Interhelp Newsletter September 2017

Dear Interhelpers and friends,

As the season turns once again, the weather brings blessings to some and terrors to others. We call the work we undertake together in this perilous time the “Work That Reconnects.” It’s an apt name, as is the name it was known by in early days, “Despair and Empowerment” work.

It is with gratitude that I compile this newsletter, reporting on events upcoming and recently held, and on new writing that can support and deepen our efforts.

Let’s begin with Deep Times, a Journal of the Work That Reconnects. The entire August 2017 special issue explores the impact of race and culture on the WTR. As stated in the introduction, ”…while we are all in this Great Turning together, we are in it differently. This issue speaks to some of the differences in experience.” Please take a look; then go back soon and read with care. I also recommend the May issue, published since the last edition of this newsletter.

You are invited to these upcoming events (details below): Weaving the Web of Connections, the annual Interhelp Gathering in November, this year with a children’s program; weekend workshops in Vermont and Pennsylvania; a weekend event, followed by a five-day, at Rowe; a one-day in Arlington, MA; and Community of Practice meetings in Natick, MA.

Also below: Rebecca Ruggles offers a thoughtful piece about her experience at Rising with Roots, the five-day workshop held in June. Participants in the fourth Earth Leadership Cohort (which convened at this event) reflect on their experiences. In closing you will find notes about the recent Facilitator Deepening weekend (photos here), along with a piece by participant Peter Shields.

Please be in touch; articles directly related to WTR, and announcements of coming WTR events, are welcome. We’re all in this together!

Paula Hendrick
Interhelp Editor

Weaving the Web of Connections, a weekend of Work That Reconnects practice. This event is Interhelp’s annual gathering of the Northeast WTR community. Newcomers are welcome! We’re offering a children’s program this year; parents, before registering children, please inquire whether space is still available.

Join us November 3-5 at Woolman Hill in Deerfield, MA. Details here.


Praising our World in Hard Times, A Clay Sculpture and Writing Retreat with Alan Steinberg and Fred Taylor. The Work That Reconnects is integral to this offering. Details here.
September 22-24 in the forests of Vermont

The Work That Reconnects with Lynn Iser and Rabbi Mordechai Liebling. During their recent sabbatical, they led Work That Reconnects workshops in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. Workshop details here.
October 6-8 at Pendle Hill Retreat Center in PA

World as Lover, World as Self: Joanna Macy’s Theory and Practice of the Work That Reconnects, led by Kirsten Edelglass, Anne Goodwin, and Solomon Botwick-Ries, a member of the fourth Earth Leadership Cohort. A weekend workshop followed by a five-day workshop. (Kirsten, Anne and Solomon are replacing Anne Symens-Boucher.) Details here.
October 20-27, Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, MA.

Introductory Workshop offered by Boston area Community of Practice, Saturday, November 11, 9:30-4:30, First Parish UU of Arlington. Details here.

Rev. Ian Mevorach, co-founder of the Common Street Spiritual Center and a member of the Earth Leadership Cohort Community, and Laura Hake, a biology professor at Boston College, invite you to a monthly Work That Reconnects practice group. Fourth Thursdays 7-9pm at Common Street. Details here.

Reflections on Rising with Roots
Rebecca Ruggles
Baltimore, MD

A special week of The Work That Reconnects, Rising with Roots, took place this June at Hallelujah Farm in New Hampshire. Its impact on me has not faded. Months later I see how that week set the tone for my whole summer and taught me new skills for being an elder in these complicated times.

Under the initiative of Aravinda Ananda, Joseph Rotella, Kirsten Edelglass, Fred Small, and Markie Babbott, 25 of us gathered attracted by the opportunity to be in an intergenerational group and with the desire to specifically explore the dynamics of oppression in our society. Half of the group were participants in the Earth Leadership Cohort, a WTR immersion program for young adults.

For me, this week was a special time – my first WTR workshop since stepping down from an intense leadership position in a Maryland advocacy organization that I founded and grew over the past 6 years. Among my motivations in that work had been the desire to address the human impacts and injustices of environmental degradation in my home state. As I entered my early 60’s, I also wanted to support and foster new leadership roles for younger people.

Last winter I passed the reins of my organization to a new leader and began asking, what next? I felt that being in an intergenerational group and using WTR traditional practices to confront the dynamics of oppression would be a good segue to a new time in my life. I think of myself now as exploring what it means to be a conscious elder.

