Join us April 12-14, 2024, for the Encountering Spirit Retreat, an online spiritual retreat to explore our experience of the Light, held by Friends General Conference.

Encountering God is a key experience of our Quaker faith. What can Early Friends teach us about finding Truth? Where does encounter happen? How do we open ourselves to the gift of direct relationship?

We are excited to offer interactive sessions on the theme of Encounter from a variety of perspectives. See the full list of plenaries and workshops below.

All-Group Plenaries

Friday Plenary: Three Friends on Encounter

Three Friends on Encounter

Friday Plenary

The opening plenary will set the stage and begin the conversation for the rest of our weekend together.  Three panelists will reflect on their personal experience of being in the presence of the Divine, in the presence of something greater than themselves.  What has such encounter meant to them?  How has encounter changed them?  What have they learned from Quaker spirituality and other Friends, past and present?  The plenary will conclude with space for interchange between the panelists and the audience.

with Regina Renee Nyegbeh, Melanie Gifford, and Cai Quirk

Friday, April 12, 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central / 6pm Mountain / 5pm Pacific

Regina Renee Nyégbeh  is a public library director,  and a former public school teacher. She is passionate about social justice, intellectual freedom, literacy, and labyrinths. Her work with Friends and racial healing was born out of necessity as she navigates life as both a woman of African descent and a Friend. Regina Renee is a a volunteer for Friends General Conference and a member of Ujima Friends Meeting. She identifies as a Christian Friend and her favorite book in the Bible is James. Her life verse is Micah 6:8.

For over twenty years Melanie Gifford has been active at Adelphi Friends Meeting and in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. As a nontheist in a religious community, she has learned not to resist the occasional discomfort of being an anomaly and in her spiritual life, she has found more common ground with theist Friends than differences. This has been a great joy and it led her to facilitate Adelphi’s Spiritual Formation program for some years, and to serve on the Ministry committees of both Adelphi and BYM. She participated in the Nurturing Faithfulness Program led by Marcelle Martin and Hilary Burgin, a transformative experience that brought a leading to open moments of quiet space where unexpected insights can grow, both as an individual and in community.

Cai Quirk (they/them or ey/em pronouns) is a lifelong Quaker with passions for Witness, personal discernment, and diverse methods of spiritual deepening. With a gender that transcends binaries, Cai is practiced at deeply questioning societal expectations and norms, and in shifting towards roots of individual and group integrity. Spiritual deepening, Witness, and integrity are expanded in Cai’s ministry through photography, writing, music, and workshops. Cai has facilitated hundreds of talks and workshops, including for FGC and Quaker organizations such as Pendle Hill, Powell House, Beacon Hill Friends House, QEW, FCNL, FLGBTQC, FQA, QuakerSpeak, and various yearly, quarterly, and monthly meetings. You can learn more about Cai and their ministry at

Saturday Plenary: Encounter Through Spiritual Practice

Encounter Through Spiritual Practice

Saturday Plenary

In this panel, three Friends will reflect on the spiritual practices that deepen and inform their faith and experience as Quakers: Centering Prayer, Experiment with Light, and Lectio Divina. How do these practices allow Friends to encounter Spirit?  How can these practices contribute to worship? The plenary will conclude with space for interchange between the panelists and the audience.

with Albert Bellg, Barbara Birch, and Pete Schwartz

Saturday, April 13, 1pm Eastern / Noon Central / 11am Mountain / 10am Pacific

Sunday Plenary: Encounter in Community: The Gathered Meeting

Encounter in Community: The Gathered Meeting

Sunday Plenary

How do we encounter the Gatherer in the Gathered Meeting? Thomas Kelly describes Gathered Meetings as “group mysticism of the disciplined soul and the disciplined group.” In this plenary, three Friends will describe their experiences of the Gathered Meeting and how they prepare for disciplined group mysticism. How do we encounter the Gatherer?

with Stanford Searl, Marty Grundy, and Steven Davison

Sunday, April 14, 1pm Eastern / Noon Central / 11am Mountain / 10am Pacific


Participants can attend any of the sessions scheduled for Encountering Spirit.  We’re not asking folks to choose specific workshops ahead of time. Rather, you’ll have access to all of the Zoom links and can join any of the workshops or sessions or other events.

Two-Day Workshops

A Black Femme Bible Study: Genesis 16 and 21 with nova sturrup

Saturday Workshop A and Sunday Workshop C

What happens when we put Hagar at the center of conversation about Genesis 16 and 21? How does entering these storyworlds with Hagar in a place of subjectivity change what we think we know about her? Join in reading the stories of Hagar with a focus on her agency, belonging, and empowerment through her experience of divine encounter. This workshop is rooted in Womanist, Queer, and Black theologies.

nova sturrup is a dreamer, wonderer, and poet with a deep interest in the Hebrew Bible and the ways faith informs imaginings and realities with regards to community, belonging, and inclusion. nova’s eyes light up in conversation about the pedagogical impact of technology in classrooms, liberation theologies, black literature as sacred text, and ritual and spiritual practice. You might find nova lounging in a Brooklyn café having a cup of herbal tea, singing to a tree in their backyard, or dreaming about the world they hope to co-create with all of you.

