- Are you an elder hungry for support and connection in this time of extreme isolation, uncertainty and fear?
- Are you companioning or working with elders and seeking support for them and for yourself?
- Do you have beloved elders in your life and seek to relate more lovingly to what they are going through?
- Are you craving spacious time to listen and be listened to?
If so, this digital workshop is for you.
Join us for a four-part series examining the experience of elders in this strange and sacred time of covid quarantine and distancing. We will learn from four esteemed elders about:
- Exploration of attitudes and experiences of aging
- Unique mental health challenges for elders
- Elder self-care
- Death and dying from covid and in the context of covid
- Spiritual and contemplative practices, adapted for elders
- Practical preparation: living wills, power of attorney, end of life care partnership, advanced directives
- Being an active part of the transformation rather than a victim of it.
- Application of the teachings of the great traditions to what is happening now.
But this digital workshop is unique. We are not just learning from the experience of some deeply grounded and wise elders in our midst, but also carving out generous space in each session for workshop attendees to gather in small breakout groups, to be in sacred, intimate companionship with others who are likely experiencing similar feelings and struggles. Led by our esteemed guides, these mini group spiritual direction sessions are intended as a safe space for elders and those supporting elders to companion one another, with love, for a spell each week.
Session 1 with Jane Vennard: Being an elder while caring for our eldest: adaptations in the companionship and practices in the time of covid19.
Elders are experiencing a unique degree of isolation, segregation, and lack of intimacy during these weeks of covid shut down. Looking into an unknown future from the perspective on one’s final season of life has taken on a particularly hazy quality in the time of covid. When will I hug my grandchildren again? Will I still be able to take that cancelled trip? What if I or a loved one dies alone? These questions arise in a larger context of exploring our own attitudes toward and experiences of aging. This session will explore the unique challenges and opportunities that emerge for elders both those who offer and those who receive spiritual companionship in the time of covid.
Session 2 with Colleen Sharka: Between Old and New ‘Normal’: The Spirituality of Liminal Time for elders in the time of covid
“I miss the old normal and can’t wait until the new normal.” This often-heard lament overlooks the lives we are living now, even with physical isolation and social distancing that is perhaps felt especially by elders in our society. This session will explore the gifts, challenges, and spirituality of this liminal time, between what has ended/been lost and what hasn’t yet begun, for both our individual and collective lives.
Session 3 with Frank Williams: Death and dying in the time of covid.
Covid-19 has us all thinking about death.
As someone has written recently: “Death in numbers, death in its potential, death as a threat. Death as something that has crept into the back of our minds and has taken up residence.” I have said and written elsewhere that we are a death denying society. We don’t talk about death or if we do, we use other terms, “passing away,” “transitioning,” etc. We just don’t want to talk about it.bAnd even those of us who may be comfortable talking about dying and death find in these times that it is difficult—too real, to grim.
This session will include a practical piece around living wills, power of attorney, end of life care partnership, advanced directives.
Session 4 with Thomas Moore: Courage and vision in the time of covid
We need courage and vision to deal with the challenge of Covid-19 effectively. That means dealing with fear and anxiety in a positive and creative manner.
The first rule of fear is to acknowledge it as clearly and specifically as possible. Then you can recall how anxiety has entered your life previously and how you did or did not deal with it. Your past experience can influence the present. If you deny your fear, that denial can take the form of rebellious and emotional reactions that seem to be the opposite of fear but are just defensive versions of it. Eventually, embracing your fear without succumbing to it can give rise to courage, a much need quality in these times of uncertainty. A transcendent view of life, a spiritual vision and outlook, is also valuable for keeping everything in.
Colleen Sharka, MA, LMHC, is a psychotherapist and spiritual director. She serves as Director of The Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing, Roxbury Presbyterian Church Social Impact Center, Boston, MA; a community trauma healing program that focuses on community companions abiding as peers with those who come through the door seeking accompaniment on their healing journeys. She previously served as the Director of Spiritual Formation & Accompaniment at Still Harbor, a non-profit in the service of accompanying individuals and organizations around the intersection of spirituality and social justice. She previously served as the Chair of Spiritual Directors International’s Spirituality & Health Care Institute.
Frank R. Williams, PhD, has written about and presented on dying and death and other end of life topics for over 50 years. Recently retired, having served 11 years as Director of Social Services for Casa de la Luz Hospice, Tucson, Arizona, he presently is Community Educator with Casa de la Luz Hospice and the Arizona End of Life Care Partnership, a collaboration of agencies working in the field. He is Director of Tacheria Interfaith School of Spiritual Direction and a spiritual director. Previous to coming to Casa de la Luz, he was Executive Director of Family Counseling Agency, Tucson; served 20 years as Family Studies Professor at the University of Arizona and is a United Methodist minister, having served churches in California and Arizona. A graduate of the University of Arizona, his Master of Sacred Theology and Doctorate were received from Boston University.
Reverend Jane Vennard was called to the ministry of teaching and spiritual direction and ordained in 1987 by the United Church of Christ. She is retired senior adjunct faculty at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, USA. Jane has presented workshops at SDI conferences and offered a Plenary Address at the 20th anniversary celebration in 2010. She has led programs for Spiritual Direction Colorado’s continuing education events including an afternoon on the topic of racism. A number of church groups have also sponsored programs on white privilege including UU, Catholic, Episcopal, and UCC. Jane has taught in spiritual direction formation programs at Garrett Theological Seminary, Columbia Theological Seminary and The Community of Christ spiritual formation program. She is a spiritual director in private practice and the author of eight books.
Frederica serves as SDI’s Director of Programs and Events, including the annual conference, international spiritual journeys, workshops and training events, and SDI’s emerging online education courses. She has spent two decades exploring entanglements at the intersections of spirituality, social justice, and ecology, and aspires to be an elder some day.