Mid-America Men Solarized as Souls Arise in New Mexico


The warm Southwest sun basked 300 men from across the nation and world at Soularize, an annual spiritual transformation retreat sponsored by Illuman, a ministry of the Center for Action & Contemplation and founded by Richard Rohr - a preeminent theologian, groundbreaking author, friend of Disciples, and contemplative Franciscan priest. Depth psychologist, Bill Plotkin, an equally respected leader in his field and founder of the Animas Valley Institute of Boulder, Colorado, presented and unpacked his theme, “Soul Purpose: Inhabiting Our Unique Psycho-Ecological Niche.”

By opening participants to exploring encounters of the Wilderness and mind, Dr. Plotkin was able to help men listen to ancient voices of the host Santa Ana Pueblo reservation, the cottonwood Bosque forest along the Rio Grande, the Sandia Mountains in clear view, and the importance of claiming sacred ground to find our inner sacred space. He led men through his life-changing/saving ritual of “Dismissing the Loyal Soldier” and pressed them to find repressed longings or obstacles recurring in dreams. Heavy stuff and hard work! – but so important to the people who traveled to Bernalillo, NM to grow seriously in their faith, their trust in other loving men, and to find resiliency despite obstacles in life and ministry.

Eight men from Missouri were able to ride to together to the retreat thanks to the generosity of First CC in Bolivar and Pastor Bill Nichols in lending their van. While half-a-dozen other Missouri men found their way west by other means, the shared van-ride enabled valuable processing time for the intense but joyous spiritual work. Regional Minister Dr. Paul Koch, and Reed Dressler, seminarian and youth pastor of Brentwood CC in Springfield who both attended, gladly offer themselves to share their experiences with your church men’s group.  An invitation is extended to all Mid-America Men to attend our next regional bi-monthly gathering with Illuman men at Rockhaven Ecozoic Center in House Springs, MO, Nov. 17 from 10-3.  Please rsvp to Paul at paul.ccma@sbcglobal.net or 636-221-7065 if you may be interested or want more information.  Paul will gladly transport any men from the Columbia/Moberly area to the St. Louis area for the gathering.  Dr. Koch will also share his Soularize experience at the Capital Cluster Clergy group on Nov. 8 at Community CC in Jefferson City at 10:00. 

Among Paul’s cherished moments was being able to meet Richard Rohr and to thank him for his teachings and retreats that have transformed his faith and enabled his ministry to grow.  Upon explaining to Rohr that he is a Disciples pastor, Rohr exclaimed, “Oh, the Disciples!  That’s the church that works for justice!” Rohr’s personal assistant is a Disciples layman who arranged for Fr. Rohr to preach soon at Monte Vista CC in Albuquerque.  Richard Rohr also worked alongside former GMP’s Dick Hamm and Sharon Watkins in the landmark “Reclaiming Jesus” document. 

More personally, a Hispanic man from California named Sergio, went out of his way to speak to our Mid-America delegation at a party we were hosting for a friend returning to Mexico.  Though we humbly tried to deflect his praise to us, he went out of way and made sure that we heard him. Though he served his nation proudly in the US military, Sergio has found himself not welcome in many places throughout his country. He insisted that we understood how grateful he was to be in the company of people who welcome all and who work to tear down barriers and eradicate racism. “This is what Christians are supposed to do, we are not special,” I told him. “No!” he insisted, “What you and your churches are doing is revolutionary and makes all the difference to me and my people. Thank you!” Wow! Imagine all the tears at a party.

Plans are underway for the Mid-America Regional Men’s Return to Nature Retreat (in collaboration with the Missouri Mid-South United Church of Christ) to be held May 3-5, 2019 at Shannondale Retreat Center in Shannon County, MO alongside the Current River and the Ozarks National Scenic Riverway. We will also send a delegation to the Men’s Rites of Passage held in Sandstone, MN June 19-23 at the Audubon Center of the North Woods. Soularize 2019 is already scheduled for Oct. 24-28, 2019 at the Tamaya Resort in Bernalillo, NM. Please let Paul know of your interest and we’ll work on securing transportation and financial assistance if necessary.

Thank you to Regional Minister Paul Koch for this information and photo.