More on Christopher's Background, Training, and Experience
It’s been our sense that many of you considering applying might want more information about what the facilitators bring to this program than what’s in the bios on the “About” page. If that is the case, read on...
I was raised Episcopalian, left the church, and spent some years as a practicing Zen Buddhist before coming to Friends. My varied spiritual journey gives me the capacity to authentically speak and understand a wide variety of spiritual languages. In addition to my practice as a Quaker, my spirituality is informed by years of participation in 12-Step meetings, working with a Jungian spiritual director, and body-based practices ranging from Qi Gong to Healing Touch to Authentic Movement. I am trained as a chaplain, as a spiritual director, and in aiding the spiritual formation of whole congregations. For many years, I served New York Yearly Meeting as their General Secretary. I live in the Fingerlakes Region of NY State with my wife Barbara, dog Gabe, and cats Harriet and Lil.
Forgiveness, Repentance, and Deepening in Awareness of God:
Seventeen years in Al-Anon taught me a great deal about deepening in our encounter with the Divine, learning from the lived experience of a host of men devoted to living lives of beauty and courage. It was in this program that I learned firsthand about the power that comes through surrender to God, and its capacity to enable people who had been powerless and truly broken to lead redeemed lives. That experience has informed my understanding of faithfulness, and is a lens through which I make sense of my experience as a Quaker.
A six-month retreat at Pendle Hill Center for Study and Contemplation was a watershed time for me, opening me to an experience of the Living God in Quaker worship, and a relationship with Jesus. That led me to support the spiritual nurture program in Northern Yearly Meeting (NYM), and eventually to go to seminary, to get formal training in spiritual direction and in the spiritual formation of whole congregations.
I eventually served NYM as Clerk, and facilitated the yearly meeting looking at its patterns of denied conflict, abrasiveness around spiritual difference, and becoming more conscious of how internalized racism impacted that body of Quakers. That experience taught me about the impact of a group not addressing or acknowledging issues present in the room, and how that impaired community and our capacity to connect with the Divine.
From there I felt called to serve New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) as their General Secretary, responding to their search for someone versed in conflict resolution and comfortable with spiritual difference. While I did do a lot of work supporting healthy engagement in conflict, and even more on spiritual difference, my understanding was that the work I had done on faithfulness was why I was called to serve NYYM. Responding to that sense of call, I led many workshops and retreats for monthly and quarterly meetings on deepening in our experience of God’s presence and guidance. I also led workshops on deepening in our experience of worship at Powell House, Pendle Hill, Woolman Hill, the FGC Gathering, FUM’s Stoking the Fire, etc.
Working with “The Other,” or The Shadow:
I did a lot of encountering my shadow, the parts of myself that I did not own or recognize, through five years’ work with a Jungian therapist/spiritual director. Years later, my dance with my shadow goes on, I hope from a more conscious place than earlier in my life. Since then, I have given over fifteen years’ public ministry for Quakers on our capacity to make people “other,” including the 2007 Friends General Conference (FGC) Bible Half Hours, and through numerous spoken and written messages, including the 2004 Illinois Yearly Meeting Plenary Address. More recently I have led workshops and retreats for monthly and regional meetings, and a workshop at the Friends United Meeting (FUM) Triennial, all on a variation of the theme “Welcoming the Other, In Ourselves, in Our Meetings, and in the Wider World.”
I was a founding member of FGC’s Committee for Ministry on Racism, and worked for seven years structuring and supporting multiracial conversations about race and racism. And I worked for over ten years on the FUM General Board, serving as a bridge in the FUM divide over LGBTQ ministry, working with each side to help them become more conscious of how they were making their opponents “other.” These experiences deepened my sense of the importance of groups speaking the truth of what is in the room, no matter how challenging the circumstances.
I received training in pastoral care while at United Theological Seminary, where the focus was on using Narrative framework to engage pastoral care recipients. I then went on to pursue five units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) through Hazelden Treatment Center and Fairview United Hospitals. In CPE it is understood that the practitioner is the instrument, so the focus is on supervised training to help the trainee to become a better instrument. The work for the resident is to learn to be more present, more conscious of one’s own internal baggage, able to recognize one’s peculiar gifts, able to work through where internal issues get in the way of those gifts, and in being boundaried when offering care. That training was one of the most powerful educational experiences of my lifetime. In the Residency with Fairview Hospital, I served their Hospice program. It was an honor and a privilege to be with the dying and their families through which I learned a great deal about being present and grounded in the midst of powerful emotions.
I then spent three years serving as Spiritual Counselor at Hazelden Treatment Center, as part of a multi-disciplinary team working with alcoholics and drug addicts. This included working with residents one-on-one using a combination of 12-step and Narrative frameworks, leading grief groups and groups for becoming aware of God’s presence, learning to trust God, and learning to surrender fully to God’s care. Working with this population deepened my experience of God’s power to heal and redeem thoroughly broken people, and the role of self-surrender in that process.
Body Awareness, Mind/Body/Spirit Integration and Healing:
I am a kinesthetic learner. Much of my understanding of spiritual seeking comes from my physical experience. My life experience gives witness to the inseparability of mind, body and spirit in our spiritual growth. Through training in Therapeutic Touch and Healing Touch I experienced the very real energetic dimension of our physical existence, and how stored emotions in the body impede our being fully conscious and alive. After five years in a Therapeutic Touch/Healing Touch practice group, I volunteered doing energy work at Pathways Health Crisis Resource Center, serving mostly those with terminal diagnoses. I also taught classes in self-awareness of our energetic bodies to that same population. For a year, I did energy work professionally, mostly serving incest survivors in their healing process.
I later trained for a year with a Qi Gong master, and used that as a part of my spiritual practice for some years. I find that discipline incredibly grounding. I have also struggled to maintain that practice.
On the more light-hearted end of the movement spectrum, I enjoyed five years training and practice in Contact Improvisational Dance, a movement discipline emphasizing empathic awareness of self and others, improvisational movement, and joy. For three years I was a participant/performer in Mandance, a men’s contact improv dance group.
“Radical Community as Proactive Peacemaking,” FGC Gathering Plenary, 2003
“Living Out The Kingdom While Living in The Empire,” FGC Pamphlet from 2007 Bible Half Hours
2004-2017 General Secretary, New York Yearly Meeting
2001-2004 Clerk, Northern Yearly Meeting
2002-2004 Spiritual Counselor, Hazelden Treatment Center
1998-2004 FGC Committee for Ministry on Racism (founding member)
2001-2002 Chaplain Resident, Fairview Lakes Hospital/Chisago Clinic Hospice Program
2001 Chaplain Intern, Hazelden Treatment Center
1990-1991 Staff, ARC Retreat Center
2002-2004 Certificate, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Guidance Training Program
1998-2001 Certificate, Contemplative Congregational Leadership Program, Christos Center
1996-2001 Masters of Divinity, United Theological Seminary
1990 Extended Retreat, Pendle Hill Center for Study and Contemplation
1974-1979 BA in Asian Religion, Carleton College