Photo by Kerry Brady

Creating a resilient and thriving Earth community

JUNE 3-8, 2019

A collaboration between the RiverStyx Foundation,
The Chaplaincy Institute and Ecology of Awakening
for religious leaders, chaplains or other spiritually-oriented professionals*

With Kerry Brady, Lauren Van Ham, David Tucker
with Brock Dolman, Melissa Nelson, Gopal Dayaneni and Brian Thomas Swimme

The Eco-ministry Intensive is rooted in the desire to create a resilient and thriving Earth community in support of a regenerative future. It is also about bringing curiosity to our deepest ways of knowing, courageously questioning our core beliefs and lifestyles, and prophetically imagining what is life-affirming for the whole. For many of us who are religious leaders, chaplains or other spiritually-oriented professionals, our original call to ministry is being stretched by the anxiety and unrest that so many are experiencing during this time of disruption, injustice and uncertainty. During this intensive, we will explore questions about belief and knowing, and reflect on what it is to embody faith-based activism and community support.

The overall intensive consists of an initial Zoom call, a 6-day retreat in Western Sonoma County, California, and a final ½-day post retreat Zoom call to support our ability to bring what we have discovered into action in our lives, communities and ministries. There are two layers of intention for our time:

Photo by Brock Dolman

Photo by Brock Dolman

  • The first is to take an honest and deep look at the impact of living within a modern industrial, extractive and exploitive system, and then look towards creating an ecologically and socially just framework where all beings co-exist peacefully and freely in balance with a thriving Earth. Our guest faculty are dedicated to this work and will help us consider what it is to move out of the predominant story of separation into one of (inter) connection, equity and care.

  • The other is to ‘re-awaken’ to ourselves, to each other, to the land and to the impulse that calls each of us to contribute to the world in our unique way. When there seems to be so much work to do in our human as well as Earth communities, ‘awakening’ can seem extraneous to the needs of our time. And yet, when we awaken to our deepest identity and place within the larger unfolding web, we reconnect with the same Creative Force (God - Life - Spirit) that unfolded over time to bring forth the Himalayas and the hummingbird, as well as each one of us.

By coming together in community and engaging in mutually reflective encounters with the land and with each other, we will create a vibrant ecology that invites us to experience an embodied shift, out of what is conditioned and separate, into what is ever-evolving and connected with all life. This movement involves ‘awakening from’ certain aspects of our lives - our identities, roles, beliefs, divisions (inner and outer), the worldview that shaped us, etc - as well as ‘awakening to’ other aspects, too varied and vast to name. Throughout our time, we will become courageously curious about our roles in ministry, community care, and how we might spiritually guide our faith groups into a place of similar awakening, connection, and action.

Photo by Michael Stjernholm

Photo by Michael Stjernholm

Our first two nights take place at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC), an 80-acre research, demonstration, education, advocacy and community-organizing center in West Sonoma County that develops strategies for regional-scale community resilience and a just transition for biological and cultural diversity. While at OAEC, we will see a wide array of permaculture systems in action and enjoy delicious, organic meals, the pond, hot tub and comfortable eco-dwellings.

After immersing in the ecology at OAEC, we will move to nearby Bohemian Preserve (Boho) where we will drop more deeply into the rhythms and cycles of the land. Boho is a spectacular ecosystem marked by active waterfalls, coastal prairie meadows, old-growth fir and oak woodlands that dwell in serpentine soils. While at Boho, our fabulous chef Hira will nourish us with local, organic meals and her love of food.

Over the course of our six days, we will live and learn from the land, drawing from the new sciences, nature-based processes, listening meditation, inner and outer tracking, dream-work, somatic resiliency work, council practices, ceremony and other time-tested processes that usher us towards dissolving our borders and discovering our deepest belonging.

Photo by Nonie Brady Merck

Photo by Nonie Brady Merck

Join us to:

  • Re-member our deepest identity as vast, and intimately connected with all Life; and consider how our role as spiritual leaders might help others to do the same

  • Honor our grief

  • Listen for and embrace earth-attuning practices

  • Connect with like-minded souls dedicated to creating a world where all beings have the right to co-exist peacefully in balance with the Earth

  • Explore systems change, social transformation and lifestyle choices

  • Learn skills that ignite our innate resilience and build our capacity to show up for these times

  • Immerse in deep ecology and living systems in support of our ability to think and act in partnership and attunement with Life

  • Explore the power of ceremony and co-create and share emerging Earth liturgy that wants to be born in us and for the communities we serve

