Marcella Kraybill-Greggo is a teacher, spiritual director, and dynamic participant in the wisdom school community. She lives in Bethlehem, PA with her husband and 8 year old daughter, and spent her early years in Tanzania, Africa as a child of medical missionaries. Marcella is Co-director of the Spiritual Direction Graduate Certificate Program at Moravian Theological Seminary as well as the Clinical Director for Moravian’s MA in Clinical Counseling. Marcella holds a Masters in Social Work along with a certificate in Spiritual Direction.
Marcella’s first encounter with the wisdom way of knowing came in the summer of 2013, when she read the first of Cynthia’s books and felt a ‘sensation of uprightness (turn and stand)’ which was immediate, visceral, and ongoing. In November of that year, when hearing Cynthia in person for the first time at Moravian Theological Seminary, she says “the bottom dropped out inside of me. It was as if the Grand Canyon opened up inside of me and everything changed. I had no idea what was happening but I knew that something had just changed my world…that there is more, more to God, more to know, more to be opened up to, more to engage with and bring to the world.” Already steeped in 15+ years of contemplative work as a spiritual director, this continuing Wisdom experience clarified Marcella’s sense of place in the world. And, being on a Seminary campus for 10+ years provided an immediate platform for implementing wisdom teachings into Marcella’s Moravian programs, as well as into her own personal work.
In January 2016, after being a Wisdom intern at the Kanuga Mega Wisdom school, Marcella offered her first seminary course, Spiritual Classics for the Contemplative in Action, in a wisdom school format. This course involved working with the sayings of the early Desert Fathers and Mothers. The response of the 23 people who participated in this course was ‘electrifying’; students ‘were hooked’, sensing the aliveness in this teaching. Within the next month, Marcella started a once-a-month seminary drop-in gathering which included chanting, centering prayer, sacred gesture, wisdom teaching, and lectio on the Gospel of Thomas. Around this same time, a local spiritual director/retired pastor, who had participated in the January wisdom school class, invited Marcella to prayerfully consider bringing an Urban Wisdom School to his city parish in downtown Allentown, PA. Her Spirituality within Diversity summer course was reconfigured to be an urban wisdom school formatted class, where conscious work occurred while sharing a community meal with homeless individuals, movement with urban youth in an afterschool program, and mindfully walking around the city. Conscious work took on new meaning as participants ‘noticed like and dislike’ in context and were invited to ‘let it go’. Marcella notes, “our days were anchored in chanting, centering prayer, wisdom teachings on ‘three-brained knowing’ and sacred movement.” Marcella’s husband, a Professor of Social Work, also led portions of the wisdom school course ‘inviting participants to actively grapple with issues of social justice and consciousness.’ Both Marcella and her husband recognized that their true teachers were the homeless individuals, the urban youth, and the city, and that they were merely ‘cultivators of their students’ readiness’ (a concept Cynthia named at the Gurdjieff wisdom school, where ‘the movements were our teacher’).
A new project in the works for Marcella beginning in September is a one-Friday-a-month Training/Deepening in the Practices of Wisdom, being held at Moravian Seminary from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The focus includes “what it means to be a ‘post holder’ for Wisdom.” The group will focus on deepening their work with the Gospel of Thomas, the Law of Three, Sacred Gesture, chanting, and centering prayer. New texts, written by other Wisdom Leaders in the field, will be offered to the group. Training participants will also be involved in a monthly Law of Three Midwife group (more about that shortly). The 3:00-5:30 portion of each Friday will be open to the community as a Wisdom Way of Knowing monthly gathering. Participants in the Training in the Practices of Wisdom will assist in co-leading these community gatherings. This monthly Wisdom offering was something that Marcella’s Moravian students ‘called out’ of her, when they asked ‘what’s next for us in Wisdom?’ Marcella has also invited other wisdom colleagues to consider offering a similar Deepening Practice Circle on the same day in their own area (Yay Jeanine and Heather!! If anyone has interest in joining this offer, please let Marcella know!)
Next July 23-28, 2017 the first full length wisdom school will be held on the campus of Moravian Seminary, something that at Cynthia’s encouragement, Marcella is planning along with Wendy Johnston and Jeanine Siller-Jones. Marcella’s goal is to propose this Wisdom School to the faculty as a “Wisdom course for graduate credit, so that MDiv and other Moravian students will be able to attend for credit.”
Based on Cynthia’s teaching that ‘Third Force is more midwifed than taught,’ two years ago Marcella started two Law of Three Midwife Groups. Each group consisted of three people. “In working with the Law of Three it somehow felt congruent to work within the dynamism of three people in each group,” Marcella commented. Each group agreed to ‘meet’ for 6 months, and then assess whether to continue. “As the groups met for 2 hours once a month, one group reviewed their entire lives through the lens of the law of three, noting how one triad in their history had birthed the next triad”. The other group, held electronically, discovered that as they shared their lives, and invited wisdom colleagues to ‘hear their sharing through the lens of the Law of Three’, new ideas and new perspectives were offered, evoking a ‘seeing of potential 3rd force/reconciling roles that had not been seen individually’ (again, Cynthia’s teaching that we are 3rd force blind…that 3rd force needs to be midwifed). (If interested in learning more about Law of Three midwife groups, Marcella would be happy to share more).
Spiritual Direction has been a key component of Marcella’s Wisdom unfolding, serving as a critical vehicle for integrating the impact of Wisdom teachings. Having entered spiritual direction at age 22, and now a practitioner for 17 years and a teacher for the past 10 years, Marcella has found that a key cultivator in the development as a Wisdom post holder can be having a ‘wisdom-infused’ spiritual director. Marcella is actively cultivating in her spiritual direction graduates understandings of Wisdom teachings. Stay tuned as a low residency, wisdom school format, distance learning Spiritual Direction training program may be on the horizon.
Gurdjieff’s teaching that ‘Nothing Happens apart from a Group’ is a pivotal principle in Marcella’s experience. She teaches both group dynamics and group spiritual direction at Moravian. “I find you need a group for yourself, even as you are leading groups for others,” Marcella commented. Three-brained awareness and the movements are other Gurdjieff components to which she’s particularly drawn. “I find I can’t teach a class anymore without incorporating some movement. The teaching, no matter what it is, goes deeper when I involve the movement center,” says Marcella. Centering prayer as a meditation practice is her anchor, with chanting being a key and powerful portal. Surrender is her watchword.
Marcella is an awesome example of both teaching and modeling the Wisdom practices and path, and the generative and overflowing energies and effects of her life and ministry are very evident. A post-holder par excellence!