Nov 24th to Nov 27th: Welcome and Introductions

Foreword by Robert Ellsberg, p. vii to xii
Introduction by Stephen Lazarus, p. xiii to xviii

(We) can see not only the continuity in Henri’s commitment to the
pursuit of community, but his movement from an attitude
that was arguably abstract and impersonal,
to something concrete and real.
Robert Ellsberg from the Foreword (p. xiii)

For Henri, it is in community in its many different forms where
we can discover and claim our shared humanity
and our vulnerability to be empowered
to live more compassionately.

Stephen Lazarus from the Introduction (p. xiv)

Welcome to the Henri Nouwen Society Advent 2021 book discussion. Whether you are a long-term participant returning for another discussion or joining us for the first time, we are glad that you are here for what promises to be an enlightening and fruitful experience.

We will be reading and discussing the recently published Community—a collection of ten essays by Henri Nouwen, edited by Stephen Lazarus. Although the human need for community was a recurring theme in Henri’s writing, he never published a book on this important and life-giving topic. This volume, published on the 25th anniversary of Henri’s unexpected death, was proposed by Robert Ellsberg—Henri’s longtime friend, editor, and the publisher of Orbis Books—after re-reading Henri’s essay that Ellsberg published in the Catholic Worker in 1978 (see chapter 4).

These essays, spanning nearly two decades, show how Henri’s initial understanding of community was sound but somewhat abstract. As Ellsberg notes in his Foreword, it was only after joining L’Arche Daybreak in the last ten years of his life that Henri really found the home and community he was seeking. Ellsberg writes, Henri “had undergone the ‘radical conversion’ the had described in that article so many years ago—steadily growing into the ideas he had explored in his earlier writings.” (p. ix) Reflecting on the 1978 article four decades later Ellsberg asks, “Had I finally acquired the ‘human gifts’ to understand what Henri was saying? Or had he found a different voice—‘more compassionate, more gentle, and more joyful.'”

This Advent we will explore these questions together as we journey with Henri and reflect on the meaning of community in our lives. We have the opportunity to undergo our own radical conversion and to grow in the way we live in the families, workplaces, civic organizations, churches, and other communities to which we belong. I encourage you to take the next several days to carefully read both the Foreword and Introduction as we will refer back to them in the coming weeks.

Our discussion begins in earnest on Sunday, November 28th, the First Sunday of Advent. If you are joining us for the first time or if you would like a refresher, the instructions for our online book discussion are provided below my brief biography.

As we begin our journey together, it’s always nice to know something about our companions. Over the next few days you are encouraged to introduce yourself. You may choose to share:

  • Your general geographic location.
  • To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why.
  • How you came to know and read Henri Nouwen and whether or not you have participated in previous Henri Nouwen Society online discussions.
  • What you hope to gain from this experience.
  • Any thoughts and insights you gained from reading the Foreword by Robert Ellsberg and the Introduction by Stephen Lazarus.

For those of you in the United States, we wish you a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving holiday. I’m looking forward sharing a spirit-filled Advent season with this online community of seekers as we gather together to to discuss Community by Henri Nouwen. Please scroll to the bottom to post your comment.

In gratitude,

Ray Glennon: Ray and his wife Dawn live in Columbia, Maryland. He came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he discovered The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass in Singapore at a transformative point in his life. He began participating in Henri Nouwen Society book discussions in 2010 and has served as a moderator since 2014. He developed and led a six-week adult education course on “Henri Nouwen and A Spirituality of Living.” Ray volunteers in his parish Confirmation program and other ministries. He and his wife are professed members of Secular Franciscan Order (OFS). You may contact Ray by email at and you can follow him on Twitter.

Henri Nouwen Society Online Book Discussion Instructions
Let’s briefly describe how our online book discussion works. If you’ve joined us before, this will serve as a review.

Beginning this Sunday, November 28th, and each Sunday through December 19th, a new entry or post will be added to the book discussion (the blog) home page. The post will identify the reading for the week, present a brief moderator’s reflection, and suggest some questions for discussion. Participants are invited and encouraged to comment on the post by responding to the suggested questions, by sharing their own reflections, and by replying to the comments of others throughout the week.

To read the comments or to leave a comment of your own, scroll down to the bottom of the post.  If you don’t see any comments, click on the small link at the bottom that says
## Comments.  To leave a new comment, continue scrolling down and use the “Leave a Reply” box.  To reply to someone else’s comment, click the Reply link directly below their comment. After you submit a new comment or a reply, it needs to be “approved” either by me or Will at the Nouwen Society so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. If you have any questions or problems, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at

50 Replies to “Nov 24th to Nov 27th: Welcome and Introductions”

  1. Hello everyone,

    My name is Anna Katherine and I have been meaning to leave a Hello comment here. Hello! I joined the study last week and am getting caught up with the readings. I first heard of Henri Nouwen and his lovely writing about two years ago, and I have his book In the Name of Jesus. I thought that the subject of this book is particularly needed and poignant at this time. I currently live in North Carolina where I have several relatives including some who have been ill, and have also recently lived for many years in Massachusetts where I worked part time in ministry and in editorial and music work. I am a little homesick for Massachusetts so happy to hear of many from there too! Henri Nouwen’s writings are so clear and often so meaningful. I am excited to learn more.

