Retreats & Adult Education Courses

The topics listed below are themes of retreats I have led and talks I have given for churches, hospitals, writers’ groups, and staff and students at universities and seminaries.  I am available to teach or facilitate conversation on any of these or related topics by arrangement.  Contact me through this site or at marilynmcentyre at mac dot com.

“Poetry and Prayer”

Reflections on how the work of poetry can prepare the ground for a richer prayer life, how the practices of poetry and prayer converge, what we can learn from poems that are prayers, how a thoughtful approach to language can enrich our lives of prayer. 

“Writing to Heal”

A look at writing that has emerged from contexts of suffering and how writing may become an instrument of healing.  Exercises in personal writing that may help in the work of healing.

“Writing as a Spiritual Practice”

A consideration of how particular writing exercises may become a fruitful and invigorating part of one’s ongoing spiritual practice.


“Caring for Words:  Stewardship of Language”

Based on my book on this topic, these sessions will focus on what it means now to care for language, to preserve it as a precision instrument, and to use it in live-giving ways in the midst of a great deal of propaganda, oversimplification, and spin.



This word occurs in descriptions of prayer and meditation practices across cultures and faith traditions.  These conversations invite reflection on “centering” as an idea with a history and as an intimate experience of opening heart and mind and inhabiting the body and the present moment with widened awareness.  Sessions include experiments with centering practices.


“Talking the Talk:  Getting Beyond and Behind Christian Clichés”

Reflections on language use in churches and Christian communities; how language choices shape worship, prayer, denominational identity, approaches to scripture, the discourse of faith in the contexts of contemporary American political life.


Remembering and Re-imagining:  Approaches to Autobiography and Memoir”

Exercises in and reflection on ways to reexamine, reshape, and reclaim life experience in writing.  Emphasis on alternatives to chronology.


“Eldering:  An Active Verb”

Reflections on what it may mean to “be an elder” in contemporary American culture.  How to embrace the role and responsibility of “eldering” in family, church, and community.  How “eldering” involves deliberation, imagination, and resistance.


“Learning New Steps:  Practicing Trust in Times of Transition

Transitions can be both precarious and precious times of spiritual growth.  Major (or minor) changes in life patterns can open up opportunities.  Seizing those opportunities may be easier if we are deliberate and prayerful about doing so.  Reflection on approaches to transition, and a sharing of materials that may be helpful at such times.


“An American Sermon:  Why Read The Scarlet Letter at a Time Like This?”

Revisiting an American classic in light of its relevancy for our historical moment, considering particular ways in which it addresses the matter of how to read scripture.


“What Christians Consume”

A look at the processes by which what we buy is farmed, manufactured, transported, marketed, and disposed of.  Consideration of how to be responsible stewards of resources, with reference to biblical guidelines and contemporary models.


“Who Cares:  Insights from Stories of Caregiving”

Focus on what it means to claim “care” as an active verb, bringing examples from story and poetry that provide usable images of caregiving.


“Contemplative Reading”

Reflection on how the practice of lectio divina can inform not only our reading of scripture, but also our more general reading.  Exercises in slow, thoughtful, playful reading.


“Imaging the Invisible God:  Metaphors that Matter”

Reflections on the implications of particular metaphors and images from scripture and church tradition, and how they shape our understanding of relationship with God.


“Beginner’s Mind”–an Idea Worth Borrowing”

This phrase, borrowed from Buddhist practice, can remind us of a useful daily practice of claiming the gift of the new moment, releasing the past, and opening to what is, indeed, “new every morning.”  24 exercises that may help in cultivating “beginner’s mind.”


“Faith in Fiction”

A look at scenes from fiction that offer memorable portraits of faithfulness, caring, wisdom, hope, and spiritual maturity.


“Called to the Wild:  Earth Stewardship and Faith Commitment”

Reflections on how and why Christians need to recognize environmental stewardship as a core faith commitment.  Some practical reflection on strategies and habits that can make a difference in the health of our communities, watersheds, and planet.
“Writing as a Spiritual Practice”

These conversations include both reflection on and practice of particular writing strategies as ways of bringing to the work of writing in any genre a deepened awareness of the spiritual dimension of the work, including habits of receptivity, permission, mindfulness, and playfulness.


“Why Read a Poem at a Time Like This”

Conversations on how the practice of poetry—both reading it and writing it—can help to equip us for the kinds of complex problem-solving, community building, and intellectual and spiritual flexibility we need in times of great transition.


Some of the above retreats and others offered for couples, families, or small groups, I have led with my husband, Rev. Dr. John McEntyre, an experienced pastor, group facilitator and retreat leader.  We are available by arrangement to offer retreats and/or workshops together.