  • Share in fieldwork and stories of unique service and eco-ministries; explore ideas for institutional and non-institutional eco-ministry positions

  • Be deeply nourished by local, seasonal and organic meals, in community

As an ordained Christian minister with years of experience both giving and experiencing retreats, I am always searching for that “thing” that will move me in a deeper way with wisdom and integrity. My work with Ecology of Awakening has been exceptional for me. Combining time on the land with inspired explorations into the beauty and demands of the Earth and our world were just what I desired—and needed. The approach is to invite each individual to embrace their sacred journey in relationship to the Earth, each other and the Ineffable. Freed from the constraints of making things fit in the “right” way, I was able to go deeper into the caverns of Spirit and wider into a new, more integrated view of the world and my place in it.
— Patricia de Jong, UCC Pastor, Sonoma, CA

Note: In order to support greater intimacy and connection with the Earth, we will be sleeping in tents, living comfortably on the land. This is an opportunity to re-connect with our innate rhythm and re-discover our deepest belonging, where we are nourished and informed by the whole. Many who have never or seldom camped are deeply fed by the discovery of their love of being immersed on the land.

A limited number of special accommodations (pre-set up, roomy tents with padded cots) are available, on a first come-first served basis for an extra $50/night for non-inclined campers, those with physical limitations or those traveling from afar. Please email info[a] to inquire about availability and to handle payment which is separate from registration.

We seek to make this retreat available to all who are called: please note that you do not need to be in top physical shape to attend; yet we require that each person be in good physical, mental and emotional health. We will provide a list of equipment upon enrollment and can assist you with where to buy or borrow equipment if needed.

Who is this for?

The Eco-Ministry Intensive is for religious leaders, chaplains and spiritually oriented professionals who have an active congregation, spiritual community and/or ministry. We welcome and encourage all traditions. To help us ensure that the program is a fit for you, we’ve developed an APPLICATION (button at bottom of page). All information will be strictly confidential.

Dates and Location

Monday, June 3, 10:00 AM - Saturday, June 8, 1:00 PM 2019; Occidental, West Sonoma County, California as well as a pre-retreat Zoom call with Brian Thomas Swimme on Tuesday, May 14 at 6:00 PM PDT and a post-retreat Zoom calls (Date TBD). Both Zoom calls will be recorded for those who are unable to make the dates, although we highly encourage you to be with us if possible. For those who wish, carpools will leave Berkeley early June 3rd in order to be on time for our 10:00 start at OAEC in Occidental.

Group Size

Maximum Number: 16


Sliding scale $1,895 - 1,295; **For Chaplaincy Institute students: Please send an email to admissions[at] to receive academic and/or continuing education credit.

We aim to balance the actual cost of running programs with our commitment to make our offerings as accessible as possible to those who are called. Please know that our pricing greatly underestimates the number of hours that our team spends preparing, organizing and facilitating. Additionally, we keep our programs to a maximum of 16 in order to facilitate optimum engagement between guides, participants and what emerges while living in community on the land. Thanks to a generous grant from the Riverstyx Foundation, we are able to offer this program below our actual cost.

Photo by Brock Dolman

Photo by Brock Dolman

For the Eco-Ministry Intensive, we have put together a powerful curriculum, with highly regarded, seasoned faculty who have dedicated their lives to creating resilient and thriving human and Earth communities in their own unique ways. Tuition includes all course instruction, course materials, OAEC housing and meals, camping fee, guide support and local, organic meals prepared by our fabulous chef, Hira, who puts her whole heart into each meal. It does not include transportation costs to or from Occidental.

We offer financial support through sliding scale fees as well as partial scholarships. The sliding scale structure helps to make retreats more affordable for those who would not be able to attend otherwise.

  • $1,895: This tier covers our basic costs and makes this opportunity available to others.

  • $1,595: This tier covers our basic costs.

  • $ 1,295: This tier is set below our actual per person cost and is designed to create more access.

Scholarship Support:

We are committed to diversity and equity and aim to price our program to support inclusivity and access. Thanks to financial support from the Riverstyx Foundation, we are able to offer assistance to those who are called to the Eco-Ministry Intensive and are currently limited in their finances. If you are called to the program yet unable to pay the above fees, we encourage you to apply for scholarship support, as we want to work with you.

Scholarships are partial in that we ask you to pay what you can afford with the hope that we can make up the difference. Scholarships are contingent on the amount available, so best to inquire early. We take into account each individual circumstance and do our best to support each person’s needs. To request scholarship support, please first apply to the program (button below) and, if you are accepted, we will then send you an application for scholarship.