Where Does Encounter Lead? with Michael Levi

Saturday Workshop B and Sunday Workshop D

This workshop, spread over two days, will explore how personal and direct experience of the Divine is embedded throughout Quaker faith and practice.  It will focus on understanding what we have experienced (discernment) and allowing that experience to change our lives (testimony.)  The workshop is designed for participants who are relatively new to Quakerism, though of course everyone is welcome.

Michael Levi is a member of Adelphi Friends Meeting in Maryland. For many years he has taught “An Introduction to Quakerism” to members and attenders of his Meeting and to parents of a Friends school.  In addition, Michael has led many sessions, especially on Friends history and practices, under the care of Adelphi’s Continuing Quaker Education committee.  Michael’s leading is to help provide a framework in which the guidance of the Spirit can resonate and be better understood, so that we all emerge better equipped to answer that of God.

Saturday Workshops

Listening to and Honoring Our Souls (Saturday / Workshop A)

In this workshop we will begin by listening to our personal experiences of being called. We will consider:  What do you yearn for? What practices support your listening to your soul? We will also consider what honoring our soul feels like. Where do we find support for our journey?

Anne Pomeroy is a long standing member of New Paltz Monthly Meeting, NYYM. Anne is a spiritual director with years of experience facilitating workshops and retreats. Retreat topics have included continuing revelation, deep listening, Spiritual deepening, addressing conflict, listening, life cycles of meetings and eldership.  Anne carries a concern for the vitality of the Religious Society of Friends and is exploring transformation of Quaker culture. Anne is an avid quilter and has led retreats on creativity and spirituality. Anne supports individuals and meetings in their journey to deeper faithfulness.

Centering Prayer (Saturday / Workshop A)

After a short interactive presentation of the sources, beginning and method of centering prayer,  participants experience Centering Prayer for themselves for 20 minutes. Afterwards there will be ample time for discussion and questions.

Pete Schwartz has been a practitioner of centering prayer since 1995.  He has participated in and coordinated numerous retreats and programs on centering prayer.  He has attended centering prayer events hosted by Thomas Keating and William Meninger.  While maintaining an appreciation and connection to his catholic faith tradition, his continued practice of silent contemplation led him to become a convinced Quaker in 2017.  He is currently a member of the Oak Park Friends Meeting in Oak Park, Illinois.  He recently retired from a lifelong career in business.

Lectio Divina (Saturday / Workshop B)

Lectio Divina (sacred reading) has a long and interesting history as a spiritual practice, a form of prayer,  and a preparation for worship.  A demonstration will be followed by corporate and individual experiences and reflection. Please have handy an inspirational quote or verse, some paper, and a writing implement.

Barbara Birch is a member of Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley CA and board member at Ben Lomond Quaker Center in Santa Cruz. She is offering a workshop on Embodied Spirituality and Food at the Friends General Conference Gathering. She is the author of Lectio Divina: Revelation and Prophecy, forthcoming in the Quaker Quicks series, John Hunt Publishing. She enjoys walking, biking, and especially spending time with her family.

Experiment with Light (Saturday / Workshop B)

In this 90-minute workshop, participants will experience the Experiment with Light, a recreation of the worship experience of early Quakers. Albert Bellg will discuss how EWL was created, and ways that we can use it to enhance our experience of worship in our meetings.  He will also describe additional practices from his book Living the Deepest Truth You Know that can deepen the EWL and worship experience.

Albert Bellg is a retired psychologist, a writer, and a member of Winnebago Worship Group in NE Wisconsin.  He facilitates a monthly online Experiment with Light, a weekly spiritual nurture group, and Circle of Trust retreats.  He wrote a book about his lifelong experience of following his inner wisdom, Living the Deepest Truth You Know.

Sunday Workshops

Spirit in Action with Lina Blount of EQAT (Sunday / Workshop C)

Learn how the Earth Quaker Action Team has embraced worship and continuing revelation through their actions for environmental and economic justice, and join in an experiential learning community to explore how groups and individuals can listen to leadings and be in faithful discernment as a community in action together.  Lina Blount will share stories of her introduction to Quakerism during a sit-in in a PNC Bank lobby, and why she still considers EQAT her primary spiritual community.

