Thursday Workshops (C)

April 22, 2021

11:00 - 13:00 PDT

Registrations are now closed.

Renaissance 2021 Attendees:
If you are trying to access the conference, please check your e-mail for the link and access instructions, or click the "Chat" button in the lower-right corner for assistance.

Begin each morning with uplifting contemplative practices offered from 06:00 – 07:00 PDT.


Storylistening: Tending Hard Stories with Wisdom and Compassion

As spiritual companions, we serve first and foremost as storylisteners. We aspire to tend each person’s story with wisdom and compassion–including our own. Whether we meet with someone in a traditional companioning setting or encounter them in the public square, we as companions are most often told hard stories about life’s difficulties, disappointments, and disruptions.

While none of us can rewrite our life’s history, we can re-author the stories we tell about our lives. Re-creating the stories we tell about our lives has vast implications. Those who tell more redemptive stories tend to lead more generative lives. The more beauty, truth, and goodness we come to see in ourselves, the more beauty, truth, and goodness we tend to see in the world and its peoples.

In this workshop, Diane Millis will introduce participants to guiding principles and best practices for storylistening to others’, as well as our own, hard stories. This workshop is designed for spiritual directors, spiritual directors in training, and all listening professionals who want to increase their capacity to work with difficult stories in one-to-one and group spiritual companioning as well as in the public square.

Note: this workshop will last 90 minutes

Diane Millis

Diane Millis, PhD, is an educator, spiritual director, and retreat facilitator who loves to help people explore their life stories through group spiritual companioning. Diane is the author of three books, including her recently released Re-Creating a Life (SDI Press, 2019). She currently teaches at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (MN, USA) and shares her life with her husband, Mark, and their young adult son, Ryan.


Beyond Play: Uses of Role Playing Games for Spiritual Companionship

There is a growing field of research into the use of role playing games for educational, social, and therapeutic purposes. This workshop explores the use of games, in particular Role Playing Games, in spiritual companionship. Role playing games (RPGs – perhaps the best known is Dungeons and Dragons) create fictional distance, allowing us to explore our selves without ego and defenses. We create a character with skills, spells, and weapons who goes on adventures, and we say, “it’s my character, not me” negotiating with dragons and deposing ruthless warlords. Yet, the truth is it is us, and growth in our characters can parallel growth in us. This ineractive workshop will offer participants an opportunity to experience a Role Playing Game specifically designed for the spiritual growth, exploration and healing of the players.

No game experience required!

Menachem Cohen

Menachem Cohen is the founding Rabbi of Mitziut in Chicago and the Black Rock JCC, at Burning Man. He received smicha/ordination in 2003 from Hebrew Seminary. From 2006-2019 he did outreach with homeless and/or LGBTQ youth in Chicago. After graduating from Beloit College with a degree in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies, he worked for Little Brothers/Friends of the Elderly in Minneapolis and the Center on Deafness in Northbrook, IL. He then earned an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before pursuing the rabbinate. In 2019 he earned his Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Loyola University. He offers spiritual direction and coaching to individuals and groups, sometimes using role playing games (RPGs). He also designs/writes for RPGs, usually ones that foster spiritual growth, exploration, and healing.

Most important, he is a dad.


Working With Our Blind Spots: The Enneagram

Working with the elements of the Enneagram we will identify the part of ourself that builds a wall between us and God. Discovering our blind spots opens ways to understand ourself more honestly and deeply; to learn to forgive ourself and others. It opens us up to our own vulnerability in surrendering to the Beloved. As we move forward with an acceptance of who we are, we develop new ways of living life fully and in grace filled ways.

Knowledge of your Enneagram Type is useful, but not necessary as we will work with language of the blind spots of anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust (big energy) and sloth. Meditations and practical exercises will be used.

Andrea Andress

Rev. Andrea Andress is a retired deacon of the United Methodist and is a Spiritual Director certified by the Shalem Institute. An Enneagram teacher certified by the Enneagram Association in the Narrative Tradition (EANT), Andrea is a Founding Member of the Arizona Enneagram Association (AEA) and a member of the International Enneagram Association (IEA). She provides individual Spiritual Direction and Enneagram Interviews, along with teaching small groups and classes on growing through the Enneagram. Meditation by the Numbers: 9 Paths for Meditation is a CD Andrea produced on guided meditations based in the Enneagram.


