Genesis: Rock Point Vermont Wisdom Schools and Practice Circles

A brief description of our genesis, connecting with Northeast Wisdom and some wonderful leaders

Rock PointRock Point’s connection with Northeast Wisdom began as a discernment process that coincided with Northeast Wisdom’s determination to help new parts of this Wisdom network be established and take root. Four of us members of the Rock Point Intentional Community were exploring ways we might offer a different spiritual path in response to the election of 2016. Our intentional community is a “dispersed” community that serves the vision for Rock Point, a property on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, owned by the Episcopal Church in Vermont: ‘to be a welcoming sanctuary of spirituality, creativity, community, education, training, and environmental stewardship.”

Very quickly we knew we were kindred spirits with Northeast Wisdom and Cynthia’s articulation of the three-centered experiential way of knowing. In its history, Rock Point has followed the rule of Benedict in the curriculum of a high school, in the way it has patterned its summer camp and for a short time in hosting a small monastery. The roominess in this wisdom network as expressed in Cynthia’s “Whur We Come From” and Brie Stoner’s “Whur Are We Going” assured us of a freedom (and encouragement) to weave in elements of Celtic Christianity’s wisdom tradition so important to many of us.

In no time we were linked to Laura Ruth and Kerstin Lipke (from Vermont) and Bill Redfield (from Syracuse to, more recently, New Hampshire) who were leaders in Wisdom Schools and Practice Circle retreats at Hallelujah Farm in New Hampshire. Foreseeing we would need many leaders in our endeavor with different backgrounds and traditions, we cast a wide net to invite people we four knew to a gathering in October 2017 with. We wanted to know if others shared our interest and readiness. Sure enough. By the end of the meeting 30 of us had formed two groups, one to focus on Wisdom Schools and the other to form Practice Circles centered at Rock Point. So we were launched: figuring it out as we moved forward under the encouragement of others who were doing the same.

A few of us had some experience in the Wisdom network. One of us named Matthew Wright as a possible leader of our first Introductory Wisdom School. He said yes and by March 2018 was leading our first Introductory Wisdom School. Matthew led the teaching and the practices and allowed us to experience the flow as the 28 participants. From our start we knew we wanted to build a collaborative team of leaders to step into these leadership roles eventually. So, as we sat with Matthew at the end of the school, he suggested Marcella Kraybill-Greggo would be the perfect choice to help us build our capacity. She could provide some training as part of our preparation to share the leadership of the next November Wisdom School. And it was so.

While our team of eight shared in the organization of the first school by hosting, publicizing, pricing, registering, scheduling, preparing meals and cleaning up, we knew we had gifts amongst ourselves to teach and lead, too. One great gift we had as a team was that no one had all the answers, so we all were involved in forming the “container.” We hope that gift continues to bless us. Matthew was just the right fit for us in this maiden voyage as his comprehensive knowledge and deep experience with the wisdom teaching and practices gave many of us an introduction and a common vision of the component parts.

And Marcella was just the right person at just the right time with just the right bundle of gifts and encouraging energy to help us grow in shared leadership and collaboration. Marcella was extra generous in serving us, working collectively with our whole Wisdom School Team via zoom. We had four, once a month preparation meetings in separate zoom Lectio Divina, Conscious Work, Centering Prayer, and Sacred Movement groups, as we figured out how to weave our leadership together into our November 2018 Wisdom School offering. This four-month preparation team work helped strengthen the bonds of our community, so that our collective offering of the November Wisdom School was unified and nurturing. Marcella’s training also has benefited the Wisdom Practice Groups which celebrated their first birthdays in December. Many more members now participate in leadership in these groups. Remarkable.

So, fifteen months after our meeting to see who might be interested in forming a Rock Point Wisdom Community to be part of the larger Northeast Wisdom Community, we see the Spirit drawing many into this Wisdom Way of Knowing in which we are growing to ‘know with more of ourselves.’ We are grateful.

Recently we have had a gathering to name what has happened and to name some next steps we might take. Some important questions we are holding as we proceed are: How do we pay attention both to the nurture of the core community and to reaching out to new people? How do we keep alive the question of how this Wisdom work helps us engage in the spiritual work of justice and peace-making? How might our conscious work be linked to our environmental care of Rock Point? Are we ready to form some Law of Three groups, some deeper study of the Enneagram, some reflection on the Kanuga videos? All are echoes of Cynthia’s “Whur We Come From” question.

And it’s been good. So good. Experiencing what some Welsh Celtic Christians call ‘the unfolding presence of God.’ in and through all of this, a new dawning.

                                                                        posted September 5, 2019 by Craig Smith


Craigon behalf of the group of four who began this journey with a question, Jackie Arbuckle, Michael Hechmer and John Heermans

Craig and his wife Candace live in Vermont and have two adult daughters together. He has been an Episcopal priest since 1983, a parish priest for over thirty years and an operations and program developer at Rock Point, the Episcopal diocesan home for five years. Craig is an active postholder and participant in two monthly Wisdom Practice Circles and in the visioning and planning process for Rock Point Wisdom Schools.

Craig was drawn to the Jesus’ Prayer at fourteen during a church camp that followed the rhythm of the Benedictine rule, and experienced some of the wisdom of the Lakota Sioux as a teen through visits to the Crow Creek Reservation. Since early adulthood, Thomas Merton’s The Asian Journal, inter-religious studies and practices, The Cloud of Unknowing, Martin Buber and Franny and Zooey fed a quest in him for a truly catholic faith. The Celtic forms of spreading faith through communities of practice has been a strong strand in his life. Leadership in Family Systems though Ed Friedman’s seminars over twenty years is a great unifier of theoretical knowledge and lived relationships. Life-long singing has been a gift that has grounded me. In early 2019, he traveled south to participate in Marcella’s Law of Three as Spiritual Practice retreat in Pennsylvania.

Craig says, “Two years ago, when a group of four considered how Rock Point’s Intentional Community might provide a home and a training center for spiritual life, the Wisdom network and Cynthia’s synthesis resounded with me and the other three founders of the Rock Point Wisdom School.” 

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