Those of you who have been with me for overnight ceremonies know that I have fun opening the morning integration with the 70’s hit “Oh what a night!” It’s cheeky and fun and captures the moment when we’ve had a big night together.
Well, I’m here to report on “Oh what a Year!” The Congregation launched not one, not two, but three trainings for new ministers this year—with a fourth one in the works! We learned a lot this year about what containers create the deepest learning and community connection and developed our training program into three phases.
Part I of our training program has become the Preparation & Reading Class where students create a curriculum plan, finish their prerequisites, and wade through a book list to gain a common vocabulary around medicine sacraments and how to hold them. This elaborate “book club” and has become an excellent launching pad for building a strong cohort and accessing readiness for Part II of the Training of Ministers program.
Part II is the didactic and practical work of learning how to hold the ritual and exchange the work with each other. Finally, Part III is the two-year supervision phase where new ministers expand and grow their member base and skill set. We are very pleased to report that there is a cohort now in each one of these three phases and we continue to build interest and momentum for new Ministers in Training day by day!
Channing and I both find immense joy in working one on one with people and witnessing their continual transformation, hence we have remained very busy working in our solo spiritual counseling practices. We have also hosted 10 group ceremonies last year in SF, DC, and Reno.
In August, Channing and I bought a property near the center of Washington, DC suitable for teaching and ceremonial work. It was a big stretch but we felt called to commit to the DC congregation and find a home that would feel like a communal space for us to continue expanding this work.
Of course, to pull this off, we needed a great deal of help! Makenzie Darling jumped into the mix in May as our Head of Operations and Admissions and has formalized our systems, fixed our website, created community gatherings and regular newsletters, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes making sure we’re in the right place at the right time saying and doing the right things. We’re excited to have her as part of CSP and even more excited that she’s about to enter Part II of the Minister training!
This year we also sought to create a deeper community connection. We expanded our offerings to include potlucks, lunch and learns, and monthly integration circles. Catherine Board, a certified coach, stepped up to become our integration leader and she holds monthly integration circles for anyone who wants to join in.
Finally, we took a group of new ministers to Oaxaca, Mexico to work with a Zapotec family in San José del Pacifico. It was amazing, expanding, connecting, and a deeply reorienting trip for all of us — and Channing and I got to journey with the new ministers instead of holding the space! We returned to Oaxaca City just in time for the Día de Muertos celebrations which were deeply steeped in ritual and helped us to build stronger relationships with our ancestors and with nature.
So what’s on the horizon for this upcoming year? In 2023, we will take two groups on the amazing pilgrimage to Oaxaca — the site where the indigenous tribes have maintained the mushroom ceremony for millennia. It’s a magical visit with the source of many of the elements of the Congregation’s ceremonial work.
We will continue to expand! By the end of 2023, CSP will have graduated about 40 new guides and many of them will have applied and received licenses to carry this work into the world as Ministers in the Congregation. Our vision is to create the most powerfully trained holders of medicine work and set the standard as this work expands across the globe.
Of course, we’ll continue to create community events, and group ceremonies, and host more and more integration circles. Part of being a Congregation is the regular connection with the Divine, with ritual, with each other, and with our engagement with the world. Look for a more sophisticated website with blogs (like this one!), resources, a student portal, and most importantly, a ceremonial membership portal for members to engage with the sacramental work.
To do all of this, we had the tireless support of our board, a shoutout to Alison Whitmere and Chris VanArsdale. Key volunteers and assistants deserve a big THANK YOU: Erika Goldman, Love Mercury, Pierre Bouchard, Jill Vice, Mario Parnell, Mark Haberstroh, Pam Bartels, Khashi Langroudi, Jeff Hamilton, Cindy Storman, and Shawn Northcutt.
Most importantly the team at CSP is looking forward to doing more of our own deep work, developing a deeper connection to the Divine in everyday life, and sharing everything we discover. Thanks for being a part of the Congregation. 2023? Oh, what a Year!