  2. My name is Chris Eggert=Rosenthal
    I am a 75 year old widow, recently retired from a long and rewarding Health care career and starting a new chapter of living.
    I have been reading Henri’s works for some time. I am a best a practical
    Christian if that is a term ,
    I am just a novice. learner in matters of theology and definitely tend to translate what I. read into simple terms. I live in Wisconsin near the shore of Lake Michigan (which is a. special place of solitude. for. me) I expect to learn and grow with this. study

  3. My name is Christopher Ciummei, and I am a 36 year old historian from Central Pennsylvania. I came across Nouwen through my mother about 10 years ago, and I have participated in maybe 3-4 online discussions since. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the value of community as a conduit between myself and God. Both Ellsberg and Lazarus are adamant that community was one of the most important concepts in Nouwen’s later years, and seems to have produced much happiness between him and the people that knew him. That, in and of itself, is a positive motivator to study these essays more deeply.

  4. Greetings – Just a brief introduction as I can’t really dig into this until December 1. I have read Henri Nouwen since I encountered his writings in seminary (especially Wounded Healer) over 20 years ago. Life of the Beloved was gifted to me by my mother, also a pastor, and is an annual holy week read for me. Needless to say, Henri’s theology has been formative for me both explicitly and implicitly. I currently live in Pepperell, MA, although I’ve lived in Washington, DC, Milwaukee, WI, Columbus, OH, Valparaiso, IN and various places in the Metro NY area, although I was born in Seoul, Korean.

  5. Just a quick hello as I know I’m joining the introductions a bit late. I live in Phoenix, Arizona and teach theology at a Catholic high school. I’ve joined a few earlier online reading discussions and appreciate the shared community experience–so I’m certainly looking forward to this reading of Community.

  6. Greetings Everyone, My name is Ann Marie Hook and I live in central New Mexico. I am a retired nurse, married, have three grown daughters and four grandchildren. I am active in my parish and enjoy sewing and gardening. I first learned of Henri Nouwen while serving on our archdiosean Social Justice Team where we read and discussed the book “Compassion.” When I finished the book, I wrote on the cover, “The best book I have ever read.” That was in 2015. Afterwards I heard more about Henri from sisters of the Medical Missionaries of Mary with whom I am an Associate. The sisters forwarded some of his daily mediations to me and soon I signed up for them myself.
    I have never particapted in an online book discussion and was interested when I read about the book in the announcement of the selection. I, like many others, have lived comparing myself to others and gauged my self-worth by my accomplishments. Lately, I have been thinking about how we journey together. How do we live in communion, live in community with each other. So, I wanted to read the book and the discussion seemed like a good Advent journey.
    The forward and introduction piqued my interest and so many of the passages made me think that I chose well in joining the discussion. Reading many of Henri’s quotes in these pages gave me a very visceral response. His words resonated deep with in me. I look forward to journeying through Advent with you all through our discussions.

    1. I read Compassion with my congregation council and it was such a great choice! I was so grateful for his words that expressed so well what I’m trying to instill in our leadership. They are a bunch of doers and fixers. This book is a great way to slow them down to be more intentional when they get to the doing…

  7. Hi, everyone
    My name is Janet Edwards and I live near Asheville NC. I am a retired kindergarten teacher. I am married and have two grown children and three young grandchildren. I was brought up in the Baptist church, but have been a member of the Episcopal church about twenty years.
    I cannot remember the first time I read a book by Henri Nouwen, but he has been a dear spiritual mentor to me through his books for some time. Participating in discussions of his books with other readers through this online forum has been a blessing to me many times.

    I especially liked reading in the foreword about how Henri reminded us that our wounds can be a gift in disguise and our lives need not be marked by productivity, but by fruitfulness.
    Like Henri, I have also sought for community and am looking forward to learning more about community with all of you during Advent.

