53 Mill Street, Westfield, MA 01085 • 413.562.3627

A New Reality

2020-07-20 | Jean Risk, Genesis Program Manager

Category: Blog

A New Reality

On March 16, the reality of the pandemic hit me suddenly.  My brother-in-law, who is mentally handicapped and resides in a group home, was discovered on the floor in his bedroom in a weakened state.  He was taken to the ER, admitted to the hospital, and tested for coronavirus.  Since my husband had visited his brother a couple of days prior to the incident, I left work with my notebook, program calendar, and passwords to login from my home computer while we entered quarantine for 14 days.  As it turned out, Genesis closed about 10 days later, like many other area businesses, and I stayed home working remotely for many more weeks.

At one point, in mid-April, I returned to Genesis, wearing a mask and gloves, to pick up some files. The prominent stillness of the administrative wing as I turned on lights before I made my way to my office was starkly different from my usual experience at the start of my workday.  That day, I missed greeting my coworkers and beloved volunteers, seeing guests perusing cards and books, and even the sound of the phone ringing.  I stepped into the empty kitchen, void of the sounds and smells of food prep.  A sadness gripped me, closed my throat, and brought tears to my eyes. I missed Genesis and yet I was there - but it wasn’t the same.

You and we are Genesis. Guests and staff, Sisters, presenters and participants, Spiritual Directors, seekers and companions make Genesis the place of hope and healing that we know.

The mission of Genesis Spiritual Life Center is to create an environment that will reveal the love of God for all creation and bring hope and healing to all who come.  I experienced that firsthand when participating in a virtual program, Reflect, Write, Discover, led by JoAnn Bourquard. Over three consecutive Saturday mornings in June, our group of seven met via Zoom. JoAnn offered writing prompts in the form of poetry, inspirational stories, meditation and silence.  Then, setting a timer, we practiced a technique called “hot penning” to write, allowing thoughts to flow uncensored and unimpeded by grammar.  The idea was to express emotions and process the experience of the pandemic - or any experience that we may not have given time and attention. This personal and individualized time was experienced collectively.  Sharing about the process was optional. For me, the most meaningful writing prompt and exercise may have been writing a Psalm. I was able to express, by creating my prayer on paper, and voice to my God what I had been holding in.

Until the health crisis permits you to return physically, perhaps you too will join your Genesis community by participating in a program virtually.

  • The Heart-centered Meditation group started by Liz Walz is offered 7 days a week, twice daily via Zoom, and has expanded from a handful of participants to a small, loving community
  • Praying with Poetry in the Pandemic is a series that will meet via Zoom for an hour and a half over three consecutive Saturdays in August
  • Register to receive daily reflections and inspiration for a 21-Day Journey in Self-Compassion from Becky Crane delivered to your email inbox
  • and several others listed on our website.

As the Program Manager at Genesis, I am aware that a number of presenters have either donated their time or reduced their stipend to benefit Genesis and its community.  These kind and generous people created and modified programs to be made available virtually in support of our retreat center. On behalf of Genesis, I extend gratitude to JoAnn Bourquard, Betty Hill Crowson, Verne McArthur, Faith Sullivan, and Dr. Bob Weber. Thank you!

Wishing you Peace,  Jean Risk 

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Do What I Can
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain: If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.
— Emily Dickinson