A Contemplative Approach to Spirituality and Sexuality

Perhaps no other topic provokes such heated debate as sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. A Contemplative Approach to Spirituality and Sexuality is a dynamic, contemplative approach that draws upon the rich resources of contemplative traditions to influence one’s own interior life and spiritual practice to address issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, and spirituality. Our workshop provides a healthy alternative to didactic teaching which tells others what we believe is truth; and provides a unique opportunity, maybe for the first time, for spiritual companions to address issues of sexuality and spirituality, irrespective of one’s own sexual orientation. We will not attempt to convince one another to adopt any view, but rather offer a safe and sacred space to engage in an open and healthy conversation when discussing sexuality. All of this will be provided in a non-threatening environment and process, as we work together toward overcoming a very visible and salient barrier attributed to issues of spirituality and sexuality. During our time together, you will experience: guided meditation and prayer; journaling exercises; and periods of silence and reflection. You also will gain knowledge about accurate definitions of sex, sexual orientation, sexualities, and gender identification. And, you will leave with tools and resources for your own spiritual practice, including having access to a free Workbook and Resource Guide for future reference to support your journey of spiritual companioning.

Westina Matthews

For the past ten years, Dr. Westina Matthews has been teaching contemplative spiritual direction as an adjunct professor at The General Theological Seminary in the Center for Christian Spirituality. A graduate of the spiritual guidance program at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation —  where she now serves on its board — Westina is an author, public speaker, theologian, and retreat leader whose practice reflects contemplative living through “holy listening.” 

Tommie Watkins

Father Tommie Watkins, the first openly gay ordained black priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, is the Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A certified Spiritual Director and licensed master social worker (LMSW), he completed his joint Doctorate in Philosophy degree from the Universities of Alabama, Tuscaloosa and University of Alabama, Birmingham, School of Public Health. Father Tommie earned his Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from The General Theological Seminary. In his book Living Out Loud, he shares his struggle of self-acceptance. Father Tommie’s favorite quote is Dr. King’s: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” As such, Father Tommie is compelled to continue to Live Out Loud.


Spiritual Direction with Children

In this workshop we will explore the unique ways that children are wired for spiritual connection and further how an adult listening companion can help to enliven those connections. We will ground our exploration in the unique expression of children’s spirituality. Children are free from certainty, they engage the world with all the dimensions of the person, they communicate through play and imagination and are naturally open to the sacred. These ways of being enable a child’s unique spiritual knowledge. The attentive listening offered by an adult companion can help to create lifelong patterns of growing spiritual awareness for a child.

We will practice accompanying a child as they learn to see goodness, truth, beauty, wonder and awe in their everyday lives. We will also learn how to be a faithful witness to their pain, fear and sorrow. As a child’s spiritual experience is not limited to the sharing of words, but can include tactile engagement with silly putty, body awareness, play, art, finger labyrinths, and prayer beads, we will also engage with these tactile means.

Participants will come away with a renewed and expanded knowledge of children’s spirituality. They will come to know the innate spiritual posture of the child, both the child in front of them and their own childhood selves. Participants will gain an experiential knowledge of spiritual engagement practices that meet children in the various dimensions of their person. They will also gain knowledge around the particulars of expanding their spiritual direction practice to include children.

Please have these 5 items on hand for our workshop: 
1. An item that represents the sacred to you
2. paper
3. color pencils/markers or crayons
4. 5-7 beads
5. 24 inches of string or chord. 

Lacy Finn Borgo

Lacy Finn Borgo, DMin, teaches and provides spiritual direction for the Renovaré Institute, for the DMin. in Spiritual Direction at Fuller Theological Seminary, for Master’s and Doctoral classes at Portland Seminary, and for the Companioning Center. Lacy has a spiritual direction and supervision of spiritual directors ministry, and provides spiritual direction for children at Haven House, a transitional housing facility for homeless families in Olathe, Colorado. She is the author of Life with God for Children: A Curriculum for the Spiritual Formation of Children. She is the coauthor, with Ben Barczi, of Good Dirt: A Devotional for the Spiritual Formation of Families Volumes 1, 2, and 3. Her book Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together was released March 2020 through IVP.

Registrations are now closed.