Zines as Quaker Spiritual Practice (Sunday / Workshop C)

Zines are small self-published booklets for sharing words and images. This workshop is an opportunity for Friends high school age and older to delve into the theory and practice of zine-making in a uniquely Quaker way. Each participant will build their creative confidence while making a zine of their own.

Natalie Ramsland is a Member of Multnomah Friends Meeting in Portland, Oregon, and has a Quaker zine project called Fold In The Light. Her creative practices have ranged from building bicycle frames to knitting, from ukulele playing to cartography. Her first zine, covering dining hall culture in college, was called Stick a Fork in It.

The Gathered Meeting Workshop (Sunday / Workshop C)

According to Thomas Kelly, a Gathered Meeting is a meeting for worship where Friends experience “a sense of unity and Presence such as quiets all words and enfolds them within an unspeakable calm and interknittedness with a vaster life. God’s reality and His love become indubitable; His presence, like a living touch, is over them.”  This workshop is an exploration of Friends’ experiences of Gathered Meetings, a discussion of the characteristics that such meetings have in common, and suggestions for individual as well as communal spiritual preparation for a “gathered” experience in worship. What common Gatherer do we encounter in the Gathered Meeting?

Stanford Searl is a Quaker poet and scholar, a member of the Santa Monica Friends Meeting in California. In 2020, he was the Carroll Research Scholar at Pendle Hill and completed fifty-five interviews with other Friends about the Gathered Meeting. He published a poetry chapbook in 2019, Mary Dyer’s Hymn and other Quaker Poems and currently, he’s writing a memoir.

Marty Grundy, a long time member of Cleveland Meeting is now a member of Wellesley Meeting in New England. As a teen she was intrigued by the difference between her meeting in Philadelphia YM and the early Friends meetings she read about. In an effort to better understand early Friends she studied their language (Bible), deciphered the handwriting of early minutes, and read a lot. She has also served Friends as clerk and recording clerk, facilitated retreats and study groups, and has done a fair amount of writing including A Call to Friends: Faithful Living in Desperate Times, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #347 Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, and edited the Memoirs of David Ferris.

Steven Davison is a member of Central Philadelphia Meeting. A Friend since 1986, he is an avid, longtime student of the Quaker Tradition and the Bible. He holds a degree in Studies in Religion from Rutgers University and has been enriched by the School of the Spirit’s course on The Prophetic Tradition and by study at Pendle Hill. He is the author of The Gathered Meeting, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #444.

Exploring Quaker Worship and Community in Virtual Reality (Sunday / Workshop D)

Join Guelmy Neris (Montclair Monthly Meeting), a STEM educator specializing in VR/AR, for an immersive encounter of Quaker worship and community in the digital realm. Discover how technology can enrich our spiritual connections as we bridge traditional Quaker values with cutting-edge virtual reality.

The only equipment needed is the computer or phone (with a screen) that you joined the workshop with. This workshop is for people of all ages and technical abilities… Guelmy will help guide you through these explorations of Quakerism in virtual reality. We will use ‘Frame VR’ (A 3D Website) with a space Guelmy has been developing for Quaker events in particular.

Rustin Film Discussion (Sunday / Workshop D)

In the film Rustin, Quaker activist Bayard Rustin faces racism and homophobia as he helps change the course of Civil Rights history by orchestrating the 1963 March on Washington.

Watch Rustin on Netflix or join us for a streaming viewing on Saturday during the retreat. Rashid Darden will be facilitating a discussion of the themes of the film and the reality of Bayard Rustin’s life.

Join us for a film watch party during the Workshop A time on Saturday.

Rashid Darden is a novelist specializing in stories about the contemporary Black LGBT experience, both realistic and fantastic. He is a member of Friends Meeting of Washington and is FGC’s Associate Secretary for Communications and Outreach. He looks forward to moderating this discussion about one of his heroes.

Personal Spiritual Narratives (Sunday / Workshop D)

Each of us has a story, and stories can be a meaningful way of achieving new levels or depth of understanding. In this workshop, Kasper will briefly relay his own journey from ardent atheist to devotedly Christocentric Quaker. After posing a few queries intended to spark narrative lines of response, the attendees will break into small groups to share what arises for themselves; Kasper will be on hand, ready to listen to- and ask purposeful questions about- any and all Friends who may need a Friendly ear.

Kasper Ransom Ronning (He/Him) is a 30-year-old with 25 years of atheism and 5ish years of Christocentric Quakerism under his belt. A second generation Norwegian immigrant and first generation high school graduate, he has come to embrace a number of identities, particularly those of queer, transgender, and person with various acquired disabilities. He enjoys deepening his familiarity with Christianity through Bible study, having frank discussions of how the Religious Society of Friends can learn to effectively communicate across socio-economic and educational attainment lines, and partaking in horrifying food combinations (marshmallow fluff with red curry paste, anyone?).

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