Spiritual Direction (or accompaniment) has been a fundamental expression of Bethlehem Centre’s service offering for years. Though the pandemic impacted this offering, the Centre is delighted to be revitalizing this much needed program. The spiritual accompaniment service is important as it supports and lends witness, through listening, to the individuals that come to the Centre to seek counsel as they “do their spiritual work”.
What is Spiritual accompaniment you may ask? The Pacific Jubilee Program describes it as a process of being with people on their spiritual journey, listening for what gives them meaning, and helping them grow closer to Divine Mystery, which goes by many names: God/ Love/ the Holy/ the Sacred/ Higher Power.
Later this fall, through our growing connection with the Pacific Jubilee, Bethlehem Centre will have an available roster of spiritual directors to accompany retreatants through the varying expression of their spiritual journey. Stay tuned for more details this fall.
Bethlehem is delighted to welcome back Faith and Sharing Vancouver Island this week for their 33rd annual retreat. With their “come as you are and be welcomed for who you are” approach, the retreat attracts participants from all walks of life who come together to share their stories and celebrate their lives together.
The Faith and Sharing way of life is based on the belief that each person, no matter how limited or gifted, has a unique and undeniable value. Offering a Christian ecumenical community that supports individuals striving for a richer life. It’s history starts in 1974, when Bishop Remi De Roo encouraged a group to start a Faith and Sharing group on Vancouver Island. The group has grown over the years and have been hosting their annual retreat at Bethlehem Centre since 1989.
“Through the pandemic, in our Faith and Sharing communities we have searched for new ways to connect and share together. Groups have prayed and shared on zoom. It’s not the same as usual, and we miss our retreats and days of prayer. But through our screens, I think we have shown our care for each other and encouraged each other in our belief in an ever present God.” says Claire Donovan, retreat coordinator.
The 2021 Retreat, themed The Beatitudes: a call to a new consciousness, was facilitated by animator, Doreen Kostynuik, who held space for a rich offering of music, worship, prayer, sharing faith, reflective silence, nourishment, joy and laughter.
“We are grateful to be back together in this sacred space sharing once again”, says Claire, “we look forward to our continued connection with the community throughout the year to come”.
To learn more about bringing your group to Bethlehem Centre
call us 250-754-3254.
The garden food stand is back! With a brand-new growing season on its way, we are excited to announce weekly hours once more. Stop the parking lot by every Saturday between 11am – 2pm for some fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We’ve got tons of greens and peas being harvested right now, radishes, just greens, greens, greens,” says Lisa Munro, our resident grower. “We’ll have tomatoes for June, I’m so excited about summer time! I just planted a whole bunch of different squash. Blueberries are gorgeous, six-foot-tall bushes. We got about 100 pounds last year, I’m still eating them!”
If you’re familiar with our food stand, then you’ve probably met Lisa. She’s the hands behind the produce and we want you to get to know her a little better, and the Young Agrarians Farm Program that brings her here with us.
“I’m not a young agrarian,” she says, laughing. “I was woofing in Holland in the 80s, but I’m young at heart and I can still bend and crouch.”
Bending and crouching is a big part of the job, tending to the beds at the Centre all the way up to harvesting the four fruit trees and epic blueberries. As a lifetime gardener, Lisa was following the Young Agrarians on Facebook when she came across the opportunity to partner with the Centre and share gardening space.
According to Lisa, one of the barriers to farming in BC and Canada is the cost of land, and what the Young Agrarians do is match farmers to land for partnership initiatives. When the Centre began looking for help to maintain the garden on the grounds, the Young Agrarians put them in touch with Lisa.
“It’s a funny story, actually,” says Lisa. “I was walking around Westwood Lake with my husband one evening and when we passed the Centre I said, ‘I wonder if they have a garden.’ Not even three days later I saw the opportunity online and thought, ‘Oh, I guess they do!”
Not only does the food stand helps keep the public connected to the work Lisa’s doing in the background; this partnership in action has enabled the farm-to-table initiative to continue. Some of the produce finds its way from the garden into Bethlehem’s kitchen for guest to be nourished while on retreat.
“It’s nice to make local food available,” says Lisa, of what she enjoys with this unique partnership. “In recent years it seemed the garden was struggling and needed someone knowledgeable to love it, and that someone was me.”
For those interested in volunteering, Lisa welcomes anyone who wants to get their hands dirty. “Yes, absolutely! I love sharing gardening, both the work and the wonder! Plus, the garden is a perfect outdoor space for a social distanced activity.
Please connect with Bethlehem Centre to learn more.