  8. Hello! I am Kathleen from Michigan. I did one other another online discussion a few years ago. I’ve enjoyed many of Henri’s writings over the years. I look forward to reading this new publication and Learning more insight about community and solitude and their part in helping us grow closer to Christ

  9. Hello this first Sunday of Advent. I am back for this Advent Book Discussion after a few years. I have enjoyed these discussions several years ago. I am in Ohio, just celebrated a Blessed Thanksgiving. My Advent candles are ready for this evening. So glad to be here today. I am retired from nursing and now a nurse entrepreneur, founded my own business, Trauma Recovery Coaching. Henri Nouwen guided me through many years as a hospice nurse. I gave away his book, “Turn my Mourning into Dancing”, more times than I can remember. I am in Florida six months of the year and Ohio six months. I love the Ohio Autumn and Thanksgiving. Now I am ready to get back to Anna Maria Island and my beach walks. Henri’s book “The Eucharist” is a beautiful description of community. I experience being in community with presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In the work I do with healing from trauma, this is work that can not be done alone. Trauma healing happens in community, in relationship. Looking forward the reading and connecting with everyone here. Kathy

  10. My husband I are doing the study together form our home in Michigan. I came to know Henri Nouwen in seminary as I chose to read a book or two on his on leadership. Then I read Adam God’s Beloved and I from there couldn’t stop reading.

    We both care for our son who has special needs and care for each other in a rural area which means a lot of isolation. This is our first on line discussion.

  11. Apologies for joining a little late! Ironically the reason is that I have been completing the first chapter of a dissertation on Vulnerability! I am doing this as part of an MA in Christian Thought and Practice with Spurgeon’s College near London. The full title of the dissertation is ‘The Unmasked Disciple: To What Extent Could the Church Embrace Vulnerability and Open the Way to Genuine Connection and Empathy?’
    Clearly the work of Henri Nouwen is a significant contribution so I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to join in with this online book group and read others’ thoughts.
    Perhaps because of this focus I particularly liked the sentence in the Introduction… ‘Community is a place marked by acceptance, intimacy and vulnerability, where we can bear fruit in solidarity with others and be the body of Christ for the sake of the world.’

  12. Hello, my name is Amber and my husband and I and our two kids live in Alberta Canada! This is the first book group I’ve participated in from this site. I have been receiving the reflections for a few years. This year I wanted to do something intentional for advent. This year has been tough and grace has not been found in abundance in our society overall. I love this season we’re we can focus and anticipate what God might want to bring us both individually and as a community. I want to hear His Voice above all the noise right now. I look forward to reading and engaging with Nouwen’s writing. I have appreciate many of his other books. Thanks!

  13. Greetings all!
    I am so glad to have found this group – by serendipity ?! 🙂 I enjoyed reading your intro comments and look forward to joining in to catch up (my book arrives tomorrow!)

    Like some of you, I am recently retired – from a long list of different endeavors – geology major, German traveler, pastry chef to being an instructional designer in a college setting. My spiritual journey began in earnest in the midst of this when in 1993 I joined a community of sisters in the Philadelphia area. It was here that I “met” Henri and his writings on L’Arche which were stunning!

    I am today happily married to an enthusiastic biologist and fellow life-long learner. We have taken up hiking (slow and steady wins the race) and spending as much time with my 91 year young mom as we can. My husband has been recently diagnosed with a blood cancer, so we feel the double edged challenge of savoring the present moment, while feeling time just flying by. Every moment is precious.

    I look forward to this advent group (makes me think of the word advent-ure for some reason as this is how this moment feels – exciting, expectant, new, challenging!). Sorry for coming late to the party! Catching up soon!

  14. Hi Everyone,
    I’m in Buffalo NY where I am active with Friends of L’Arche. This is my first time participating in an online book discussion though I have been reading Henri Nouwen’s work for over twenty years since I first became aware of L’Arche. My daughter has Down syndrome and Henri’s writing has sustained me on my journey with Carly for years. I am grateful for this opportunity to examine community as working to bring a L’Arche to Buffalo has added significant purpose and hopefulness to my life.

  15. Hello everyone,
    My name is Connie, I live 25 miles north of Seattle, and split my days between caring for my 84 year old mother and working as a guest service representative.
    I first came to know Henri through an article written by Robert Ellsberg in ‘A Cloud of Witnesses’ and later came upon his writing in ‘Compassion’ through Just Faith. Our spin off book club read ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’. Having moved back to Washington, I was thrilled to find the Henri Nouwen book discussion on ‘Sabbatical Journey’ last Lent as I dearly missed my book club. I tagged along with the reading of ‘Beyond the Mirror’ and greatly appreciated Ray’s acceptance of those who chose to do so as I was late in getting the book and working more than usual.
    Being an introvert who has a dwindling family and is actually justified in isolating due to covid concerns, I find having a sense of community essential, and that is what I hope to gain in these discussions.
    In the introduction I was most struck by the concept of “the downward way of Christ.” It feels opposite of all that we strive for and even in the notion of the Risen Christ. I’ve always thought of him as ‘Up There,’ even on the cross, he’s Up. But he did come down for us…

    1. Hi! I joined late also as I waited for the book. I too care for my 93 year old mom and dad. I too am an introvert with dwindling family and enjoying my pandemic isolation…lol. Sense of community scary but so vital to our life.

