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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Winfrey

Contemplative Outreach Atlanta’s Journey: These Past Five Years

"I continue to be amazed how Holy Spirit has actively worked with us during my term as coordinator."

Beloved friends, I would like to give you a snapshot of how the Holy Spirit has influenced our development these past five years as your coordinator of our Atlanta Contemplative Outreach Chapter. A call from Tom Miller at St. Anna’s in Monroe asking to have an Introduction to Centering Prayer Workshop at their place started the ball rolling. I had just finished a retreat in St. Leo, Florida, where Stephen and Christine Hoffman formed me with six others to become commissioned presenters of the workshop. My son Troy helped me set up our website to publicize the event at St. Anna’s and connect it to our CO Atlanta finances. They warmly received us, and now their group is still flourishing with Tom Brown. That got us started.

We believed our top priority was to bring the Intro workshop to others who did not know the method of Centering Prayer and also to those who needed a refresher. That meant we needed more presenters to spread the word. In meetings in my home and on Zoom, I formed Marion Kaple, Ken Hatcher, Carl McColman, Paul Reeves, Leslie Geer, and Claudia Campbell. Their valuable workshop presentations continue our work, supported by our generous team members. They are fleshing out what Fr. Thomas envisioned how we will spread the good word of Centering Prayer and companion our fellow travelers on the spiritual journey.

Since then, we presented the workshop in-person to many communities: Transfiguration, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Mary and St. Martha of Bethany, St. Thomas More, St. Julian, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Andrew of the Pines, Christ Church Episcopal, Highpoint Episcopal, Grant Park Meditation Center, and several times at Ignatius House.

Then the pandemic hit. At that time, Rev. Ed Bacon at St. Luke’s Episcopal led a book study reading Richard Rohr’s Universal Christ. That enticed the group to want to learn how to become contemplative. Since we could not present the Intro Workshop in person, we created one on Zoom. Paul Reeves and team recorded it and the four follow up sessions. Now it is a valuable resource on our YouTube channel. St. Luke’s group has embraced Centering Prayer and now meet every Tuesday at noon on Zoom.

Kimberly McOmber, one of our Zoom Intro team members, wondered, “Wouldn’t it be great if our new Centering Prayer members knew how widespread we are? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all center together on a Zoom event?” Thus began our Big Sits. Our teams have collaborated to find scripture, songs, Taizé hymns, inspiring reflections, and prayers to present our Big Sits every month or two. Joined by people from all over the globe, Big Sits gather fellow seekers in a rarified experience that unites and sustains us on our journey. Our Big Sit YouTube recordings continue to inspire people to come closer to God through Centering Prayer.

The challenges of isolation in the pandemic did not stop our Centering Prayer groups. They continue to meet and support each other on Zoom. Instead of decreasing, they have expanded their geographical boundaries, welcoming new members from places all over the US.

We presented three-day and five-day retreats on Zoom. One of our five-day retreats extended into ten days as we held a center point of stillness during the 2020 election. Thanks to Vernon and Mary Joyce Dixon for their beautiful guidance during our retreats.

Fr. Thomas passed away during our 5-Day Intensive/Post-Intensive Retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in the fall of 2018. Losing his physical presence expanded and strengthened us instead of diminishing.

I continue to be amazed how Holy Spirit has actively worked with us during my term as coordinator. Our isolation inspired us to find new ways to connect, and Zoom has facilitated that. Fr. Thomas’ vision of our organization working collaboratively has activated our generous team members. We have truly become contemporary Desert Mothers and Fathers where Centering Prayer has nourished our spiritual journey and increased our contemplative practice guided by the Holy Spirit. We look forward to Her continued inspiration in our next chapter with Joanna Brunson.

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