Malibu 2024: Canticle of Creation, Mirror of God

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Special Guest: Simon de Voil & Jeanette Banashak

When: April 14-19, 2024

Where: Serra Retreat Center, Malibu

Reverend Simon Ruth de Voil is an ordained interfaith/interspiritual minister, trained to be a sacred presence outside the conventions of traditional religion. As a sacred musician, spiritual mentor and worship leader he incorporates chant, ritual, storytelling and mindful practice to create a space for profound connection and sacred witness. Simon is also an experienced workshop and retreat leader, drawing on 15 years of study, training, and practice that grew from his time living and working in Iona Abbey. Although influenced by many traditions, Simon's spiritual path and teaching is deeply rooted in Celtic Christianity, the wisdom of the earth, and in the Scottish land where he's spent most of his life.


Dr. Jeanette Banashak is a queer and bilingual interspiritual and interreligious companion. She has a diploma in shinrin yoku (forest bathing) and guides people of all ages in urban nature immersion experiences as an act of justice and is deeply committed to the work of integrating life’s experiences. She is the co-founder/director of The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute and author of The Mindful Pilgrimage: A 40-Day Pocket Devotional for Pilgrims of Any Faith or None. Jeanette also teaches social and emotional learning and child development at Erikson Institute and spiritual direction at the Graduate Theological Foundation.

To Saint Francis, Mother Earth was a mirror of God. In the legacy of Celtic Christianity, we’re reminded that the teachings of the Bible are a wee book, set beside the big book that is Creation. Yet in much of contemporary spiritual and religious practice, we’ve lost our connection with the earth, the living water, the voice of God in all her creatures. How do we learn to see again the face of God in all of Creation? What does it mean to touch the earth with reverence, in the midst of so much ecological distress? Can we remain open to divine wisdom as we respond to this moment in the unfolding cycle of Creation? And … wouldn’t we love an easy answer to these big questions? 

Tahoe August 2023 with Mark Yaconelli


Special Guest: Mark Yaconelli

When: August 6-11, 2023

Where: Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe

Mark Yaconelli is a speaker, community-builder, and author of Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us as well as five previous books. As founder and director of The Hearth nonprofit, Yaconelli has worked with The Ford Family Foundation, Compassion International, The Greenbelt Arts Festival, The Eli Lilly Foundation, The Mexican-American Center of Austin, among other organizations. Yaconelli holds an MA in Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union and received a spiritual direction diploma from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Interviews and profiles of Mark’s work have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC Radio, and ABC World News Tonight. He and his wife have three grown children and live in Ashland, Oregon.


Tahoe August 2022 with Brian D. McLaren

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Special Guest: Brian D. McLaren

When: August 7-12, 2022

Where: Lake Tahoe

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” – just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. 

REGISTRATION FOR THIS RETREAT IS NOW CLOSED. STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES ABOUT OUR SPRING 2023 RETREAT.HOW I STAY CHRISTIAN"Many people will leave Christian affiliation in the years ahead," says Brian McLaren, "joining over 75 million who have already done so. But many will also stay." He explores reasons for both leaving and staying in his new book, Do I Stay Christian?, and in his 2022 return to Companions, he will share his personal struggles and breakthroughs in understanding and inhabiting Christian identity, focusing on the theme of "a new humanity" articulated by both Jesus and Paul, and embodied in pioneers like Hildegarde of Bingen, Sts. Francis and Clare, and a wide array of contemporary leaders.

Virtual Retreat Spring 2022 with Mary Greenan, FMA

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Special Guest: Mary Greenan, FMA

When: March 9-12, 2022

Where: Online

Born in Ireland and raised in the south of England, Mary is an experienced educator, having taught at High School, College and Graduate School levels. She is a Salesian Sister with a deep love and understanding of people, especially the young. After six years in Rome, Italy at her congregational headquarters and visiting many parts of the world, in 1997 she joined the Institute of Salesian Studies in Berkeley as an adjunct lecturer at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology of the GTU. Presently she is engaged full time in workshops and retreats in this country and in other parts of the world. Her background in Salesian Spirituality and its active-contemplative way of life is the impetus of her most recent reflection and research. The union of the two, while still a work in progress in her own life, has become a profound passion for her. She delights in sharing this passion with energy and enthusiasm when given the opportunity.


Habits and Practices for a New Normal

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Special Guest: Luther Smith & Brian McLaren

When: March 3-6, 2021

Where: via Zoom

Luther E. Smith, Jr.  is Professor Emeritus of Church and Community at the Candler School of Theology of Emory University.  He writes, teaches, and speaks extensively on issues of church and society, interfaith cooperation, child advocacy, congregational renewal, Christian spirituality, and the thought of Howard Thurman.  He is the author of Howard Thurman: The Mystic as Prophet, Intimacy and Mission: Intentional Community as Crucible for Radical Discipleship, and editor of Howard Thurman: Essential Writings.  He is Senior Consulting Editor for the four-volume publication of the Howard Thurman Papers Project.  He is an ordained minister of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, cofounder of the Interfaith Children’s Movement, and Coordinator for the “Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty.”


Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for "a new kind of Christianity" - just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow, a contributor to We Stand With Love, and a leader in the Convergence Network, through which he is developing an innovative training/mentoring program for pastors and church planters. His recent projects include an illustrated children’s book (for all ages) called Cory and the Seventh Story and The Galapagos Islands: A Spiritual Journey.  His newest book is Faith After Doubt (January 2021), and his next release, Do I Stay Christian? will be available Spring 2022.
The pandemic has disrupted our old habits, and in our haste to get back to more familiar rhythms of work and relationship, we may miss an opportunity to learn from these months of external constraint. We have had to enlist inner resources to withstand the anxiety and stress of isolation.  Rather than rushing back to our prior assumptions about how to live well, what new habits might we consider to help us live into a new normal?  In this virtual retreat, our presenters Brian McLaren and Luther Smith will draw on their own work as well as the writings of Howard Thurman and others to help us consider personal and social practices good for our souls, our neighbors, and our planet.

Arise My Fair One: Journeying in Dark Times with the Divine Beloved

Wendy Farley

Special Guest: Dr. Wendy Farley

When: August 5th-8th, 2020

Where: via Zoom

Wendy Farley is Rice Family Chair of Spirituality and Director of the Programs in Spiritual Direction and Formation at the University of Redlands Graduate School of Theology (San Francisco Theological Seminary). Prior to coming to Redlands, she spent 28 years at Emory University, where she was Professor of Religion and Ethics and Chair of Theological Studies. Her research has focused on philosophical and feminist theology as well as comparative theology and contemplative practices. She is interested in connections between social justice and spiritual practice and the role of contemplative practices in supporting resilience and radical compassion in dark times. She is the author six books. 


Telling the Tales: The Power of Story and Narrative for Personal & Social Transformation

Enuma Okoro

Special Guest: Enuma Okoro

When: March 1-6, 2020

Where: Serra Retreat Center — Malibu, California

Enuma Okoro is a Nigerian-American author, speaker, lecturer and consultant whose work explores Identity and Culture, Africa and the Diaspora, Holistic Wellness and Spirituality, and the transforming Power of Story and Narrative. Her work explores how stories (told and believed) are the central way of shaping human perspectives and behavior. Currently at work on a novel about identity and notions of home, Okoro has published four books of nonfiction, and her articles and essays have been featured in The New York Times, CNN African Voices, AEON Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The UK and US Guardian, The Washington Post, Essence Magazine, and other media outlets.

In addition to writing Okoro speaks and teaches seminars, leads developmental workshops and retreats, and coaches on the topics; Understanding and Using the Power of Narrative for Transforming Communities and Relationships, Identity and (Dis)Belonging, Spirituality and Holistic Wellness, Personal Well-being and Development, and Living with Intention and Alignment of Purpose.

Born in New York City and raised in Cote D’Ivoire, England, North America and Nigeria, Okoro has taught spiritual and creative writing workshops at Princeton Theological Seminary, Duke Divinity School, The Collegeville Institute and more. She has been the recipient of writing fellowships at The Callaloo Creative Writing Program at Brown University, The KimbilioWriting Residency in Taos, New Mexico and The CivitellaRanieri Foundation’s International Artists Residency Program in Umbria, Italy. 

Her educational training and professional background is in Creative Writing, Psychology and Communication, Family Systems Therapy and Human Development, and Theology. She is a certified coach and spiritual director in the Jesuit-Ignatian tradition.

Her first book, Reluctant Pilgrim was recognized by USA Book News as a 2010 Best Books Award Winning Finalist for Religion, and received the 2011 Indie National Book Awards Winning Finalist in Spirituality and Non-Fiction.

In 2018 she was recognized by The Guardian Nigerian national newspaper as one of the 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria. 

As an international speaker, Okoro had the honor of being the first woman of African descent to speak from the historic 200 year-old platform of The American Church in Paris, France, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was the first man of African descent to speak  from the same platform in 1965, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in  Oslo. 

Her multiple speaking invitations have included a TEDxtalk in London on global perceptions of multicultural women, identity and the power of cultural narratives, the Harvard Business School, Oxford University, The Policy Center for the New South’s Atlantic Dialogues Conference in Marrakech, The Abu Dhabi Culture Summit, Princeton University, The Bloomberg Media Conference and more.

Enuma was enthusiastically received as our speaker in August 2015 at Companions in Tahoe and we are delighted to have her with us again.