  16. Hello, my name is Renee I live in Portland, Maine. This is my first time participating in this book club. I have been looking to get involved with a group of like minded people and thought this might be a good place to start. I love everything Henry Nouwen! I get a daily meditation from his organization and look forward to it every day. I find myself printing many that resonate so often with where I am at in life. I just returned from a conference with the Word of Fire organization started by Bishop Barron want to continue the momentum that conference gave me to enrich my spirituality. Thank you for making me a part of this group.

  17. Greetings!

    My name is Nadiia which in Ukrainian means Hope 🙂 My husband of 20+ years & I came to the United States from Ukraine seven years ago. Now, we reside in California, the Sacramento area, with our toy poodle Oscar. We have several family businesses, and I am mainly involved with helping international students come to study in the US.
    I read Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son this summer & I absolutely loved it. I took part in the previous online book discussion on Beyond the Mirror & while I was waiting for the Advent discussion to start, I read Here & Now. My sister-in-law will visit us this coming New Year’s Eve & she is bringing me a book by Henri that was published in the Ukrainian language – Ukrainian Diaries. I am so looking forward to it!

    Community is such a central theme now for many people, myself included. In the Foreword, I found the following thought very interesting: nowadays, people try to stand out from the crowd & be unique, but “Christian life… requires us to look for our identity not where we are different or outstanding but where we are the same… children of the same God.” I also feel that I have the same wound that Henri had: “immense need for affection, and this immense fear of rejection.” In the Introduction, I loved the thought that “our shared humanity and our vulnerability” actually lead us to more compassionate living – “the downward way of Christ.”

    Looking forward to our discussions!

  18. Greetings everyone!

    I live between the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul in Minnesota. I have been enrolled in previous discussions in past years under Ray’s fine leadership.

    I have been reading Henri Nouwen books since sometime in the 1990s. I estimate I have read about 20 of his books over the years, some more than once. I am now in my semi-retirement years and enjoy going back to some of the earlier ones I read many years ago.

    My wife an I are both retired educators, though I still do a little part time teaching at a local college. At this very moment, we are taking care of a couple grandkids as their parents are out on picking up some lumber for a project our son-in-law is doing for us. We have two other grandkids in Texas with our other daughter and her husband.

    A key insight from the early readings was the advice a priest gave the restless Henri: “The issue is not where you are, but how you live wherever you are.”

    I look forward to our readings and discussions!

    1. Barry, I love the quote you shared: “The issue is not where you are, but how you live wherever you are.” Gosh, I’m adding that to my journal asap! Thank you.

  19. My wife Sherry and I live in her hometown of Oliver Springs, near Knoxville, Tennessee. We are in East Tennessee between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. We do our best to get into our beloved mountains as often as possible. We feel closer to God there.

    To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why?

    Although retirement age has come and gone, I am still a fulltime community college professor, teaching a full load plus of mathematics and statistics courses in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am also the Sherpa spouse of my wife Sherry, a talented painter. The natural beauty of the mountains surrounding us provides much of her inspiration. Together we own a small art gallery in Oliver Springs. On weekends I am helping with the gallery. Primarily, I carry stuff and try to keep the tech stuff up-to-date and operating. In that regard, I probably deserve to be fired, but I do work for free.

    How you came to know and read Henri Nouwen and whether or not you have participated in previous Henri Nouwen Society online discussions?

    Wow, I cannot remember exactly, although I think it was during my dissertation work. From what I recall I stumbled across Parker Palmer’s work first. As I worked my way through a few of Parker Palmer’s books, Henri Nouwen was cited, which triggered explorations into his work. Of course, I might be making this whole thing up because I also found Henri Nouwen cited in the work of Richard Rohr. I am not sure which came first. I have participated in a previous online discussion. I participated in the 2021 Lent Reading group exploring the book, Sabbatical Journey. Interesting aside, I was raised in a predominantly Irish American Roman Catholic family. My first three years of formal education were in Catholic elementary schools. I still owe those teachers an apology. I suspect this might be why I find Henri’s work so compelling. Years later, after drifting out of church for many years, I began attending non-denominational or protestant churches as an adult. I have been exploring my family roots and found that I also have Quaker roots that stretch back through colonial Philadelphia to Wales. Perhaps this is why I found Parker Palmer’s work so compelling. Currently, my wife and I are members of a small East Tennessee Southern Baptist Congregation that has been her family’s church for generations. Needless, to say most of my church family have very different world views than my own. Sometimes this has been a source of difficulty due to the toxic political climate. However, I love them, and I think they love me, but I am sure there are some days we find each other harder to love. Either way, my professional life and my church life provide the opportunity to have a foot in two worlds.

