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First aid

Slow down, be prepared and simply be

By Carolyn Pogue

The very week that my husband, Bill, and I registered for a First Aid course, we received an invitation to another from a trusted colleague, Rev. Karen Hilfman-Millson, a former United Church minister in Orillia, Ont. It was about aid, too, but the spiritual kind. We were invited to a webinar sponsored by EDGE, The Observer and the United Church United-in-Learning ministry. Karen's co-conspirator in offering the “50 Minute Retreat” was Mardi Tindal, another colleague and fellow traveller, as well as a former journalist who served as moderator of the United Church from 2009 to 2012.

We’d never participated in a webinar before, and even the name of the thing seemed weird. Then again, a lot of the educational opportunities and communication online seem weird; we’re that old. So we figured, "why not?" We should be prepared for whatever comes up next.

As instructed, we tested the computer to make sure we could log on properly. We also had coffee, a candle, matches and journals at the ready at our appointed hour. The retreat was a lovely way to spend an hour on a winter morning.

We were among 28 people who signed on from the Prairies, Ontario and British Columbia. The theme was “Living in the Light,” and we were shown beautiful onscreen photographs to help imagine the coming light of spring.

Rev. Karen Hilfman-Millson. Photo courtesy of the Circle Culture Institute
Rev. Karen Hilfman-Millson. Photo courtesy of the Circle Culture Institute
Karen and Mardi took turns laying the groundwork and leading us through guided meditations, poetry and reflections on the paradox of living in light and darkness. Instrumental music instilled with birdsong formed a gentle background. We were provided with two opportunities for journalling, meditating or drawing in response to verbal prompts. All in all, we enjoyed a gentle hour in the company of fellow travellers.

A few years ago, Karen stepped out of the pulpit to become the founder of the Circle Culture Institute. It provides another way for people to nurture their spiritual lives and connect with others instead of, or as well as, attending a physical building. The Circle Culture Institute offers life coaching, workshops, retreats and team building — both physically and virtually.

A lot of people find spiritual nurture on the Internet these days. The Observer has been online for years, both with this website and its YouTube channel. Our own congregation, Hillhurst United in Calgary, has a wide presence, too. Last Sunday, Rev John Pentland’s sermon was actually an email message to someone 3,500 km from Calgary who listens to his sermons online. Walking home from church later, Bill and I mused about our parents and grandparents gathered around the radio to listen to sermons. Here we are again.

I hope that others will find innovative ways to connect with the United Church and with each other. I loved being with people from across the country and across the church, albeit virtually. I recommend this kind of retreat as an innovative way to slow down, to be prepared or to simply be.
Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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