Description — We live in a time where issues of identity and belonging are points of both public and private controversy and debate, and determine the outcomes of the lives of millions of people.  It is essential to know the role that stories and narratives play in our perceptions and in our actions in the world.  But this begins by acknowledging and owning our own stories and working narratives. Understanding the power of stories and narratives is a matter of us living well in the world together, and effecting transformative change for our local and global communities.This retreat will focus on the power of story and narrative and learning to tell ours for the benefit of personal and social transformation.

Tahoe 2019 with Dr. Rachel Harding and Dr. Wendy Farley


Special Guest: Rachel Harding & Wendy Farley

When: August 4-9, 2019

Where: Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center, Lake Tahoe, NV

Rachel Elizabeth Harding, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado — Denver.  A native of Georgia, a writer, historian and poet, Rachel is a specialist in religions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and studies the relationship between religion, creativity and s­ocial justice activism in cross-cultural perspective. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and holds an MFA in creative writing from Brown University and a PhD in history from the University of Colorado Boulder.  Harding is author of A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness as well as numerous poems and essays.  Rachel’s second book, Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering, combines her own writings with the autobiographical reflections of her mother, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, on their family history and the role of compassion and spirituality in African American social justice organizing. Rachel is an ebomi (elder initiate) in the Terreiro do Cobre Candomble community in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, where she has been a participant for over 20 years.

Wendy Farley, Ph.D. is Professor of Christian Spirituality and holder of the Rice Family Chair in Spirituality at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is considered a leading theologian, having written extensively on women theologians and mystics, religious dialogue, classical texts, contemporary ethical issues, and contemplative practices. Her teaching and research interests include women theologians, Buddhist-Christian dialogue, spirituality and social justice, classical texts, and contemplative practices. She has authored  Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion: A Contemporary Theodicy (Westminster John Knox, 1990), Eros for the Other: Retaining Truth in a Pluralistic World (Penn State: 1996), The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth (Westminster John Knox), Gathering Those Driven Away: a Theology of Incarnation (Westminster John Knox, 2011), and her latest book, The Thirst of God: Contemplating God’s Love with Three Women Mystics (Westminster John Knox, 2015), explores the spirituality of medieval mystics Marguerite Porete, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Julian of Norwich.

Theme:  Ancestors of our Faith: Poetry & Women’s Power in Cross-cultural Perspective.

Finding God in the Questions

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Special Guest: The Rev. Dr. Judy Siker

When: February 24 - March 1, 2019

Where: Serra Retreat Center, Malibu, Califonia

Judy Yates Siker, Ph.D. was most recently visiting professor of New Testament & Christian Origins at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Prior to this, Dr. Siker was at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, serving as Vice President and Professor of New Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary and Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, CA.

Dr. Siker has also taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Meredith College, in Raleigh, North Carolina; and the Loyola Chicago Rome Center, Rome, Italy. Her teaching includes classes in the field of New Testament and Christian Origins and in biblical languages. Her current research interests are in the areas of “anti-Semitism” in the New Testament (with a special focus on identity theory and first-century Jewish/Christian relations), the history of interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew, and rethinking women’s stories in the New Testament.

Description — Today we seldom have to live more than a few moments with unanswered questions. We all simply "Google it."  In this fast-paced, technologically advanced world of ours, we have lost the ability to live in the questions. But as the poet Rilke once wrote, it is important sometimes to "try to love the questions" and to "live the questions now."

Tahoe 2018 with Dr. Lisa Fulham

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Special Guest: Lisa Fullam

When: August 5-10, 2018

Where: Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center, Lake Tahoe, NV

Lisa Fullam is Associate Professor of Moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. A 1990 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, she received her Th.D. in 2001 from Harvard Divinity School. Her research interests include the intersection of ethics and spirituality, and Ignatian spirituality. Her published works include: The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic and these articles: “Virtue Ethics in Spiritual Guidance,” “From Discord to Virtues: Reframing Sexual Ethics,” "Bioethics and Public Policy" (with William R. O’Neill, S.J.) “Humility, a Pilgrim’s Virtue,” “Why Ordination Matters: A Reflection from Jamaica,” and “Juana, S.J. The History (and Future?) of Women in the Society of Jesus.”

In 2008, she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. The view from the top is just glorious! She is married to John Mabry and has been our speaker at previous Companions Retreats.

Description: God calls everybody into closer relationship with God; God calls everybody to work for social justice. In this retreat, we’ll explore the interconnection of work for social justice with some of the great Christian mystics, in the contexts of four great liberatory movements: environmental justice, feminism, racial justice, and LGBTQ justice. In each, we’ll explore the insight of a Christian mystic, and then consider the contemporary challenge. The aim is personal: how are WE called into the transformation of the world and into the mysticism that sustains it?