Digging In

EucharistLast month, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries hosted its annual Kinsler Institute in Southern California’s Ventura River Watershed (right). This year’s theme was “Digging In: Heels, Histories, Hearts,” an exploration of the roots of individual and collective stories and an examination of what it takes to recover from addictions and renew spirits for long term healing and movement building (all photos from Clancy Dunigan).

The reviews are sprouting forth, testifying to a mind-blowing and heart-expanding week.

From Grace Aheron, a poet, pastor and gardener living on 8 acres of land in an intentional community in the vicarage of a rural Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Two years ago at the Institute, I met Sue Park Hur, a Korean Mennonite pastor who co-runs a ministry that fosters resilience and resistance practices in Asian American churches in the US. I attended the class that she and Elaine Enns gave on ancestral trauma, body-based healing, and breaking generational cycles of violence, which inspired me to undertake my own ancestral story-telling project as a part of my own healing from white supremacy.

Two months ago, I went back to Hawaii, where my family lives, and spent time collecting stories, learning about the history behind my family’s immigration, and gathering all the pictures I could get my hands on of the strong immigrants who came before me. When I returned to the Institute again this year, I had the opportunity to share my growth, newfound inspiration, and family story with Elaine and Sue, who were encouraging and reverent towards my task. This, to me, has been one of the greatest gifts of returning to the Institute over the last four years–I am inspired to do my own work in the year between the gathering, and then I have returned and deepened and shared that learning, only to go out again to continue the work.

WorshipFrom Marcia Dunigan, a retired nurse and spiritual director living on Whidbey Island, Washington. She was a member of the original Bartimaeus community in Berkeley in the 1980’s.

Our second time at the Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute was even richer than our first time last year. Of course it was a delight to see folks again – to be in the same room and breathe the same air for a bit. To sing together, worship together, eat, pray and cry together – to be Beloved Community in the flesh for a time. This is not a gift taken lightly. The daily Biblical reflections, workshops, and small group discussions were all opportunities for receiving challenge, pondering questions and tough texts, and encouraging one another. In the Gospel stories, Jesus calls us to follow him together, in covenant with himself and with one another. I love solitude more than many, and yet ~ ~ this journey of discipleship is not one I can walk alone. I need the challenge and encouragement of my family in the Spirit. Living in these times and facing the social, political, and personal challenges of the American Empire requires fortitude of body, mind, heart, and spirit…

It’s not for everyone. Best not come if you don’t like being with folks of a different age, ethnicity, skin color, or geographic landing than yourself. I heard that we were evenly spread in numbers over the decades of age from 20s -70s. We gathered from disparate places. I have learned new words, new practices, new songs, new choices, and new ways of being in the world from my sisters and brothers who come to the BKI. I am wildly grateful for the leadership and work of those who put this wonderful week together. I will return.

LynnFrom Lynn Hur (right: second from left), a part-time writer and full-time high school student living in Pasadena, California. She rolls with ReconciliAsian, a peace center in Los Angeles that equips leaders in Korean and Asian American churches and communities to serve in ways that promote unity, justice and peace towards reconciliation.

When my parents first decided that we were going to the Institute as a family, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. I usually don’t like tagging along with my parents to their events, and not to sound like I was dragged there, but a camp site with limited youth and Wifi for a week didn’t exactly sound like my cup of tea. Naturally I asked Mom and Dad to explain what exactly the Institute was, but they didn’t give me a clear answer. “It’s a place- we’ll be learning- workshops- you know some of the people there, don’t worry-” Yeah, I was pretty skeptical to say the least. I soon realized that my parents were right- the Institute really is quite difficult to describe.

At first, the experience seemed almost surreal. I was learning every minute of the day from someone new. Everyone was eager to have conversations and everyone had a story. I was having deep and engaging conversations with someone at almost any point during the day and it was the greatest thing. This is what education should be- making connections, learning from others and their stories, deepening your mind and thought process. The environment and community were comforting and healing- and then there was the more physical part of it. During the times of worship or just letting loose, the singing and dancing was incredibly unique. I almost didn’t really know how to respond in some instances. Generally Korean churches have literal choreographed songs or traditional hymns, but the idea of just letting everything go in my stiff body was kind of unheard of. But it was so very fun.

Maybe the most important thing I got out of this was hope. I was always angry at the world and its injustices, and I still am, but meeting these amazing people at the Institute has given me hope that there are people out there working and living to improve this world. And it has strengthened my resolve to join them.

VenturaFrom Susan Taylor who has PhD in economics and is formerly an economist for a multinational bank. She is lives in Louisville, Kentucky and works with Just Money Advisors helping people manage their financial lives, framed by their visions of a healthy world.

A week at the Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute serves up soul nutrition from most of the major food groups: scripture, music, books, art, heart conversation, laughter, Earth embrace, broadly-shared wisdom and leadership, challenge, and community. All just 20 minutes from the beach. No wonder I keep going back for more.

I return after each Institute with new friends and beautiful models of discipleship to watch at work in the world. I return grateful to have a seat at the table of God’s beloved community. I return encouraged that my small efforts are enough because we are loaves-and-fishes people, each contributing what we have and what we can, to be blessed by God and made sufficient. I return inspired by the energy and talent of the younger folks and the tenacity and talent of the older folks and the hope and vision we all share.

From Carter Echols, who traveled all the way from the East Coast:

We were fed a heart-healthy diet of: Ched’s Bible studies, meaningful conversation, laughter, hugs, wonderful worship and music and inspiring stories. And being face-to-face with old (make that “long time”) friends from around the country and finding new kindred spirits of all ages nurtured us greatly. Through those connections we also learned some new ways to care for the world and for ourselves.

Which is not to say that the week was easy. But the sometimes exhausting exercises of truth telling and digging deeper into our own histories strengthened our hearts.

We made the trip across the country in February expecting both support and challenge – – we were not disappointed. A great way to celebrate Heart Month!

For more info on how to get involved with Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, including online cohorts, retreats, annual institutes and study fellowships, check out their website or email them at inquiries@bcm-net.org.


2 thoughts on “Digging In

  1. Hedy

    Thanks, dear friends, for posting this.  So inspiring and encouraging too – even for someone way east.

    Hugs and love in Lent,


  2. Pingback: Reflection on the Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute 2018 – Watershed Discipleship

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