Celtic Spirituality and Radical Activism: August 17-24, 2010

I’m excited to announce that Gareth Higgins and I plan to co-facilitate a Contemplative Spirituality and Social Action Immersion Week in Gareth’s home of northern Ireland this August — yes, you read that right: this August. I’ve just signed on, to replace another presenter who due to unforeseen circumstances has had to bow out. There are only a few places left in this program, which is intentionally being limited to less than 30 participants.

So maybe this is an invitation for you.

Saul Parish Church, Near Downpatrick

Here’s what Gareth has to say about this amazing event:

Northern Ireland is a society birthed in deep spirituality and profound artistry; its stark and beautiful physical landscape parallels the ruggedness of the Celtic soul.  We have, of course, also experienced civil conflict in the recent past, as the struggle over our identity and questions of social justice found expression in sectarianism and violence. Religion has played a role in both the conflict and the process that has led to enormous change and political stability.

You’re invited to see this amazing place for yourself as part of a unique communal gathering taking place just over a couple of months from now.

We’ll lead a week of intensive experiences – we’ll deconstruct and re-imagine questions of spirituality and activism, trying to find the fingerprints of radical spirituality and make connections between an ancient landscape, a modern conflict, and a better way of being in whatever world each us will be returning to.

Our programme will include excellent speakers and conversation and enjoying the land, visiting centres of reconciliation and meeting participants in the conflict and the negotiations for peace, and enjoying everything the northern Irish culture has to offer in the evenings (which will of course include live music).  We’ll use film and literature as lenses through which we explore the fusion of contemplation and action; there will be beer and whiskey for those who want it, tasty Irish food, good craic and laughter, maybe even some surfing on the ridiculously entertaining waves of the North Coast.   Ultimately, we hope that everyone who joins us will have a life-changing encounter.

The Giant's Causeway

We’ll stay in the beautiful character-filled setting of Rostrevor; there will be visits to the city of Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, the Silent Valley and other amazing places; there will also be ample free time to explore on your own.

The retreat is open only to a limited number of people; all (home-cooked) meals will be provided (you might even be asked to help make some!).  We’ll be gathering from the evening of Tuesday 17th August, and working together until breakfast on Tuesday 24th.  We’ve scheduled the retreat to coincide with the Greenbelt Festival, which begins on Friday 27th August, so there’s time to explore more of Ireland for a few days before taking a quick flight over to England for the festival if you’re planning to be there.

The cost for the retreat is $950 US, which includes all accommodation, two meals a day,  field trips, and all transportation within Northern Ireland.  But… If ten people register to attend the retreat in the next week, we hope to be able to reduce this cost to $750 per person.  So please let us know if you’d like more information straight away; we’re asking people to register by Monday 14th June, and to pay a $200 deposit by the end of the month.

Dunluce Castle

Gareth, incidentally, was friends and worked with John O’Donohue, including helping John put on some of his Irish immersion experiences. I’m impressed at what he has put together: an informal, intimate, gathering-of-friends experience that will avoid the normal snares of “group trips to Europe” (no big busses, no insane schedules, no drop-offs in front of expensive tourist trap retailers, etc.). This is the real deal: not a tourist experience but a pilgrimage.

Some of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I led an interfaith pilgrimage to the republic of Ireland in 2003. This will be much different: more intensive, less touristy. But what I will bring into the mix is my radical respect for all Irish religious and wisdom traditions: Pagan, Celtic, Catholic, Protestant; a keen  understanding that “Celtic spirituality” has powerful ties to the western mystery and contemplative tradition, and a desire to explore how contemplative practice and real conflict resolution go together.

There’s not a lot of room left for this trip: we are committed to keeping it small both so that we aren’t overwhelmed by logistical headaches, but also so that each person can have the richest possible experience.

So, my friends, dig out those frequent flyer miles and make arrangements to journey to Northern Ireland with me, Gareth, and a small group of visionary contemplative/activists. Our goal is to create a meaningful short-term community which will celebrate its diversity, relish its shared silences, converse meaningfully and respectfully, and discern together how our engagement with peacemakers and other activists from this glorious and troubled land can transform who we are and the gifts we bring to the communities where we each live.

Do you want more information? Or… are you ready to sign up? Please contact Gareth Higgins at this page or contact me at this link. Please provide your name and contact information, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
Bruno Barnhart (1931-2015)
Five Approaches to InterSpirituality
Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • brazenbird

    Hopefully this will not be a one-time opportunity. I am sad to say that I cannot make it in August. But happy to say I’ll still see you in October in PDX!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    If the event is successful this year, we hope to do it again (and again?). So if anyone reading this can’t come this year, please tell your friends — help us to get this started, I think it could be an amazing annual event.

  • http://detheologized.wordpress.com John Anngeister

    10 years ago I had reason to give thanks for ancient Celtic monasticism in an unexpected place – the famous ruins of the first home monastery of the twelfth-century mystic St. Hildegarde, at Disibodiberg, in the Rhine-Pfalz of Germany.

    Half-way up the hillside path to the site, I came to the little gate and “donation can” at the perimeter. There I read in the introductory statement that the original founding of the site had been accomplished in something like the eighth century (if I recall correctly) by Celtic monks from the British Isles!

  • Kimberly Knight

    Oh my – this sounds amazing. I gotta find the $$ though!! If I can I will definitely register!

  • dFish

    What a splendid opportunity! And a radical mix of contemplation as a social justice practice!