Fran McKendree: How we are called to Awakening Soul


“God, put me in the midst of what you are doing, run me over with your presence, and allow me to bless what you are doing.”

This prayer is one of the touchstones of my morning meditation, as I begin my waking time each day. Humbling, grounding and enlightening, a reminder that I have work to do, that I do not do this alone, that this work, when I get my “small self” out of the way and stay true, can lead to what Michael Meade calls “threads of meaning—hints of purpose.”

Each morning this is a threshold crossing—moving out into the world, carrying in my heart the desire to live into the fulfillment of my calling. Over time, I have come to learn that deep in my heart is a yearning to create space where, with others, we might be fully present to the wonder, mystery and unfolding of our journeys.

Music—singing, making music or connecting with the music that’s already there, as Victor Wooten would say—is one of the shorelines where my yearning finds a home. So, I am continually searching the horizon for opportunities to connect through soulful music. In 2011, with the wise counsel and support of my wife, Diana, and other trusted friends, I formed with my colleague Ann Holtz the partnership we’ve call “AwakeningSoul.”

Our hope and underlying purpose in this endeavor is to create and host gatherings that offer:

  • Sanctuary—respite, a safe harbor where we know our anchor will hold fast in the rising, ebbing tides;
  • Sustenance—a banquet of wisdom, truth-telling, mindfulness and new awareness;
  • Inspiration—knowing we are not alone on our journeys, emboldened, invigorated, grateful and encouraged as we head back into our worlds.

For our first gathering, “A New, Ancient Harmony,” in December of 2011, we invited as presenters my dear friend John Philip Newell and poet Judy Brown, someone new to my circle but whose work I greatly admired. I wanted very much to have an intergenerational music ensemble and was thrilled to include Lindsey Blount, Charles Milling and Duncan Wickel. Rounding out our group, in between these young adults and me came River Guerguerian, a world renowned percussionist and beautifully creative spirit.

Our “weaver”—skillfully and artistically shuttling the waft and warp of the community we were forming was my fellow sojourner Brian Prior, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. Certified Spiritual Director Diana McKendree and Brian led workshops for us as well; Diana offering an exploration of dream work, Brian focusing on living into our gifts. Ann handled with deft skill all the details, “nuts and bolts,” and design challenges that came our way.

John Philip led us each morning in his gentle, soul-searching way toward a lasting connection with all that we hold deepest within our hearts. Judy brought her gift of word-shaping to help us all remember to hold space in the kindled fires of our lives where “the spirit, knowing just how it wants to burn, can find its way.”

Our participants gave us in return the raising of their beautiful voices in song, the gift of their lively, spirited and profound conversation, full of hope and excitement, and most graciously, their trust and gratitude. Our musical ensemble brought to life all that was dancing around in our hearts and guided us at other times on the pathway toward that rare and mysterious glade we call stillness.


This November we’ll host our second event, “Modern Mind—Ancient Soul.” We have invited Lauren Winner and Jerry Wright to be our presenters. Lauren is an author (Girl Meets God and Still), a professor at Duke School of Divinity and an Episcopal priest. Jerry is a Jungian analyst, pilgrimage leader and Presbyterian minister. We’ve asked them to join us, not because they have “the answers,” but because they speak with integrity, courage, wisdom, humor and vulnerability;

“The things you thought you knew about the spiritual life turn out not to suffice for the life you are actually living. Something has shifted; something has moved; you are looking for God and you are looking in ways that you hadn’t known to look before.”
Lauren Winner

“Each generation must embrace the image of the Divine which best expresses the experience of the Divine. A god image which is not continually dying [transforming] is not worthy of our worship, since god images which do not change become idols.”
Jerry Wright

Our music ensemble will return to lift us once again, and Brian, Diana, and our other gifted, tireless support team will be bringing all their energy. Our evenings this year will be devoted to exercises that will lead us into deep, meaningful conversation. Our intention is that we are preparing the shape—we know that this gathering will only emerge fully with the energy, creativity, soulfulness and generous spirit of those who join us…. a community of seekers.

Read the Spirit has been for me a wonderful café—bustling with incredibly passionate and articulate seekers, yet offering a quiet corner for savoring the moments of “ah ha-ness” that sparkle each day, like light dancing off a prism in a kitchen window on a sunny morning. The folks I have met through this online magazine, regulars and drop ins, have been inspirational. I hope and pray that our Awakening Soul gatherings shine from that same prism, and that our time together and the paths we travel will be enlivened and enriched by our shared love and desire to continue to seek those “threads of meaning and hints of purpose.”

READ MORE in our overview of the November 2013 Awakening Soul gathering, which includes links to learn about dates, location and registration.

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