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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.

Fall 2014

Last updated Sept. 25, 2014

Bible Study: The Gospel of John

Thursdays, Sept. 18–Oct. 23, 10:30 a.m.–noon, repeated 7:00–8:30 p.m. Room 205.
Karl Jones. Free, please register.

The book of John is significantly different from the other three gospels. We may find we react to what we find there as Jesus’ disciples did: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60). During sessions together, we will review the gospel, considering themes such as anti-Judaism and prayer. Discussion will be informed by the work of scholars including David Rensberger, Craig Koester, and Bishop Spong. This series is geared toward those who want to become more familiar with this portion of scripture, make sense of it and explore its relevance today.

Karl Jones has been attending Plymouth since 1982. He finished seminary in 2012 and has completed his training in preparation for serving as a hospital chaplain.

Drawing as a Spiritual Practice

Saturdays, Sept. 27, Oct. 4 (this date only, 1–3 p.m.), 11, 18, 25; 10 a.m.-noon, Room 205.
Randall Rogers. $100.

Class is cancelled

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Book Study:Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross The Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World

Tuesdays, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, 14, 7:00–8:30 p.m. Room 205
Jim Gertmenian. Free, please register.

On Oct. 19, prominent theologian and church leader Brian McLaren will preach at Plymouth Church. In preparation for his visit, we will spend three Tuesday evenings discussing his book titled Why Did Jesus, Moses the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Participants should come to the first session having read Section I of the book. Books can be purchased at your local bookstore.

Jim Gertmenian is the Senior Minister at Plymouth Church.

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Death—A Living Exploration

Saturday, Oct. 4, 9 a.m.–noon, Saturday, Fireside Room
Jane Thompson and Randall Rogers. $20, please register. Jane’s book, Nourishing the Grieving Heart, will be available at discounted cost of $14.

Offering participants avenues of expression, creative ways of thinking and reverent, yet practical, skills and actions for being present when someone we love is dying and in the times of grief that follow.

The act of “bearing witness" with heart and hand challenges each of us during this sacred and feeling-filled time. There is no "road map" or "one right way" but the workshop will invite you to explore paths and reflections you may wish to consider.

Randall Rogers, a Minnesota resident and artist, shares that his artwork and his casket-building are profoundly influenced by his living conversation with death. Walking with his father in the last two years of his life marked the beginning of this conversation and led him to his awareness that death and dying act as a prism through which we are invited to savor life.

Jane Thompson has been privileged to counsel and bear witness to countless many facing death and those who navigate the grief that follows. In a 42-year career as a psychotherapist, as well as on a far more personal level with several of her family members, she has been challenged to integrate death while affirming life.

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Twenty-Seven Paths to Transformation*
Enneagram Subtypes: Keys to Personal Development and Freedom

Mondays, October 6, 13, 20, 27, 7 p.m.–9 p.m., Jackman Room.
Ann Mureé. $50. Please register.

The Enneagram is a universal symbol of human potential and possibility. Attend the October Enneagram classes and learn ways to use the Enneagram tool for achieving awareness, greater peace, joy, and self-knowledge. (*This class will be most beneficial to those who already have a basic knowledge of the Enneagram.) The classes include:

Anne Mureé is a personal and spiritual coach and Enneagram educator. She is a master teacher and has been facilitating adult groups for 30 years. She is active in the Minnesota IEA Chapter and has served on the board of the International Enneagram Association.

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Introduction to Centering Prayer, a form of Christian meditation

Saturday, Oct. 11, 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Fireside Room
Diane Boruff and Peggy Thompson. $25, includes the book Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating; please register.

Have you wondered how to begin meditating? Or have you tried to meditate and found it hard to deal with your thoughts? Have you tried meditation and wondered if anything was happening? Come to this workshop to learn the basics and to practice centering prayer with others. The Centering Prayer Introductory Program also provides a basic definition of contemplative prayer in comparison to other kinds of prayer and expresses the intention of Contemplative Outreach to retrieve, reclaim and re-appropriate the contemplative dimension of the gospel and share the gift of Centering Prayer with people of all faiths. 

Diane Boruff, co-coordinator of Minnesota Contemplative Outreach and a Commissioned Presenter of Centering Prayer, is a Plymouth Church member and coordinates the Plymouth Sunday morning meditation group.

