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Spiritual Exploration

The Spiritual Exploration Committee of the Board of Deacons provides educational and spiritual opportunities for Plymouth members and friends in the areas of Bible study, spiritual growth, contemporary theology and interfaith dialogue.

Winter-Spring 2016

Updated Jan. 4, 2016.

Conversations with Carla

Thursdays, Jan. 14, 21, 28 and Feb. 4. Mornings, 10:30 a.m.–noon; evenings: 7:00–8:30 p.m., Fireside Room. No fee; please register.

Lively conversations with our Senior Minister, Carla J. Bailey. This is an opportunity to get better acquainted with Carla and have designated time to discuss issues that affect us all.

Topics are:

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Embodying the Cosmos through Contemplative Movement

Emily Jarrett Hughes, Saturday, Feb. 13, 9 a.m.–noon, Chapel. Fee $30; please register.

Our hearts long for a sense of unity with all of the cosmos. Theologians and scientists are both emerging with beautiful new understandings of life’s interconnectedness. Most of us struggle to integrate these ideas into the anchored feeling of whole-body knowing. Bringing our body into our prayer with breath and gentle contemplative movements can help awaken our heart’s understanding. This workshop draws upon ritual dance and qigong as ways to embody our connection to the cosmos and express radiant life energy. Come explore the idea of body chanting. Movements and meditations are for all bodies and abilities.

Emily Jarrett Hughes is an artist-healer and cultural activist. She trained in dance as a sacred community art and has studied meditation with Spring Forest Qigong since 2006. She has taught hundreds of classes and helped hundreds of people with healing.

This workshop is based on one Emily presented at the Seeking the Sacred Thread Retreat with John Philip Newell and Barbara Brown Taylor, in addition to her embodied interpretation of Ilia Delio’s work at the Wisdom Ways Fall Soul Conference.

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The Inner Life of Stories: Writing as Deep Listening

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, Saturday, Feb. 27, 9 a.m.–noon, Fireside Room. Fee $30; please register.

Creative writing is a call-and-response between self and Other, willful exertion and receptivity, deep privacy and a public audience . . . Building on Robert Frost’s wisdom, “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader; no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” we will open ourselves to tears and surprise as we listen deeply to what emerges on the page. Join Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew for an introduction to the spiritual practice of writing. We will start with the basics, using writing exercises, readings from master writers and conversation. 

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew is a writing instructor and spiritual director living in Minneapolis. She is a recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board artist fellowship, the Loft Career Initiative Grant and a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. Her books include: Swinging on the Garden Gate: A Spiritual Memoir, Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir, On the Threshold: Home, Hardwood, and Holiness, and a recent novel,Hannah, Delivered. Elizabeth teaches memoir, essay and journal writing at the Loft Literary Center, United Theological Seminary and Hamline University. #

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Lenten Series:
Roots of Violence—Seeds of Peace—Sprouts of Witness

Mondays, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Fireside Room. Free; please register.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In this Lenten Series the Plymouth clergy, in the tradition of Dr. King’s nonviolent work, will present an injustice coming from the roots of violence. The group will briefly discuss the issue followed by a time of self-reflection and prayer. The one-hour session will close with a related activity or directions for direct action.

Feb. 15 Peace in the Church: Welcoming Refugees (Catherine Crooks)
Feb. 22 Join us for a hymn sing with Garrison Keillor, in the Sanctuary
Feb. 29 Peace in our Community: Gun Violence (Carla Bailey)
March 7 Peace in our World: Media (Paula Northwood)
March 14 Peace on Earth: Climate Change (Jeffrey Sartain)

Please join us as we prayerfully consider our response as peacemakers to the violence in our world.
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Book Study—Resurrection Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti

Peg Birk and Paula Northwood, Mondays, April 4, 11, 18, 7:00–8:30 p.m., Fireside Room. No fee; please register.

Even though the majority of us grew up in a culture suffused by the mythos of Jesus, many of us feel disconnected from the essence and vitality of his teachings. With Resurrecting Jesus, Adyashanti invites us to discover the life and teachings of Jesus as a direct path to what may be the more radical of transformations: spiritual awakening.

Through reflection and conversation, we will examine the story of Jesus as it reveals the stages of awakening that we may be called to experience.

The book, Resurrecting Jesus by Adyashanti, can be ordered at your local bookstore.

Peg Birk is the Founder & CEO of Interim Solutions, a Minneapolis based consulting firm that works with foundations, nonprofit organizations and associations undergoing management and organizational changes. She is passionate in her quest for deeper expressions of faith and how to live the story.

