Claremont School of Theology is creating a new Center for Engaged Compassion.  They realize, as many people are realizing, that the central gift of all religions is compassion, empathy, concern for the suffering that lives within the world.  This is the beauty of Jesus: he befriends the wounded, the outcast, the enemy -- within and without.  So the new center at Claremont is creating a school that will cultivate compassion and compassionate action in people.  This center is being directed by two friends of mine, Andy Dreitcer and Frank Rogers, both brilliant, beautiful guys who bring together a wealth of knowledge, creativity, and soul-force. 

Two years ago we started talking about creating a program at the center that would keep the faculty and students at the school engaged in the world.  Triptykos is a public action project.  The perspective at Triptykos is that Christianity is a spiritual path -- it's a way of becoming free, a way of becoming alive.  The spiritual life is an integrated and interweaving of three paths -- the contemplative (knowing God as a source of love and compassion), the creative (discovering and expressing your own passion and vitality), and compassionate action (responding to the brutality and brokenness in the world). 

So we've developed teaching and various spiritual exercises that involve contemplation, creativity, and compassionate action.  Right now we're trying this teaching out at contemplative retreats in Southern Oregon, reconciliation workshops in Zimbabwe and Washington D.C., and creative workshops on "loving your enemy" at the Greenbelt art festival.  In 2011, we hope to have a more structured program that will allow the classes and work we're developing to be more available to the public.  Right now we're in the learning phase. 

How does this work connect with your previous work in youth ministry? 

I founded and directed the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project for ten years and in that project I spent most of my time leading retreats and training events with adults and heads of churches and institutions -- parents, pastors, denominational leaders, and youth workers concerned about kids.  During that time I learned a lot about the spiritual needs of adults and institutions, how to address them. 

Triptykos allows me to use this knowledge with a broader audience -- folks who are not just interested in youth ministry.  I still teach and speak at youth working events, I still volunteer in a youth ministry program at my local church, but Triptykos allows me to take what I've learned in spiritual formation and share it with stuck and hurting folks -- whether it's congressional staff members or victims from civil war.  These are the places where I feel called to serve at this time in my life.

 

Deborah Arca Mooney joined the Patheos team after more than ten years managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of Christian Education and music/theatre programs for young people and has served as a music director for worship and special retreats.