Renaissance 2021 Attendees:
If you are trying to access the conference, please check your e-mail for the link and access instructions, or click the "Chat" button in the lower-right corner for assistance.

Thursday Workshops (D)

April 22, 2021

15:00 - 17:00 PDT


The Civic Imperative of Spirituality and Spiritual Companionship

Fetzer Institute and Hattaway Communications have teamed up for a groundbreaking study of spirituality in the United States that explores how people experience and practice spirituality within and beyond traditional religion and the connections to civic life. Learn what brand-new survey data show about the spiritual lives of Americans, consider what it says about the relationship between our inner lives and our outer action, and discuss how practitioners might ignite the civic imperative of our spiritual lives. This study will be of particular interest to spiritual companions, as it speaks to, and provides insights, into many issues we confront on a daily basis.

Gillian Gonda

Gillian Gonda is engagement program director of the Fetzer Institute, a philanthropic organization whose mission is to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. She guides Fetzer’s storytelling and public engagement efforts—with strategies that support sacred relationship and connection. Gonda is a passionate advocate for restorative narratives and works to help media makers and storytellers of all kinds see the transformational potential of their work. Gonda has worked her entire career in the nonprofit sector, spending much of that time in public media and philanthropy leading communications, program strategy, community outreach, and public engagement.


Soulful Aging: Embodying A Four Path Framework for Meaning, Connection and Companioning

Soulful Aging is a resource and resilience-based model for contemplating our maturation. It includes reclaiming grief as part of a soulfully lived life, while also channeling energies toward meaning, connection and giving back. In this experiential workshop, we will engage in reflection and sharing to introduce the framework and symbolic metaphor of the Four Paths. Our time will include an opportunity for exploring sensation and embodiment as we contemplate meaningful connections with each Path, and how this relates to soulful growth and evolution. The Four Paths of Soulful Aging describes an evolving connection to how we relate inwardly with ourselves, and outwardly with our families, communities and the collective in daily life as we age – regardless of actual age. Participants will come away with a visceral connection to how these paths have personal significance, as well as how this map can support the companioning of others at all stages of life. We will explore the paths of Resource – identifying that which strengthens and fills us; Release – authentic expression of emotion and moving the grief that often presents through the natural course of aging; Renewal – connecting with that which sparks and inspires newly discovered meaning and creative expression; and Return – identifying ways of being in service to self and others by giving back out of seasoned wisdom and heart-centered connection.

Robyn Hubbard

Robyn Hubbard, DMin is a Spiritual Companion, Grief Counselor/Certified Compassionate Bereavement Care Counselor, Certified Dreamwork Facilitator, and Bodyworker supporting people compassionately through thresholds of growth and evolution, experiences of grief and loss, life transitions, illness and end of life.  She has over twenty years of experience and passion working with all ages of populations identifying resource and resilience while living soulfully with the challenges of grief, loss and aging.  Robyn has a broad depth of experience in body-centered awareness and movement-based healing practices that inform her work.  She is passionate about the inquiry of how the human soul awakens while navigating transitions, difficulty, loss and the bridge between living and dying.  Robyn works with individuals and groups and offers retreats and community rituals for the cultural transformation of how grief and aging are honored and modeled in our time.  She also offers presentations and workshops supporting grief within the hospital, school and corporate setting creating “Cultures of Support” using her Four Path model curriculum.


Your Sorrow Unmasked: Journeying Though Grief

It has been said that all pastoral work is grief work. Life is flux and change, and so grief — defined as a complicated response to loss — haunts nearly every issue that may arise in spiritual companionship, if only we know how to recognize it. Drawing on psychological, spiritual, and artistic resources, this workshop explores the reality of grief in such a way as to enable spiritual directors to understand and respond to the grief experiences of the people they accompany as well as to minister in the midst of their own personal grief.

The workshop will consider grief broadly, helping participants to recognize it in its many different forms: anticipatory grief, complicated grief, disenfranchised grief, institutional grief, as well as the collective social grief of our time — a grief born of injustice — which forms the psychic backdrop of so many living in the United States and around the world today. Additionally, participants will explore various means of coping with grief and ways of saying goodbye and honoring relationships.

