White Heron Sangha has offered weekend retreats each year, and these months with COVID-19 restrictions have been no exception. Since last March we’ve had to move all White Heron Sangha gatherings, including retreats, from in-person to online via Zoom. Fortunately our scheduled teachers for the 2020 weekend retreats all agreed to hold them remotely. These three retreats were all well-attended and included many people we wouldn’t normally see in-person, including former WHS members, as well as those from outside of our county who heard about the retreat through the teachers’ email lists or websites.
We’ve just had our last weekend retreat of this year with Spirit Rock teacher Amana Johnson and look forward to our next one with well-known Zen teacher Norman Fischer on January 23-24, 2021 (again online). Online registration for this retreat, which is entitled The Magic World of the Lotus Sutra, will open on December 12. We hope you’ll attend.
Reactions to the online retreats have been mixed. I’ve heard from some folks that online retreats are working well because they don’t have to leave home and they find this easier due to their circumstances and time constraints. And, others say they have been able to create a space at home that has been nurturing and supportive, enabling them to enjoy and appreciate the online experience.
Still others have told me that a home retreat via Zoom is not very supportive of their practice because of their environment and/or disruptions. Or, they are just tired of one more requirement to be on the computer, since that is how they are working most of the time and need a break on the weekends.
It’s a difficult time for sure; moving the retreats to an online format has also presented challenges for the Retreat Committee. Online retreats involve a different kind of volunteering than hosting a retreat in person. Before the pandemic hit, we had retreat jobs all lined up, including registration check-ins, day manager duties, teacher dinners, refreshment volunteers, etc. Online events require some Zoom expertise, more online website monitoring of registrations, payments, attendance, different teacher dana options, etc. We’ve had to go through a learning period that included finding different people to fill these job requirements, with the result of often relying on the same people for each retreat.
In addition, a couple of our Retreat Committee members have found it necessary to leave the committee. We are looking for some new folks to join the committee, especially those who have good writing, editing and word processing skills, and interest in learning how to use the White Heron Sangha software package for setting up retreat webpages, emails, and retreat-related financial transactions.
If you have any of these skills or think you could learn and are interested in joining this committee, we’d be glad to have you. We also need more people who are interested in inviting and working with teachers and helping on the retreat weekends when able. The commitment is for about 4-5 meetings a year and working on setting up and volunteering for specific retreats. Please let me, Susan Quinones, know if you’re interested at email@example.com. We’re an all-volunteer sangha and count on the support of many to make our wonderful community what it is.