    What you hope to gain from this experience?

    I had made great gains in my spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being during COVID, prior to this fall semester when I returned to some face-to-face teaching. My course-load is a mix of face-to-face and online teaching. It has been difficult. Any boundaries between personal and professional life have gone from blurred to erased. Put simply I am experiencing burnout, and with it losing the gains. I was on a great path and now I seem to have again lost my way. My spiritual progress has taken a big hit, I am not finding the time (read making excuses) to spend in prayer and meditation. A few weeks ago I stopped finding time for yoga and daily walks (read more excuses). In addition, I have run up against the “what’s next” question so common for people in my season of life. I hope this is a first step to finding my way back to a good path and perhaps some clarity on what’s next.

    Any thoughts and insights you gained from reading the Foreword by Robert Ellsberg and the Introduction by Stephen Lazarus.

    The whole concept of community is something that I feel is slipping away. I think this is one of the reasons we find it easier and easier to demonize each other. I hope to find ways to help in my own small way be an “instrument of peace” in the restoration of a sense of community whenever possible and appropriate. I found Robert Ellsberg’s comment regarding “the mapping of a conversion from productivity to fruitfulness” especially compelling. I look forward to learning more about this crucial distinction. Stephen Lazarus correctly describes the propensity of our culture to be individualistic and competitive and a need for us to come together for the common purpose of rediscovering our shared humanity…and the people say, Amen!

  20. Hello to all! My name is Robert Morgan, living with my wife in the greater Seattle are, now retired from my work in the office as a psychologist. First time to loin the online discussion of one of Henri’s books. I was given a copy of “Return of the Prodigal Son” some 20 years ago and since then have been so inspired and helped by Henri’s writings. I now spend a fair amount of time reading and I know the discussion we will have will be personally helpful to me and will provide new perspectives that would never even have cross my mind while reading at home. Also looking forward to some new online Nouwen friends.

  21. As always, I look forward to this online discussion! “Community” seems so timely. This morning I read of Jesus’ question to His disciples in Matthew 13:51…Have you understood all these things? In response to their “yes”, Jesus goes on to describe “ a scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven, is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” v. 52 Seems to me, Henri Nouwen is truly a scribe trained and continues to offer every reader/disciple both training and treasures!

    I reside in central Illinois, a small, rural village that offers many opportunities for sharing of life within community and am a member of a Mennonite congregation located a couple of miles outside the village.

    Just looking forward to joining others and recognize already that, “Community is not a human creation but a divine gift which calls for an obedient response.” Henri J. Nouwen……..I so yearn to learn……to live and love accordingly. Thank you for this opportunity!

  22. Welcome friends, old and new! We have a wonderful online community gathering for what promises to be a spirited and enlightening Advent book discussion.

    Some of you may already receive the Daily Meditation email from the Henri Nouwen Society. It is interesting (and coincidental) that today’s meditation is titled Community. You can read it here: On that same page you may also subscribe to the Daily Meditation email.

    I look forward to beginning our discussion of the first three essays on Sunday.


  23. Hi there!
    This is my first on-line discussion with the Nouwen Society and I am really looking forward to it! I have been in a Transforming Community for years and several of Henri’s books have been on our required reading list for our retreats.
    I serve as the Connections Pastor at my church so the title “Community” caught my attention. The last few years have been so challenging and exhausting; living through a pandemic, social unrest, political unrest, relational polarizations, etc. connection and community has been challenged in ways I’ve never experienced. I look forward to reading and learning with you and from you.

  24. Greetings fellow pilgrims! This is my third book sharing. It will be great to walk the journey of this Season with all of you in the days ahead. I live in Central Massachusetts near the city of Worcester with my wife and adult son who has had life-long disability. I have been retired from full-time ministry for three years but occasionally offer days of reflection and assist in my parish. Previously, I had served as a retreat director and pastoral minister. I had the good fortune to meet Henri the year before he died while spending a few days on a retreat he was leading in Rye, NY. The experience was transformative for me and deeply influenced the way I did retreat work and served God’s good people. Since that time I have read most of Henri’s books, met with several of his students and colleagues, researched in his archives and conducted several retreats on his spirituality.
    I am so happy we are sharing this book on Community! My wife and I are members of a local Passionist Associate community (There are 9 such communities on the east coast.) as part of the Passionists’ eastern U.S. province. Over the years, this community has been comfort, strength, a source of joy and enrichment for us. We believe that, if the Church is to be renewed amid its current struggles, it will be because of a re-discovery of the vibrant grace that can be found in authentic community. Robert and Stephen’s introductory comments indicate that Henri discovered this and was eager to share the gift of community with others.
    I hope our sharing in the month ahead may help us find more treasure in the gift of community! Christ’s Peace to all!