Far more than a theoretical exploration of the topic, the workshop will be grounded in experience. We will begin by identifying where we stand on our own “grief timelines” and will mine our own experiences for ways in which our personal grief might aid us or distract us while working with others. Aware of how difficult this topic is for many of us, we will not only teach but provide an approach rooted in safety and sensitivity, and we will conclude our time together with a practice of self-compassion. Having grown in our understanding of the grief facet of our own human experience, we hope to become more sensitive hearers, holders, and perhaps even healers for the people we accompany.

Nicholas Collura

In addition to his work as a spiritual director and retreat director, Nicholas Collura is a member of the Association of Professional Chaplains and works as a palliative care chaplain in Philadelphia. He studied film and literature at Yale University and the University of Paris before earning an MDiv from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He trained as a spiritual director at the Jesuit Collaborative in Boston and as a chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital and Einstein Medical Center, and he spent three years of his life as a Jesuit on the West Coast. Beyond his work in hospitals, he has ministered on college campuses, in juvenile halls and state prisons, and at a L’Arche community in the Pacific Northwest.


From Judgment to Connection with Ourselves, Our Directees, and the World: Nonviolent Communication/ Connecting Communication for Spiritual Directors

Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also known as Connecting Communication, is a revolutionary communication model that provides concrete ways to transform judgment, anger, and fear into compassion for ourselves and others. In this highly interactive, experiential workshop, we will see how NVC can enhance the spiritual direction relationship, helping directors to perceive and reflect the deepest motivations brought by their directees, in ways that can help the directees come to compassion for themselves and others.

NVC offers strong, effective tools to connect open-heartedly with anyone, so that when we are called outward into the public square, we have the skills to work for change nonviolently – i.e. in a way that honors the sacredness of all humanity. Participants will learn how anger, fear, and judgment can be clarifying emotions, pointing us to what we most long for. We will learn how meeting our motivations with deep compassion can help us move from those difficult emotions to the love which leads to more effective action.

Finally, we will note how NVC has sometimes been used to enforce the status-quo of white privilege and see how we can recognize this and turn it around, employing NVC to help dismantle systemic oppression.

Pam Winthrop Lauer

Pam Winthrop Lauer grew her spiritual direction and Nonviolent Communication practices gradually over 15 years while raising her children and caring for her husband who was ill. In 2015, with her children grown and husband recovering, Pam launched a full-time practice of spiritual direction and NVC coaching and teaching. She also volunteers as an interfaith leader. Pam’s teaching style is dynamic, effective, and gentle. She is a candidate to become a certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication ( Her spiritual direction certification is through the Lev Shomea Jewish Spiritual Direction Training Program of 2001-2003.


Santiago Is Not There, Is In You: Preparing For A Pilgrimage Abroad Or At Home

The moment Jeanette and her partner took their first steps on the Camino in Spain and Kumano Kodo in Japan, their lives became forever changed. In this workshop, we will explore what it takes to prepare physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for a pilgrimage. Participants will gain insight on details related to a physical training plan; questions to ask oneself in anticipation of the journey; discerning why, where and when to go; considering clothing, language, and equipment; recommended books, websites, and travel agencies; and how to re-enter and integrate once home. Jeanette will share personal stories from her pilgrimages – from connection with others and nature to embracing her identity as pilgrim to befriending (or dealing with and making it through the adventure of) bed bugs. We will seek to hear each others’ stories and the pilgrim-lessons we have learned from significant encounters. We will also spend some time in contemplation about meaningful moments from our own journeys at home or abroad and participate in a creative endeavor related to one of them.

Jeanette Banashak

Dr. Jeanette Banashak is a queer and bilingual interspiritual and interreligious companion. She is the co-founder/co-director of The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, an organization providing training in spiritual direction/companionship with an interfaith and interspiritual focus. Jeanette is the author of The Mindful Pilgrimage: A 40-Day Pocket Devotional for Pilgrims of Any Faith or None and a 30-Day ezine of haiga (haiku and visuals) from the Camino. In 2018, she became a “dual pilgrim” after walking the Camino de Santiago and Kumano Kodo in Spain and Japan. She has traveled to 28 countries and has plans to continue journeying towards home, wherever that may be. Jeanette also teaches social and emotional learning and development at Erikson Institute and spiritual direction at the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Registrations are now closed.

Renaissance 2021 Attendees:
If you are trying to access the conference, please check your e-mail for the link and access instructions, or click the "Chat" button in the lower-right corner for assistance.