Peggy Thompson is a UCC pastor and chaplain. She is a presenter-in-training with Contemplative Outreach and a Spiritual Director at Sacred Ground. 

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Walking in the Valley—Monthly sessions on grief

Second Sundays at noon: Oct. 12, Nov. 9, Dec. 14, Jan. 11, Feb. 8, March 8, April 12. Nancy Baltins Room
Randall Rogers. $15 per session ($25 couple). Please register for sessions below.

Beginning in October, we’ll step into the Valley—mindful of the autumn of our human experience. Randall Rogers, in concert with visiting clergy, authors and experts on the topic of death, dying and grief will begin our series of conversations. Join us as we stimulate, provoke and explore new and old ideas about the very human and particularly the Western experience and trauma of death and dying. We’ll emerge, together, in the spring keenly aware of the promise of seeing things anew.

October—Griefwalker Register here.
November—Fear of Dying, Fear of Living Register here.
December—What do you mean, a good death? Register here.
January—The Living Funeral Register here.
February—Denial: The Western Cult of Immortality Register here.
March—The Last Nail—Touching Grief Register here.
April—Rolling Away the Stone Register here.

Randall Rogers is a local artist and long-time resident of Minneapolis. Having worked intimately with his own father to help navigate the death and dying process, he is now extending that process to others.

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Beyond the Basics: Deepening Compassionate Communication

Saturday, Oct. 18, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Yvette Erasmus. $75; limited to 25. Lunch on your own. Please register.

This day of deepening activities is designed for people who are already familiar with NVC practices, and wanting to extend and deepen their current skill level.  Through structured activities and guided discussion, we will explore the following topics:

The day will include opportunities for self-reflection and self-assessment, guided empathy practice in pairs and small groups, and an opportunity to connect with others who are committed to embodying NVC consciousness into their lives. 

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. She also is a graduate student working toward her doctorate in clinical psychology.

For additional information, contact Yvette Erasmus or the program coordinator, Anne Seltz, at

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Book Study: The Untethered Soul

Oct. 30–Nov. 20. Thursdays 10:30 a.m.–noon, repeated 7:00–8:30 p.m. Room 205
Paula Northwood. Free, please register.

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. Singer then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. If you are interested in taking a serious look at what keeps you stuck, join us as we explore our inner space and open the door to a life lived in the freedom and inner peace.

Paula Northwood is the Minister for Education at Plymouth and a certified Spiritual Director in both personal and group spiritual direction.


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Spirituality and Caring for Creation: Inspiration from St. Francis

Oct. 26, 10:45 a.m., in Jones Commons. Ellen Van Iwaarden and Tom Haigh. Free; please register.

Plymouth members Ellen van Iwaarden and Tom Haigh particularly invite parents of young children and young adults to hear about opportunities to get in engaged in Plymouth Caring for Creation projects. St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic Church’s patron saint of ecology, has been much in the news since the election of the new Pope Francis. Born in a country village in Italy, St. Francis honored and celebrated nature and all living things as the creation of the God he adored. As described by St. Bonaventure, "Francis sought occasion to love God in everything. In everything beautiful, he saw God who is beauty itself." St. Francis’s lessons on simplicity and caring for creation were matched by personal action. As he said, "Preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words." Join Ellen and Tom to explore the wisdom of St. Francis and how Plymouth members can get involved in saving our glorious planet.

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Jesus Seminar on the Road: Does God have a future? Why it matters now

Nov. 7–8 Friday: 7:30–9:00 p.m., Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
All Sessions: $75 ($60 if registered before Oct. 1), Friday evening $20, Saturday morning $30, Saturday afternoon $30. Please register at or at the event.

Join us for cutting-edge conversations about our concept of God. How did classical Christianity come about? How did it come to have God as its core symbol? David Galston and Joe Bessler will explore the reliance of Christian theologians on Platonic and early Christian thought. Sessions will include conversation on modern trajectories of God language, post-atheistic and post-theistic thought, a post-modern critique of God and religion and its future.

Joseph A. Bessler is the Robert Travis Peake Associate Professor for Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Okla., where he serves as Associate Dean. He is the author of A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better (2013).

David Galston is a University chaplain and adjunct professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ont. He is the author of Embracing the Human Jesus: A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity (2012).