    1. Ernie,

      It was good to see someone from New England involved in our book discussion. I also was born and raised there (my children were raised on the North Shore of Boston), but I’ve lived in Louisville for over a decade. Like yourself I’m retired from formal pastoral ministry, but still very much working! I keep connections in New England, meeting on Zoom with clergy from Central Massachusetts.

      I wondered when you referenced Rye New Hampshire, if you met Henri at the Franciscan Retreat Center then across from the ocean in Rye. That was a spiritually formative retreat center for me in my early Christian years. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but because I made regular silent retreats, the Monks invited me to have communion with them! Father Bob DeLorenzo from Peabody and myself did a retreat there for nuns after Vatican II teaching them a Bible study method to study the scriptures to deepen faith.

      Your presence has prompted such good memories for me! I look forward to your comments on Hernri and his offerings on community.


      1. Hi Beverly! Thanks for your note! Hope you are enjoying life in Louisville. Are you familiar with the Passionist Monastery there. I visited it in 1976 while in formation as a novice. There are some fine men living there.

        I grew up in Springfield, MA but left to go to college in Philly and spent over 20 years there. I also lived in New York, W. Hartford and New Haven area before moving to Shrewsbury, MA in 1999.

        The retreat I made with Henri was not in New Hampshire. It was at Wainwright House in Rye, New York. But I’m glad to hear of your good experience with the Franciscans! They are a fine, open-hearted community.

        Over the past 20 years, I served on the Shrewsbury Ecumenical Clergy Association and was chair of the Northborough Interfaith Clergy Association. They were wonderful collaborative groups in Central Massachusetts. Would any of your Zoom meetings be with clergy in these towns?
        Happy & Blessed Advent to you!

  25. Greetings! I’m happy to join the group for the 3rd time now. I don’t even recall how I connected with my first Nouwen book, Here and Now, I just know I’ve purchased it so many times because I keep giving my copy away! I just gave away the one from our last reading… to someone who lost her mother, father and brother in the last year. Nouwen’s writings speak to the heart for so many. I’m a retired school administrator from the Hudson Valley region of NY.

  26. Hi All,

    I live in northwest Wisconsin outside of Hayward. This is my first on-line discussion with the Nouwen Society and I am really looking forward to this. I read Henri Nouwen’s book “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and it led me to “The Wounded Healer.” I turned to “Spiritual Direction” and felt very challenged by Henri’s direction of solitude to community to ministry. And yet it sounded right. I participate in lots of ministries and practice solitary prayer, but by nature I am uncomfortable with the idea of being vulnerable to a small group of people. We are currently forming a small group at my church to discuss the writings of Henri Nouwen, which I find challenging (terrifying). I hope this Advent journey with you is the beginning of real growth in my life.

  27. Hello to all. This is my third book discussion with the society. I participated in last spring’s Lenten reading, and again in September with the discussion marking the 25th anniversary of Henri’s death. I look forward to journeying with all of you this Advent season. I write these words from Cleveland, OH where I am a retired Lutheran pastor. I keep my hand in professional concerns with some limited preaching at vacant congregations and participation in leadership circles in my local synod and beyond (I’m thankful for the gift of ZOOM).
    Community is such a timely topic for a world living through a pandemic. During this same time period I have been living with a cancer diagnosis, which like the pandemic seems to never end. The path my disease has taken once again has me in “lock down” mode, and I find myself wondering about the need for community when any physical presence is neither available or advisable. I look forward to the insights Henri offers as well as the wisdom you might share in your refelections.

  28. Hi. I am from Wales and live in Aberdare in the south Wales valleys in what used to be a coal-mining region – we’ve still got the coal but no mines! I am retired but am now busy providing bereavement support through Marie Curie charity to relatives of those who have died from cancer. My main area of service has been in hospital Chaplaincy and ministry to the homeless. The last came to a halt with Covid and a change of Pastor. I pray that God will lead me back there one day when things have settled down.
    I came across Henri Nouwen with The Return of the Prodigal Son. I am still finding out more about him. I was directed to this website by an Anglican on a zoom Lent course. Although I belong to a Pentecostal church I love the cyclical church seasons that you get in the Anglican/Catholic tradition. This is my first time on an online book discussion and I am looking forward to it as I emerge out of my Covid cave.

  29. Hello new ‘Community’ group.
    This is my second time participating in the book club and I am really looking forward to this journey on Community as we travel the road of Advent to Christ’s birth.
    I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my partner of nearly 40 years.