Music drew our group together. We had a delightful singing grace before meals (“Thank you for this food, this food, this glorious glorious food – and the animals, and the vegetables, and the minerals that made it possible!”) and Fred Small led us in song at the opening and closing of each day.

One of the songs Fred taught us continues to echo in my mind. When I hum it, the depth and complexity of our week together, with its many challenges and joys, comes bubbling up. “The Tide is Rising and So Are We…”: this song will forever evoke in me a tenderness for this particular group of people who worked together with such passion and eventually built a special bond of trust, before we flung ourselves back into the wide world.

Our group process included rocky times. Joseph, Aravinda, Kirsten, and Markie created and maintained a safe container, but not one intended to avoid challenges. There were moments when hard truths and differences were aired, moments when we veered off into unknown territory and generational tensions flared. This was when we morphed into a community that both mirrored our flawed society and modeled new ways to be present and authentic with each other.

One of the ways this was facilitated was through small groups, delicately and thoughtfully constructed. One set were called caucuses. In these we assembled with our age and ethnic/race cohort, so that a handful of people could talk bluntly to each other about (in my case) what it feels like to be a white person of privilege struggling to understand the extent to which we live in a racist society. We also each had a home group where we processed with just a few others our overall feelings at the end of each day. When our full group reassembled, it seemed to me we drew on strengths, trust, and comforts developed from these small groups.

For me, a lasting insight of the week was to realize that I must quiet my generational guilt towards people in their 20s and 30s, enough to be an attentive listener and reflector of their reality. They do not need to hear my voice so much. I need to hear and honor theirs. Our week of Rising with Roots reminded me that the world I have contributed to, which the young bravely work to repair, is still full of beauty and grace.

Rebecca Ruggles
Baltimore MD

Members of the fourth Earth Leadership Cohort offer these reflections, as expressions of gratitude to scholarship donors as well as to ELC facilitators Aravinda Ananda, Joseph Rotella, Kirstin Edelglass, and Markie Babbott:

I sometimes find it overwhelming, trying to figure out how to be of benefit in the world today. There’s so much to know, so much to do, so much at stake… ELC reminded me that there is immense power in being with one another in community, looking deeply into ourselves as individuals and groups of human beings, within the larger communities in which we exist. I emerged with more (excellent!) questions than when I started, and an even greater commitment to asking and answering them alongside others for the rest of my life.
– Tess Edmonds

… Being a part of ELC and this community has not only opened my eyes to what’s possible when people come together but has also given me hope and new ways of being with the suffering in this world, as well as momentum to move forward. Thank you for this life altering opportunity.
– Katie Vason

ELC further deepened my way of facilitating Creative Expression workshops. I’ve garnered a rejuvenated sense of my purpose here on this Earth while growing lightyears with individuals that share similar priorities. I am overflowing with gratitude for this life growing experience.
– Marco Soulo

I didn’t know how much I needed peers – spiritual comrades, loving friends and enthusiastic accomplices – until the Earth Leadership Cohort. These peers, I see now, are my medicine.
– Solomon Botwick-Ries

Also held last month, a jam-packed Facilitator Deepening weekend. We spent Saturday practicing Work That Reconnects, with each Spiral element facilitated by a small group of participants. It was a lively day! These opportunities to practice were supported by teaching on core facilitation skills, role plays, presentations by Anne Goodwin on integrating song and by Peter Shields on trauma and resilience … and much more. See some great photos on the Interhelp Facebook Page. Thanks to Peter for sending along the following report about an action that included a bit of “stealth Work That Reconnects.”

Showing Up For All the People
Peter E. Swords, LMSW, Syracuse NY

On Labor Day, a small group of us stood near the main gate of the NY State Fair with our petitions and a sign: “Take President Trump’s Finger Off the Nuclear Trigger”. People arriving on buses saw the sign and, as they walked past us to the gate, many came to add their names. Even those who ridiculed us, or chanted the President’s name, had to think about security and what it meant to them.
To our signers, we clarified that this bill in Congress wouldn’t remove the President, just restore to Congress the power to declare war (unthinkable as a nuclear first strike is). In about two hours, we collected over 400 signatures.
As they waited to sign, people noticed how many others were taking a minute from their fun diversions to interrupt the incredible. Many thanked us for showing up in this time of fear and threats. We thanked them for thinking well of all the world’s people, unlike US leaders with narrowing views of who deserves security.
For us, the encounters with these strangers affirmed the value of remembering all victims of war, including recent Hiroshima and Nagasaki observances, and of honoring fears shared by many about nuclear threats. We listened and honored their pain for the world. The healing moments we shared were memorable.

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