Paula Northwood is Minister for Spiritual Formation at Plymouth Congregational Church.
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Awakening Compassion through Communication—Part 1

Yvette Erasmus, Saturday, March 12, 9:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Fireside Room. Fee $149 per person or $249 per couple/friends; please register.

In this world of increased shootings, violence, environmental degradation and polarized politics, how are we meant to live and relate with one another? In the face of limited resources and global challenges, we are being called to examine what we each stand for:  love and compassion, or fear and violence?  

In this workshop, we will examine the principles and practices of nonviolence, of interdependence and of what it means to truly live a life grounded in love, courage and hopefulness.  Grounded in the nonviolent communication model developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, we will explore practical strategies and tools for understanding and responding to suffering and violence effectively.  

Workshop facilitator Yvette Erasmus, Psy.D., has experience teaching Compassionate Communication at the Yvette ErasmusAslan Institute and leading preschool children, teachers, parents and prison inmates to a more spiritually centered communication model.


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Deepening Compassion through Communication—Part 2

Yvette Erasmus, Saturday, March 19, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Fireside Room. Fee $149/per person or $249 per couple/friends; please register.

IWhat makes violence so enjoyable?  What makes compassion and empathy so elusive sometimes? 

Building on the work covered in part 1, we will deepen our exploration of how the core principles of nonviolence help us to transform and work with violence, aggression, anger and judgment within us. We will explore how soul-nurturing practices of shadow work, deep listening, body focusing and intentional language can offer paths to inner peace and interdependence with others. 

While previous experience with the NVC communication model developed by Marshall Rosenberg will be helpful, it is not a requirement for attendance.  

Workshop facilitator Yvette Erasmus, Psy.D., has experience teaching Compassionate Communication at the Aslan Institute and leading preschool children, teachers, parents and prison inmates to a more spiritually centered communication model.

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Book StudyThe Church’s Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within

Paula Northwood, Thursdays, March 31, April 7 and 14, 10:30 a.m.–noon and 7:00–8:30 p.m., Room 205. Free; please register.

There is a strange silence in churches about biblical and theological scholarship. A huge knowledge gap exists between the pulpit and the pew. Consequently, many Christians cannot reconcile their belief system with modernity. In this book, Paul H. Jones explores seven secrets that jeopardize the nature and purpose of the church. These secrets, he asserts, must be exposed to restore the church to vigor and vitality.

Join Paula Northwood as she explores the book The Church’s Seven Deadly Secrets. Paul H. Jones is one of the scholars who will present at the Jesus Seminar on the Road hosted by Plymouth Church April 22–23.

The book can be ordered at your local bookstore or purchased online at Westar Institute.

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Pilgrimage & Walking the Labyrinth: Journeys of the Heart

M. J. McGregor, Thursday, April 7, 10 a.m.–noon and 7–9 p.m., Fireside Room and Chapel. Fee $20; please register.

Pilgrimage as a spiritual practice allows one to change travel—any travel—into a sacred journey. Whether it’s a trip with a grandchild or a long-awaited dream, one’s perspective and preparation give shape to the journey. As part of this workshop, we will walk the labyrinth set up in our chapel. Walking the labyrinth integrates the mind, body and spirit into a deeper way of knowing. Within a safe space, one can tune in to greater awareness and peace.

M. J. McGregor, Ph.D., has been leading pilgrimages in France since 2008 and is an English-speaking guide at Chartres Cathedral in France.

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Jesus Seminar on the Road: A Progressive Jesus for Progressive Religion

April 22–23, 2016: Friday, April 22, 7:30–9:00 p.m., Chapel; Saturday, April 23, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Jackman and Lenmark Rooms. Lunch is on your own. Register with Westar Institute ( ).

The historical Jesus was a progressive teacher who raised important questions and sought fresh answers. Using rhetorical strategies such as parables and aphorisms that employ humor to undercut and undermine the powerful political structures of his day, Jesus envisioned an alternative way to look at the world, a so-called Domain of God. The main challenge today is to hear Jesus again for the first time. How might these strategies enliven religion today?

Paul Jones (Ph.D., Vanderbilt) is professor of Religion at Transylvania University.

Perry Kea (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is associate professor of biblical studies and the chairperson of the Philosophy and Religion Department at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana.


Guidelines for Lenten meditations

Watch for information on the winter-spring 2016 Spiritual Exploration programs.

Please register for those programs that require it.

Keep in touch: To receive regular email notices about these opportunities, send an email with "Spiritual Exploration" or "Adult Learning" in the subject line.

At a on the title for details or to register.