    These days I am a restless soul. Until approximately 7 weeks ago I have worked in healthcare leadership for the past 20 years, most recently leading my Medicine Program and Critical care leaders through this Pandemic. I am trying retirement and am fairly confident that I will be back in a leadership position come Spring. I spend my time these days learning to paint in watercolours, time with our new granddaughter, helping at our community food bank, reading, writing, working out, cooking, cleaning- you name it- I clearly need to get back to work in a hospital…

    I came to know Henri Nouwen’s books after meeting Henri – very brieifly at a talk he gave in Edmonton. I was working as a trauma critical nurse and was trying to make sense of the profound suffering I was seeing in families and patients. I needed some grounding in a theology of suffering and was trying to cope as a young adult with loss and despair. I needed something to hang my thoughts on- the black and white my mind had created to that point did not jive with the GREY of suffering I was seeing. Henri provided fuel for soulful thought and reflection on this topic.

    After reading the Genesee Diary Henri wrote I was hooked on his honest vulnerable way of being and have been reading Henri’s books for years. I have used them in small groups I have lead. I have been to the Genesee Abbey a number of times on private retreats in Up State New York and resonate with Henri’s love of the place, the people, the pathos of the Abbey.

    This is my second time participating in this particular group and I hope and KNOW I will gain something from each of you. I have found this group experience welcoming, surprising and a gift.

    I have 1 chapter left to read and then I will read the foreword and introduction- my mind gloms unto points made and I have found over the years that reading the beginning last has bode well for me.


  30. Greetings,
    My name is Judy and I live (and now work) outside of Boston, Massachusetts. This is my first Henri Nouwen Society online discussion. During quarantine times, I was fortunate to be able to participate in a few spiritual study groups via Zoom through my parish and it greatly enhanced my life (and hopefully my contributions helped others). I look forward to sharing with this group. This new Henri Nouwen book “Community” especially intrigued me with the great loss of community I feel from these pandemic times.
    Henri Nouwen’s “Turn My Mourning into Dancing” was the first book that touched my heart – and still does – when grief from the passing of loved ones ebbs and flows. I have also enjoyed “Following Jesus”, “Finding My Way Home”, and “Here and Now” as well as the email meditations from the Society. As I often hear different messages at different times through Bible verses, Henri’s words also speak to me differently when I re-read them. Thank you to all who continue the legacy of Henri Nouwen.

    1. Welcome Judy! Another New Englander, I am so glad to be reminded of home. I have been living in Louisville for over a decade but return every summer to the North Shore of Boston where I grew up. To your reference I hope that God uses this Advent discussion to “Turn My (Our) Mourning(s) into Dancing” especially in this Covid State of Mind. Greetings and blessings, Beverly

      1. Thank you for the warm welcome Beverly. You are a wise person to return to the North Shore of Boston in the summer 🙂

  31. Greetings. My name is Caroline Hill. I live in Kelowna BC. If you happened to hear of our storm of the century in our province you will know that all our highways that take us to Vancouver were destroyed and numerous homes and businesses were destroyed. Two smaller highways have been repaired but are restricted to essential traffic only so that food can be brought back in to our stores. At the same time we are seeing community being carried out through the ways we have been able to care for the 17,000 people out of their homes, some who have lost everything. It is so good for those of us not flooded out to be able to reach out to these people. I am looking forward to once again being part of this Advent blog

  32. Beverly here. I come from a hybrid state both Southern and Midwestern. I’m ordained clergy and a licensed psychotherapist who has been trained as a Spiritual Director and formed as a Benedictine Oblate.

    Henri Nouwen has been my mentor for many years since his Harvard days when he was a professor to a good friend of mine. I was hooked after reading “Out of Solitude.” Besides reading his work, I was fortunate enough to find these fine tuned book discussions that have formed a rhythm of readings for me over the years bringing Henri back in real time.

    Honestly, participating in these discussions is a reminder of shared experience, like minds and deep hearts in community. In times like these where polarization is the prevailing ethos, coming together in “a place marked by acceptance, intimacy and vulnerability” (p. xiii), is a practice of peace-making. And to Van Gogh’s Harvest (cover), it offers “the fruit of solidarity” (ibid), for a time such as this. I am so grateful.

  33. Hello everyone. My name is Martha Doolittle and I’ve been looking forward to this group for awhile now. The Return of the Prodigal Son was my introduction to Henri and he has been my kindred spirit ever since. I stopped reading him for about 10-15 years, during which time he passed away. Returning through the Society, I have been challenged to see my life and faith in new, deeper ways. I am excited to be a part of this group and look forward to our conversations. I am an artist of various disciplines, married to an actor/accountant and living in Houston Texas.

