Fire at the Root: Mystical Practice and the Passion for Justice

This workshop is offered under the joint auspices of FGC and School of the Spirit. The School of the Spirit Ministry serves all those who wish to be more faithful listeners and responders to the work of the Inward Teacher. The ministry is grounded in prayer and offers programs rooted in the Quaker tradition of the living Silence.  More information about School of the Spirit and its programs can be found here.

About the retreat

We are living in a world that is unraveling before our eyes.  Multiple cascading calamities are already upon us, and accelerating.  Climate disruption, resource depletion, species extinction, systemic racism and white supremacy, the erosion of democracy and the rise of fascism, the threat of global war, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, both in our nation, and globally, are all vast, complex problems.  How are we called to respond to the times we are in?  It’s hard to know where to put our energies to have a meaningful impact on any of these.

And I agree with Thomas Kelly when he wrote, just prior to World War II: 

The times are severe, the need is great.  And we must hasten: we all agree.  But whither shall we hasten?  Two directions we must hasten in order to plumb the depths and scale the heights of life.  We must hasten unto God; and we must hasten into the world.  But the first is the prime need; though the world be aflame by its own blindness and hate, and narrow ideals.  We must first hasten unto God.  [Those] whose heads have not rested in the bosom of God are not yet ready to be saviors of the world.

How, then, are we to ready ourselves “to hasten into the world,”  working with unflagging clarity and power?  I believe our Quaker practice and tradition answers that question.

For the past two years, I have lived questions on how to better connect living from the Divine Center and working to address the many crises already upon us.  How do we connect our spiritual life with our active witness?  How do we know the particular piece that we are most called to, and not the other many crying needs we also confront?  What am I led to save my energies for, and not spend them on other things?  How can we be clear about the difference between a leading and a good idea for noble and needed work?  And, if we already have a strong spiritual practice, but not an active witness, is staying rooted and grounded in love enough, or are we called to some action as well?  I have been surprised at how much these questions have resonated with many other Friends.

As I have lived the central question of better integrating my spirituality and my activism, I kept hearing that we need to go down to the root that sustains and empowers both.   I have been clear to go deep into that root, feeling the power there.

There is a Life and Power that is deeper than the artificial division between mysticism and activism.  Wherever we are on the continuum between those two, this Life and Power calls to us, inviting us into its flow.

In this workshop we will create a community of openness, trust, and depth, and from that place explore practices which help us to enter into the root of our practice as Friends, a place of clarity and sustaining power.  We will listen for leadings for our lives, and test those leadings with each other in small groups, drawing support and welcoming accountability.


Friday Evening: 7:00-9:00  Worship, Forming the Community

Saturday Morning: 9:00-12:00 Opening Hearts and Spirits

Saturday Afternoon: 3:00-5:30 Entering the Flow

Saturday Evening: 7:30-9:00 Discerning Spirit-Led Action

Sunday Morning: 9:00-12:00 Discerning Spirit-Led Action, Worship, Closing

About the Facilitator

Christopher Sammond loves facilitating the creation of a safe space which invites all Friends to open in heart and spirit, to re-member their wholeness, to share in a sense of rich community, and to touch the Divine Source. He has led scores of interactive workshops and retreats for Friends over many years, including ones at Powell House, Woolman Hill, Pendle Hill, Earlham School of Religion, the Friends United Meeting Triennial, the Friends World Committee for Consultation World Gathering, and the Friends General Conference Gathering. He brings years of experience working with meetings on their worship life when he served New York Yearly Meeting as their General Secretary.  Many of his workshops over the past 15 years have focused on deepening the experience of worship for monthly, quarterly, and regional meetings.  More recently, he has also been doing workshops on vocal ministry and has been living questions on better connecting Friends spirituality and witness.  He has years of experience doing racial justice work in Friends, doing environmental justice work locally, and working with Friends across the various branches to address climate disruption. In addition to leading workshops and retreats, he offers spiritual direction, and is a core teacher in the School of the Spirit program Participating in God’s Power.  He and his wife Barbara live in upstate New York with their dog Ellie, and cats Harriet and Lil.

Christopher Sammond

Where and When

“Fire at the Root: Mystical Practice and the Passion for Justice” takes place immediately before the FGC Gathering at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, OR from Friday, June 30 – Sunday, June 2, 2023. The Conference will only be held in-person.


The retreat fee (in addition to housing and meals) will be $40. Costs may vary depending on type of housing selected. Friends are housed in the same room for the pre-Gathering retreat as for the Gathering itself. 

How to Register

Registration for the retreat is open to Friends attending either the week of Gathering (Sunday – Saturday) or the first Half-Gathering (Sunday – Wednesday.) When you register for the Gathering, choose the “School of the Spirit Ministry Pre-Gathering Retreat” on the page where you are choosing workshop and housing. Choose early housing (Friday and Saturday nights) to match your housing for the rest of the Gathering.

Registration for the FGC Gathering is now open! Registration for pre-Gathering events closes June 8.


The School of the Spirit Ministry Pre-Gathering Retreat retreat is planned by volunteers. You can reach the organizers via the Gathering Contact form.

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