Conversations with Carla

Embodying the Cosmos through Contemplative Movement

The Inner Life of Stories: Writing as Deep Listening

Lenten Series: Roots of Violence—Seeds of Peace—Sprouts of Witness

Book study: Resurrection Jesus by Adyashanti

Awakening Compassion through Communication, part 1

Deepening Compassion through Communication, part 2

Book study: The Church's Seven Deadly Secrets

Pilgrimage & Walking the Labyrinth

Jesus Seminar on the Road: A Progressive Jesus for Progressive Religion



Compassionate Communication weekly sessions


PlymouthSpirit blog: Explore spirituality from
your laptop or home computer


Meditation 9:30 a.m., Sundays, Fireside Room. Diane Boruff, Dawn Hofstrand and E. J. Kelley lead.

In silence we come to know and live from the Divine Mystery within us. Join this ancient spiritual practice which includes three parts: opening meditation, walking meditation, closing meditation. No experience is necessary and everyone is welcome!

Meditation is a method and discipline designed to promote contemplative prayer. Each Sunday, there will be helpful instruction and then we will pray in silence. After the prayer, there will be time for discussion. This ancient Christian spiritual practice of meditation allows us to draw closer to God and to know God in daily life. In this age of media overload and busyness, it is transforming to add the joy of silent prayer to daily life. Today mediation is widely recommended by doctors to promote mental health and well-being. With modern machines, neuroscientists can now document the beneficial changes in brain activity and body functions such as blood pressure that occur during meditation. Science is now catching up to the knowledge that the mystics have experienced for ages. While in the prayer one goes inward in silence, the “fruits” or blessings of the prayer are revealed in daily life. Praying in silence with a group deepens the experience and adds a dimension of community. Having come to deep interior silence, one goes out into the world to serve in love. All are welcome to join in silent prayer.

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Compassionate Communication weekly sessions

Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.
—Chogyam Trungpa, Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

I was watching a group of women interacting with a new baby recently, and heard the repeated comment, "What a good baby!" In the culture I was raised in, this usually means that the baby doesn't cry much, doesn't fuss, doesn't interrupt adults getting their needs met, and this got me thinking about how early on our training to not value, honor or be aware of our needs begins.  Our training out of being vulnerable begins very early in our lives. 

Embracing vulnerability involves changing our relationship with fear. It involves developing the capacity to sit with discomfort and disease, to tolerate ambiguity and complexity and to remain kind and gentle with ourselves and others, while simultaneously deeply and relentlessly truthful. The skills developed through the practice of nonviolent/compassionate communication have helped me learn to sit with difficult emotions, to approach myself and others with compassion and understanding, and to connect to the human needs underlying all human actions. —Yvette Erasmus

Conversations from the Heart Practice Group meets on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. Dr. Yvette Erasmus leads the group; open to anyone wanting to practice compassionate communication in community with others. $10-$25 requested per session. To R.S.V.P., email or call 612/208-7216. Contact for additional information.

All levels of experience and interest are welcome at the practice, but a basic understanding of the Nonviolent Communication Framework taught by Marshall Rosenberg will be very helpful to you. 

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Ben Lee

Every Wednesday except holidays,
6:45-8:00 p.m., One Groveland

Beginning Yoga: Have you ever wanted to touch your toes? Do you often feel tension in your neck or shoulders? Ever wonder what yoga is all about? This fun and exciting class will leave you feeling stronger, calmer and more flexible.

Each class begins with gentle movements designed to enhance body and breath awareness, then moves into traditional yoga poses that create strength, energy and flexibility while at the same time supporting the development of a perfect balance between body and mind. Class ends with a guided relaxation to strengthen your immune system and leave you feeling light and refreshed.

This invigorating class is open to all levels and is set in a safe and supportive environment. No experience necessary. Just wear comfortable clothing and enjoy.

Ben LeeAbout the instructor: Ben's been studying and practicing yoga since 1994 and teaching since 2001. He brings his knowledge of anatomy and a thoughtful approach to individual differences to each class. Ben’s class combines postures and sequences from various styles of yoga that emphasize strength, energy, balance and deep relaxation.

Cost: $10 per session (no pre-registration)

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Explore Spirituality from Your
Laptop or Home Computer

Plymouth’s Spiritual Enrichment Committee hosts a web-based discussion forum that invites your participation. Each week, one of our clergy posts the liturgical reading for the next week’s worship and offers questions for discussion. We encourage members to share their own reflections on the website. It’s free, convenient and another means of rich, meaningful spiritual experience we so deeply enjoy at Plymouth. Go to

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