  34. I look forward to another community of seekers who learn from Henri lessons of humility on the holy path. I’ve used several of Henri’s books for reflection. His ability to share his journey is a gift to us. I’ll be posting from home in the “Big Apple” city of New York. Retired from teaching, I now have the time to be a student myself. I enjoy music, having participated in our Parish choir and the Community chorus pre-pandemic but not yet resumed. I like to be in nature, have my camera ready to capture creation as the seasons unfold. Being a walker, I spend time in the First Bible of Nature. Thanks to Ray for his kind leadership of this discussion group.

  35. I first encountered Henri’s writings after seeing that “The Return of the Prodigal Son” was one of Hillary Clinton’s favorite books. I consumed it and have reread it more times than I can count and have given it to several people. I’ve participated in the Nouwen book discussions for several years but missed last year. During that time –the time of Covid teaching, I involved each of my students in writing their own novel which was a yearlong process. I thought serving as the editor of twenty 25,000 word novels wouldn’t be that big a deal. Hmmm… I never worked as hard and as LONG as last year, getting home from school, starting in again, and leaving students plot and character questions on their google doc to consider. The novels were published in July by Lulu Publishing and were more than worth the hours –however, I’m pretty sure it will take several years before I jump in and do that again. I love the format of this book discussions and what I learn from others, finding that I really don’t know what I think about what I read until I write about it.

  36. Hello. My name is Sharon and I and my husband live in a suburb just outside of Detroit. My introduction to Henri Nouwen was being given a copy of The Wounded Healer when my Pastor asked me to join a group training in the Stephens Minitries Program at our church. The book was so insightful and helpful, I was hooked and have been reading his books and doing these discussions for some years. My interest is in helping disabled women who use wheelchairs/walkers with their clothing needs and hope to start a small home-based business to provide this service to them. I would like to be as compassionate and effective as Henri Nouwen was with people like Adam and all others. My thanksgiving is to Ray and everyone who make this discussion possible and help us to grow.

  37. Hi everyone, I am in Calgary Alberta Canada. I have been raised a Christian and have been a long time student of A Course in Miracles, I now host my own ACIM and Mentor to others on Multi-Faith Spiritual matters. I was recently at a retreat ( Kings Fold, Cochrane Alberta; Henri Visited here ) I found his book Spiritual Discernment, this book resonated with me in a way no Author has previous. I spend time with Henri every day and appreciate his candor on the world and state of it all. This is my first book study group in this format and I am excited…

    1. Hello Irene
      I lived in Calgary a LONG time ago, 1989-1994. I have been to Kingsfold numerous times during my 22 years in Alberta. Henri was planning on doing a retreat at Kingsfold according to the leader at the centre at the time. Sadly that was to happen the year after Henri died. I was planning on attending the retreat with Henri. Its nice to have you in the group and I look forward to your words of wisdom in relation to community with your lens of ACIM.

  38. Hello! My name is Mary Kay McVey. I am the Manager of Mission Formation for Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have long loved Henri Nouwen and have most of his books in my library. I believe the topic of Community is so needed right now and this will also help me in providing support and formation experiences. I look forward to reading everyone’s ideas and reactions to this book. And it looks like I will be able to virtually meet Nouwen fans and aficionados from across the world! I’m looking forward to this book club!

  39. Hello – my location is Derbyshire in the UK: it’s in the English Midlands
    I am now retired from teaching/ working in schools, though my family are keeping me busy ferrying them around and walking the dogs! I am also now coordinating our meditation group that is part of the World Community of Christian Meditation; as an ecumenical group it has been great to experience time with Christians with a different perspective to myself. I am a member of our parishes pastoral council and play music at Mass. In the New Year I’m hoping to get some adult formation sessions up and running using resources from a Catholic church based organization called Sycamore – I’m really looking forward to this. A lot of my energy is also devoted to walking, especially on pilgrimage routes – I’m looking forward to completing my Camino Frances in April 2022.
    I’ve taken part in quite a few of these online discussions, though mainly as a reader – I’ve now lost the excuse of being so busy all the time so should be making more comment!
    I always gain a great deal from the ideas that Nouwen communicates, that chimes so clearly with our human experiences. I also take a great deal from the comments of others; being part of something that stretches across the world is exciting.
    Robert Ellsberg’s foreword reminded me that “our lives are not measured by our productivity, but by our fruitfulness”. Now I am outside paid employment there are many aspects that might have been considered “productive”, but I am unsure as to how “fruitful” they were; it seems it takes a journey to comes to the insight of Nouwen’s that Robert Ellsberg picked out.
    In Stephen Lazarus’s introduction a passage he picked out from Nouwen’s writing was “Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives”. It’s always comforting to know that great and good people such as Henri Nouwen have shared some of my exasperation in being a part of a community, though I confess I have sometimes been the person others have probably least wanted to live with. I look forward to reading and sharing as we see Nouwen’s good sense applied to how we live in community.

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