Melanie Norcutt is happily recounting the experience of marrying her husband, Ward, on the grounds of Bethlehem Centre 28 years ago. She’s prepping her classroom for a Monday morning with Forest Park Elementary students in Grades 1 & 2 and has just enough time to talk about a full circle experience that brought her back, once again, to the little chapel that welcomed her intimate group of loved ones for that special day in 1993.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the chapel since getting married,” she says, “but when I was there for a yoga session recently, at a Chakra class, the late afternoon sun was coming in, and it was around the same time of day as our ceremony. You could feel the energy. It really reminds you of your roots.”
Melanie had been completing her Kundalini Yoga teacher training with Jay Sutton Brown, who hosts yoga workshops at Bethlehem Centre, which brought her back to that special day almost 30 years ago.
“Prior to marrying Ward, that’s the chapel where I also went to Mass because I liked the energy,” she explains. “Bethlehem Centre has always been part of my world, so it was an obvious choice for my wedding.”
With the days, and months and years that have passed by the Centre has seen its fair share of seasons. “It’s changed somewhat,” she says, with an easy laugh. “Mostly, the trees back then were so tiny. But it was just as intensely beautiful, with the grounds, the lake, and the views.”
It was Father Kevin Wiseman, now passed, who married Melanie and Ward, as the resident priest at the time. Melanie says he was a friend who was an important and unique person to her in her life. As for the original caretakers of the Centre, Melanie says the Benedictine sister’s presence was as strongly felt then as it is today. “You can still feel their decades of love vibrating through the walls.” This is another reason she felt drawn to the space for her wedding day. “The Centre is just such an inclusive, actively peaceful space,” she explains. “Open to all ages, faiths and spiritual beliefs.”
Melanie raised her own young people, two boys, with her husband, and often the family came together to share time and memories at the Centre. Fast forward to her recent yoga teachers training, Melanie took a few days for a personal retreat, following her Kundalini training she stayed in the suite overlooking the Westwood Lake. “Ward booked it for me,” she says. “He joined me on the last night, and two weeks later he also spent three nights on a writer’s retreat, staying in the same room I had stayed in.” Melanie explains that the time spent there is an immersive Zen experience. “It really allowed me to rest with walking, reading, writing and not concerning myself with anything other than those simple acts. And they take such good care of us, allowing space and time to fully recharge.”
Melanie says she and her husband are considering renewing their vows again at the Centre in two years’ time, for their 30th anniversary, and encourages other couples seeking a spiritual landscape for their special day to consider this sacred space.
“You have everything you need with accommodations and the chefs here,” she pauses, searching for another word to describe the food, besides the fact that it’s delicious. “It’s just so good, so wholesome, and abundant.”
No matter how you end up here, or what your purpose is when you arrive, this is a place where you can take the space you need to breathe, live in the moment, and find your center. “It’s a place to be,” she says, simply.
Interested in learning more about how Bethlehem Centre can make your wedding ceremony dreams or personal retreat a reality? Contact us to find out more.
“We’re considered the bridge between staff and guests,” says Muktaali, also fondly known as Muks or Muki. She is currently experiencing her second work stay residency with Bethlehem Centre, after a four-month residency between January and April of 2019.
The Work Stay Resident program at Bethlehem Centre is a non-paid work/trade agreement where hours worked are exchanged for room and board. Residents live on-site, and commit to a minimum of four months.
There are usually two Work Stay Residents at a time working and residing at Bethlehem Centre, and these residents share tasks. These tasks encompass kitchen support (prepping meals, setting the dining room, serving and cleanup), guest services (check-ins, emergency contact, opening and closing, after hours security) and occasional housekeeping or small projects and yard/grounds/garden maintenance.
Deb, another Work Stay Resident with the Centre, says she was drawn to this unique experience because she wanted to live and work in a community with a positive and open vision. “I really liked what the centre stands for and what they’re doing. I wanted to be a part of it from a more intimate level.”
For Deb, this is also not her first experience as a Work Stay Resident, but it is her first with Bethlehem Centre. She was guided to the centre during a silent meditation retreat in Vancouver, where the meditation group was advertising for volunteers. “I thought I was applying to volunteer with them,” said Deb. “But their site directed me here! I think everyone who ends up here is here for a reason.”
For Muki, it was just the kind of experience she was looking for, during her off-season from volunteering/exploring community and farms.
“What first caught my attention was the slogan ‘Spirituality Without Borders,’” she says. “To me it means unity, and that all are welcome. I saw it as a chance to be of service to a non-profit centre that offered lots of personal time off to reflect.”
