Genesis offering free virtual programs to activate hope, healing
By Lori Szepelak, Westfield News
INTRODUCTION: Given the Massachusetts Governor’s mandate to close all non-essential businesses, Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center, sponsored by the Sisters of Providence, closed its doors temporarily on March 24. Despite having to layoff 8 part-time staff members, Liz Walz, executive director (who is an SP Associate), and her key staff kept working to adapt their programming to function virtually, for example, during the Easter Triduum. The following presents excerpts from a news story appearing in the Westfield News and written by Lori Szepelak on April 17, 2020.
Szepelak began by describing a unique virtual offering planned for April 18, 2020 to help area residents move from a sense of overwhelm and immobilization regarding the climate crisis and the pandemic, to a hopeful perspective with practical action steps. Called “Active Hope: The Spiritual Journey of Facing Climate Change—and Pandemic,” participants were be able to access the program through Zoom. Freewill offerings were made.
Westfield News Excerpts
“The challenges of the environmental and social disruptions of climate change are hard enough,” said Liz Walz, ASP, executive director of Genesis. “Now we are in the midst of an unprecedented (in our time) pandemic. How do we find our way through?” Walz explained the workshop offered an emotional and spiritual path that enables us to transform fear and despair into a sense of empowerment and clear action.
“Our feelings of pain and grief and fear are not meant to be borne alone,” said Walz. “There is no more important time than right now to come together to support and renew in community.”
“Our feelings of pain and grief and fear are not meant to be borne alone. There is no more important time than right now to come together to support and renew in community.”
-Elizabeth Walz, ASP Executive Director, Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center
Verne McArthur, a retired college teacher, as well as activist, workshop leader, singer and song leader, led the program, along with Dan Kivel, an educator, naturalist and musician.
“These challenges offer openings for profound spiritual community growth which can help heal ourselves and the world,” said Walz. “We use the approach of Joanna Macy—over 50 years in the making—called The Work That Reconnects, to face the difficult feelings of the present moment and to build the spiritual strength to participate in the healing of the world….”
Walz noted that through the facilitators, McArthur in his 70s and Kivel in his 30s, participants …(were) able to take advantage of an “intergenerational look” at this time of profound change. On a related note, Walz…joined by several spiritual directors to lead free meditation programs seven days a week at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Once again, participants…access the program through a Zoom link by registering on the Genesis website. Walz calls the program “Heart-Centered Meditation: Soul Connection in a Time of Social Distancing” which runs approximately 35 minutes with optional sharing afterwards.
“In this time of pandemic and social isolation, I knew many people were feeling disoriented, anxious, sad, scared and even angry,” said Walz. “And, I was confident that spiritual practice and sharing with others would help transform people’s experience of their situation—and it has.” Walz added that one’s ability to meet with people as we have been accustomed to doing has been “radically altered” and she understands that meaningful connection with others facilitates “hope and healing.”