October 16-27, 2013
San Francisco Theological Seminary
San Anselmo campus and the Ventana Wilderness
Why a Sacred Quest?
In this new millennium, living attentive and meaningful lives presents great challenges. We face enormous needs that leave us struggling with how to live in balance within ourselves and with all living things. Fatigue and over activity threaten to take over joy and purpose. All the while, we long to hear God's call for life anew.
A Sacred Quest invites people to enter into community and the solitude of wilderness to listen for God's voice. It beckons people to discern the passion and wisdom of their heart and to bring what is theirs alone to give to the world. It calls people to go out, not to leave others behind, but to discover how to engage and serve them more honestly and sustainably, how to participate in God's justice and compassion here and now.
Too often our gifts become muddied in old, worn out ways of living and expired roles and relationships. To notice God's call for this particular time in our lives, we often need to allow tired patterns and roles to die. We need to make transitions. They may take the form of the publicly recognized ones, such as marriage, a new job, or elderhood, or they may take the form of internal transitions, such as embracing the courage to face what is real, learning how to grieve, or claiming the safety of experiencing one's feelings. Whatever their form, these transitions involve both letting go and taking on. But too often we negotiate those passages without much intentionality and without much support from the people and communities with whom we live. The wilderness provides a graced container for those sacred transitions. The Mystery of God's presence enlivens the earth and all its creatures, offering the human creature a mirror of love and truth in nature. In the wilderness, we come to know ourselves before the Creator of the universe. Sacred Quest offers a journey into the wilderness to mark the movements of our lives by discerning the movements of the Spirit, as we seek to live into the loving of ourselves, our neighbors, and our God. The Quest, then, invites people to go out into the wilderness to fast and be in the solitude of nature for four days, so that they might return full of the love of God to share in daily life.
Testimonial from Sacred Quest Participant
"The time in the desert was one of the most freeing experiences in my life. My understanding of creation, self, God, politics, community and the human condition was challenged in beautiful ways."
– Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Fort Collins, Colo.
Sacred Quest's Four Stages
This stage begins as soon as a person decides to engage in a Sacred Quest and turns toward the preparations for such a journey. To clarify the purpose for undertaking a quest, a person writes a letter of intention, naming as clearly as possible what transition she or he seeks to mark and the life events surrounding it. Sometimes it is already evident what new life stage will be taken on and how it will enable someone to live more fully into God's calling; other times, those emerge in the wilderness. Severance includes physical, psychological, mental and spiritual preparations in the months and days before the quest. You will receive details about these three days of preparation once you have been received into the program.
This stage begins at dawn in the wilderness when you step through the threshold circle for the four-day solo time. The options to heighten your experience with fasting and solitude in the wilderness are personal choices. The threshold time invites you to discover your way with rituals, prayers, songs, and other personal ways to make meaning. The final night some choose to remain awake, consciously attending to the dying of the old self and the birthing of new life with the rise of the fifth morning's sun.
This stage involves moving back into the body of our questing community. The questing community offers a space to invite you to tell your story and listen to each other's stories, discovering meanings and new gifts, confirming each one's passage into a new life stage, sharing support, journaling, and celebrating. And eating, of course!
This stage presents the greatest challenges, calling for the most courage and commitment to what is life-giving. Discovering how to tell your story to family and friends helps you begin to integrate what you learned in the wilderness into your daily life and how to offer your gifts to the world.
A letter of intent is due by July 15, 2013. Because of the intensity of this experience in the wilderness, intentional preparation is essential for a safe and meaningful process. Therefore, your letter of intention helps to name your purpose and the occasion for claiming it. For questions about the letter, see the description of it in the Severance Stage (above). With quality and safety in mind, we are able to include up to twelve people on the trip. Please submit your letter of intent to Nancy Wiens via email at nsw333(at)gmail.com. We will respond to your letter by July 30, at which time a $350 deposit will be due. No previous backpacking, camping, or outdoor experience is required.
Program Dates & Costs
Arrival: Wednesday, October 16, by 7 p.m.
Departure: Sunday, October 27, after 7 p.m.
Program Cost: $995 pp includes transportation costs to wilderness area and food in the wilderness.
Additional costs: On-campus lodging and meals during the preparation period for 3 days/4 nights. $55/night for lodging.
The Sacred Quest will be led by Nancy Wiens, Sam Yates and David Vieten.
Nancy Wiens is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a spiritual director, teacher, and mother. She began guiding Sacred Quests in 1996. She has a doctorate in the area of Christian spirituality and ritual studies and trained with Steven Foster and Meredith Little in wilderness rites of passage and eco-psychology. The beauty of nature sustains her and is a place where she experiences God's steadfast presence and guidance in times of both mourning and joy.
Sam Yates quested and trained as a wilderness guide in the Snow Mountains of the Mendocino Wilderness and the oak woodlands of the Ventana Wilderness with Nancy Wiens and David Vieten. Sam has several years of experience living in intentional community, living and working with a Catholic worker crew in the Bay Area. He draws nourishment and prayerful rejuvenation from extended time in nature. Sam is passionate about social justice, contemplative prayer, poetry, good food, and the transformative power of wilderness rites of passages, among other things.
David Vieten owns a design and construction firm in Marin County. As a licensed building contractor, David also has a degree in filmmaking from the Academy of Art University. He has worked with a Peruvian trained spiritual leader for a decade and began Sacred Questing in 2003. An avid camper and backpacker, he spent summers in his youth packing in the High Sierras and carries his love of the natural world into adulthood, most recently in exploring the Trinity Alps over the last several years.