This expectation has not been far off from the experience itself. Muki says that while they’re always busy with work to be done, it can still feel like being on an extended holiday or as Deb puts it “every day is like waking up in paradise.”
“There is a gentle, serene and peaceful energy for those who slow down and tune into it,” explains Muki, giving credit to the years of love and prayer performed by the Benedictine sisters, who originally lived on the property and maintained the Centre and its grounds. “This energy is a constant to tap into any time and we have a great team. There are plenty of moments infused with lightness, flow and being playful. Smiles can be contagious.”
While Muki is a seasoned work stay resident and nomad, there’s been a few welcome surprises to this work stay experience that she wasn’t expecting.
“I did not expect feeling more connected as a part of the team, a family,” she says. “I did not expect to still be here after one year. I did not expect to have such a wonderful co-resident to share this last year with. I have co-worked with five Work Stay Residents, each a blessing in their own way, but Deb stands out as a kindred sister.”
Deb agrees. “It’s a great opportunity. Everyone is very supportive and encouraging and everyone has something to teach. It’s really helped me to see where I feel most myself and what I most enjoy doing”
Their greatest reward, however, is not in learning from each other or even the Centre itself. It’s in their interactions with guests that leave them feeling the most grateful for the experience.
“Seeing the faces and smiles of the guests,” confirms Muki, “and their transformation from arrival to departure. Some leave notes, give cards and bring flowers. It gives one a sense of a job well done being the bridge.”
For Deb, the most rewarding experience is hearing that guests had a wonderful time. “Then I know I was able to contribute to that in some way,” she adds.
With a fresh new year ahead, and hopefully an end to a pandemic that has made everything a little bit less warm and open, the work stay residents look forward to more guests, more contact and more social interactions. They also look forward to more reflection and insight into their own personal journeys, wherever those may lead.
“Life can throw so many circumstances beyond our control onto our paths. Especially this past year. So many changes and unknown factors to navigate,” says Muki. “The gift of this experience is that we can really put surrender and radical acceptance into practice.”
According to Deb, if you trust the spirit of Bethlehem Centre, if you relax into it, you’ll find guidance that will allow you to open up in new ways.
To learn more about the role email firstname.lastname@example.org or to apply send your resume and interest telling us why you would be a great fit for the position.
Invitation for Applications
Bethlehem Centre Society (BCS) Board is made up of professionals along with community-minded and spiritually grounded people who have made a commitment to be involved and assist with governing the society. In order to meet the challenges and effectively lead this dynamic organization, BCS requires candidates who can provide the leadership and strategic direction at the Board of Director level. Previous Board experience is not required, although an asset.
Nestled in the shadows of Nanaimo’s Mt Benson, on beautiful Westwood Lake, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, there are thirty-seven guest rooms and a variety of meeting rooms. The property sits on several acres and hosts a labyrinth, meditation trails and a pond.
BCS was established in 1987 by the House of Bread Benedictine Sisters. In 2014, the Sisters decided to sell the property in order to retire from many years of welcoming diverse groups and individuals to the Centre.
Now, Bethlehem Centre (Society) is no longer associated with any particular faith tradition, rather a multi-faith non-profit that welcomes all who are on a spiritual path. Our vision embraces “spirituality without borders” and we maintain the tradition of hospitality that has long been part of the Centre’s strength.
We believe that there is a connectedness in all of humanity in our search for meaning and spirituality, and we collaborate with many partners to offer programs that help people evolve in ways that expand our consciousness and connectedness to each other, our communities and our planet.
BCS board member will:
- Have a passion for our cause.
- Preferably be a resident of the greater Nanaimo area (although all applicants will be considered).
- Support the vision, mission, and values of BCS.
- Have a background in risk management, legal, technology, accounting and/or a related field.
- Represent our desire to reflect the diversity of our stakeholders and be open to diverse expressions of faith.
- Be familiar with a governance-based Board of Directors and non-profit organizations. Or have a passion for learning about them!
- Regularly attends board meetings and important related meetings.
- Makes a serious commitment to participate actively in committee work.
- Volunteers for and willingly accepts assignments and completes them thoroughly and on time.
- Stays informed about committee matters, prepares themselves well for meetings, and reviews and comments on minutes and reports.
- Gets to know other committee members and builds a collegial working relationship that contributes to consensus.
- Is an active participant in the committee’s annual evaluation and planning efforts.
- Participates in fund raising for the organization.
How to Apply
If you are interested in being of service to BCS’s Board, we welcome your interest. You are invited to send a current CV with a brief statement as to why you should be considered in confidence to email@example.com