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Heart to Heart Couples' Enrichment Weekend Retreat

FULL Nov. 7–9, Friday 7:45 p.m.–Sunday 4:00 p.m. Koinonia Center, South Haven, Minn.
Cost:  $420 per couple (Includes 2 nights lodging & 5 meals).

The retreat is patterned on the well-known Marriage Encounter program. All couples committed to their partners and to their relationships are welcome—same-sex and opposite-sex, married and unmarried. This will be an opportunity to focus on your relationship and to deal with important issues that may be skipped over in daily living.

This weekend experience is designed to enrich communication and intimacy in your relationship by emphasizing personal reflection and couple dialogue.

A team of leaders, all of whom are experienced volunteer couples, will lead you through a series of up to 12 topics. Participants are not asked to share with the group, but rather, to spend time writing in their journals and then talking privately with their partners.
Former participants have said that their weekends stand out among the most meaningful gifts they have given to themselves, and their experiences have been an affirmation of the importance of their relationships, their friendships, and their love for each other.

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The Daring Way Mini Retreat

Nov. 14–15, Friday 7-9 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Fireside Room
Carol Burling and Paula Northwood. $100, limited to 10; please register.

"Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving—even when it's hard, even when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough." —Brené Brown

Join us for a mini retreat where we will explore how having the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live. Experiences will be guided by a curriculum developed by Brené Brown, an expert in the field of shame, resilience and wholehearted living.  This retreat will be a unique opportunity to journey with other participants who desire to reclaim their hearts from shame in an exchange for greater joy, gratitude and authenticity.

Carol Burling, Program Director at Pathways, is a Spiritual Director and trained facilitator in Brené Brown’s Connections Curriculum.

Paula Northwood is the Minister of Education at Plymouth Church Plymouth and a certified Spiritual Director in both personal and group spiritual direction.

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The Christmas Within

Dec. 21, 2 to 4 p.m., Jim Gertmenian and Sam King

Come and explore, with promptings from Sam  and Jim, how all the characters in Christmas story really have correlations in our own experience and how we can, by interacting with them, prepare for the birth of the new in our own lives.  This time together will involve sharing, poetry, music, meditation, and art making.


Download PDF for fall 2014 Spiritual Exploration programs.

Please register for those programs that require it via the embedded links.

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 glance...

Fall 2014—Watch for additional offerings!

Bible Study: The Gospel of John

Drawing as Spiritual Practice (cancelled)

Book Study: Why Did Jesus, Moses the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Death—A Living Exploration

Twenty-Seven Paths to Transformation—Enneagram Subtypes: Keys to Personal Development and Freedom

Introduction to Centering Prayer, a form of Christian meditation

Walking in the Valley—Monthly sessions on grief

Beyond the Basics: Deepening Compassionate Communication

Book study: The Untethered Soul

Spirituality and Caring for Creation: Inspiration from St. Francis

Jesus Seminar on the Road: Does God have a future? Why it matters now.

Heart to Heart Couples' Enrichment Weekend Retreat — FULL

The Daring Way Mini Retreat

The Christmas Within, Jim Gertmenian and Sam King, Dec. 21, 2 to 4 p.m.



Bible Study: It's Our Sacred Text

Compassionate Communication weekly sessions


PlymouthSpirit blog: Explore spirituality from
your laptop or home computer


Meditation 9:30 a.m., Sundays, Fireside Room. Diane Boruff and Jan Mattox 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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Bible Study: It's Our Sacred Text

Sundays, 9:15 a.m.; begins again Sept. 7, 2014. Room 207
Mary Kay Sauter

The Bible is quoted by statesmen, politicians, philosophers, poets and even orbiting astronauts. People from all walks of life have found in its pages just the right words for innumerable situations throughout history. But what does it mean to us? Join us as we explore the Bible this year. In September, we will begin with I Samuel.

We will continue working through the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) in fall 2014. Come every Sunday or whenever you can. Informed by recent scholarship of Process, Liberation and Feminist theologies, you will amazed by what you learn!

Mary Kay Sauter is a semi-retired UCC pastor whose ministry has been nine intentional interim pastorates.
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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

Companionate Communication Weekly Psycho-Educational Practice Group
Wednesday mornings 10 a.m.–noon, starting Sept. 3. Fireside Room
Yvette Erasmus. $10–$20 requested per session. No registration needed.

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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