters, its rivers, oceans, lakes and mountains, its forests and fields; and every plant and tree that grows upon it, and for the air above it. May we all be healed, and may the interconnected web of all beings, animate and inanimate, be recognised, honoured, strengthened and deepened. Amen.
– Catherine Kentridge
May we know and honour our Mother, earth.
May that which divides us come together in unity of Spirit and be healed.
May we find peace and solace in the embrace of Love.
May we live in spaciousness and kindness.
May each breath deepen our connection.
– Felice Rhiannon
Dear Father, Mother Divine
Thou Art in the Heaven of my holy mind
Thank you for letting me know you are There
It has made all the difference in this world to me
Can I now go out to play with my family and friends,
Now that I am feeling safe and secure in Your Love?
Go write your name across the night sky
And during the day let it shine through you
To everyone and everything, and be amazed!
Yes, go play now, go play and have lots of fun
With your family and friends the world over!
– Kevin Devaney
May we always be guided by you, blessed one,
In what we have done and not done,
In what we say and have not said,
and in what we have thought and not thought.
My thy will be done.
– Melanie Versloot
Beloved your shimmering stars
Call me into your arms
Star to star, heart to heart.
In your presence I rest
In awe and gratitude…
In your night of a thousand lights
My heart too is shimmering
– Natacha Ledwidge
Eyes to see all
Believe in you
Tame the mind
Open to those who never see
May the sunshine upon your beautiful living wings
May your feet be enriched in the great soil of richness
May you stand in awe of who you are
May love return to you effortlessly
So be it…
– Dinah Pemberton
I call on Earth’s Guardians to hold us in the light. Awaken our senses so that we may see who we truly are and bring to our consciousness all that we may be. Guide us to the gates of Heaven so that we may know the way to bring our hearts, head and hands into alignment with God’s holy plan and return to Earth so that we may carry it out. Bless our journey with your guidance and dance among us with eternal love, joy and peace.
– Cheryl Harvey
Oh world of jaw-dropping diversity
O world of disconsolate anger
Can I help some other how
To support the gentler middle ground
My capacities are different now
And my own needs more vocal
I breathe in peace
I breathe out love
– Alistair Brown
Gratitude for you, dear World. Praise, worship, love. Joy in you. Safety. Requesting safety care and respect for you. Awareness, understanding, awe and love for every part of a role to continue. For every living thing: plant, animal, soul, let there be space for and between. Love, respect. Agape.
– Mary McKeown
Whose tears are these,
in the field?
What love is this,
Was it you,
or was it I?
Who cut the chord,
path to fly?
where we land
the other’s hand
Which one, then,
opened the doors?
This hand of mine,
or was it yours?
– Sue Allport