Connecting faiths and communities at the Rose Castle Retreat in the UK

August 15-21, 2022

Submitted by Dr. Lea Schweitz, Director of Odyssey Fellows and Civic Engagement

In the beautiful Lake district of England at the newly remodeled Rose Castle, 14 Odyssey fellows, 3 advisors, the Director of the Odyssey Fellows program, and the staff of the Rose Castle Foundation gathered for a week of community building, hospitality, and training.

Our curriculum for the week, led primarily by Rose Castle Foundation, opened with an intentional setting of the space to promote the brave, healing conversations for which Odyssey is known and to give participants time to reflect and commit to how they wanted to show up in the program. Following that, each day created openings for participants to bring their own stories to the group, to explore differences, to deepen connections, and to learn the habits of reconciliation and group facilitation, for which Rose Castle Foundation is known.

The explicit content for the week included sessions on Scriptural Reasoning (a practice where texts are selected from sacred texts from each faith group present with the aim of learning to explore texts and disagree better), hospitality, forgiveness, polarities, and the habits of a reconciler (which include hospitality, curiosity, generosity, empathy, vulnerability, humility, lament, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, sustainability, and creativity). These are the habits that the Rose Castle Foundation teaches out of their more than 30 years of experience in the field of peacebuilding in places of violent conflict.

We screened both Stranger/Sister and Purple and facilitated brave conversations about the film. Then, we did reflective conversations to explore the work of facilitating conversations around films like these. Caitlin Boyle from Hartley Media Impact Initiative led a session giving Fellows an orientation to impact campaigns, and we hosted an initial meet-and-greet between Odyssey Impact® staff and the Odyssey Fellows.

Odyssey Impact® Fellows at Rose Castle, UK

The impression here that the content and the curriculum were constrained to the scheduled “sessions” misses the genius of being at a place like Rose Castle. It was in meals, laughter, tears, walks, fireside chats, dungeon tours, and one-on-one conversations that this group of strangers became friends, colleagues, and networks of resources of support for the hard work of bringing Odyssey’s films and mission to their home communities.

In addition to all that’s been named, we scheduled intentional opportunities for the Fellows to develop their projects with peers, in consultation with an advisor, and one-on-one discussions with the Director of Odyssey Fellows.

Our program goals for the week included training Fellows in the art of facilitating brave and healing conversations through film, project planning and development, leadership development, and building the network of Odyssey Fellows. As important as each of these are, the shared experience of community, beauty, hospitality, care, yielded something larger. In our closing session, there was an abiding hopefulness and a resonant respite from the chronic despair that working for change can bring. Individually, our cohort of Fellows came into the program as exceptionally brilliant, creative, passionate change agents, but we left as friends and a team. If it’s true that you can go faster alone, but further together, it is going to be very exciting for Odyssey to support and be part of where this team of Fellows will go!


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