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Habits of the Heart for Healthy Congregations

Making Our Home with the Other

Summer 2017 Retreat: July 31-August 3, 2017
Techny Towers and Retreat Center • Techny, IL

Courage Renewal Retreat

Habits of the Heart for Healthy Congregations is an annual retreat for clergy and faith leaders who seek renewed sense of purpose, courage to lead from within, and practices for better belonging.
Our focus for the 2017 Habits of the Heart for Healthy Congregations retreat is on the habit of appreciating the value of “otherness.”


Parker J. Palmer’s “Habits of the Heart” are deeply ingrained ways of seeing, being, and responding to life that involve our minds, our emotions, our self-images, our concepts of meaning and purpose.

At this retreat you will learn new skills for fostering leadership – both within yourselves and among others – for the sake of revitalizing faith communities locally and globally. Join like-minded peers and discover ways to renew your spirit and the spirit of your community of faith. Teams are encouraged to attend together to be able to apply shared learnings in your local contexts.

This retreat welcomes people from all religious traditions and walks of life, although most participants are clergy and congregational leaders from the Christian faith.



“What I found in the Habits of the Heart is an absolutely vital, relevant, real-time tool for both the work I personally want to do to grow as a leader and to encourage the wisdom and growth in those with whom I work.”

– Rev. Teena Racheli


Retreat Agenda

During the four-day retreat:

  • Parker Palmer will lead an in-person session on the first full day of the event to speak about the “habits of the heart” and help us explore their relevance to the health of congregations and people of faith;
  • Trained Courage & Renewal® facilitators will use the Circle of Trust® approach to spiritual formation to guide individual reflection, small group sharing, and large group dialogue;
  • You will have free time to explore practices that deepen your own spiritual growth and to create connections with each other that sustain communities of mutual support;
  • You will gather together to learn from one another through teaching, reflection, conversation, and singing. On our last night of retreat, singer-songwriter Carrier Newcomer will lead us in a fast-paced, fun-filled songwriting workshop in which we’ll integrate our learnings from the week and compose an original song together as a group.

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"quote-L "quote-RBecoming people who offer hospitality to strangers requires us to open our hearts time and again to the tension created by our fear of “the other.” That is why many wisdom traditions highlight the creative possibilities of a heart broken open instead of apart. Only from such a heart can hospitality flow – toward the stranger and toward all that we find alien and unsettling.

Parker J. Palmer, Author, Activist and Center Founder


Our Next Retreat

Calendarorange200x200Habits of the Heart for Healthy Congregations
July 31-August 3, 2017 • Techny Towers and Retreat Center, Techny, Illinois

$550 Regular Registration
$450 Early Bird Registration, if registered by May 1st, 2017

PLUS Lodging & Meals (choosing an option below is required):
+ $525 for Single Occupancy Room & Board (hotel style with private bath)
+ $425 for Single Occupancy Room & Board (dorm style with shared bath)
+ $375 for Double Occupancy Room & Board (hotel style with private bath)
+ $185 Commuter Rate (meals only @ two meals a day)

Air/Ground Travel: These costs are the participants’ responsibility.

Financial aid is available based on need. We understand the sacrifice of time and resources this type of event takes, and yet we believe in its effectiveness to renew your spirit and the life of your community of faith. Please do not hesitate to contact John Fenner to discuss your unique needs or to nominate another individual for participation at a reduced cost. Please complete the financial aid application no later than June 1st, 2017.

Click to register now

A $100 non-refundable deposit is due at registration. View our cancellation policy here.

question-mark-iconCONTACT INFO
Please direct questions to the Program Coordinator, Christine Herbert, at (206) 466-2055 or


Retreat Leadership

Valerie BrownValerie Brown is an international retreat leader, writer, ICF-accredited leadership coach, and Principal of Lead Smart Coaching, LLC, specializing in application and integration of mindfulness in daily life ( She has studied and practiced mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition since 1995 and was ordained in the Order of Interbeing by Thich Nhat Hanh in 2003. Valerie is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and is a popular teacher and writer at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center.

John FennerJohn Fenner is Program Director of the Courage to Lead for Clergy and Congregational Leaders, an initiative funded by the Center for Courage & Renewal and the Lilly Endowment. He has been facilitating Circle of Trust® retreats since 2003 for church groups, nonprofit leaders, and cross-professional cohorts. John is also a Senior Associate for Everyday Democracy, an organization dedicated to helping communities organize dialogue to action projects. He lives in Brevard, North Carolina, with his wife Claire and college-aged son Colin and is a member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.

kathryn-mcelveenKathryn McElveen is a professional leadership coach (PCC) and ordained elder in the Western NC Conference of the UMC where she has served as a congregational pastor and leadership development consultant. She is the co-author of Faith Coaching: A Conversational Approach to Helping Others Move Forward in Faith and The Faith Coaching Toolkit, which are being used to equip coaches in ministry settings around the world. Kathryn lives in Travelers Rest, SC, with her husband, Rimes, who leads an ecumenical campus ministry and intentional community at Furman University, and their four young children.

Click to read the New York Times interview with Parker Palmer.Parker J. Palmer, Ph.D., is a writer, teacher, and activist who works independently on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality, and social change. He is also founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His publications include ten poems, more than one hundred essays, and nine books, including: Let Your Life Speak, A Hidden Wholeness, and, most recently, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. His work has been recognized with several national awards and ten honorary doctorates. In 2011, Palmer was named an Utne Reader Visionary, one of “25 people who are changing your world.”

vern-rempelVern Rempel is the founding pastor of Beloved Community: A Mennonite Congregation, based in Littleton, Colorado, a new congregational model that merges Courage & Renewal practices, traditional worship and vibrant live blues music. Before that, Vern served as Senior Pastor at the First Mennonite Church of Denver and at the Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He has a Doctor of Ministry from Iliff School of Theology and a Master’s from Anabaptist Seminary. His passions include making music, learning martial arts and community outreach.


Parker J. Palmer on Effectiveness vs. Faithfulness
Parker Palmer is a world-renowned author, teacher and Founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal

"quote-L"quote-RIf we are to stand and act with hope in the tragic gap and do it for the long haul, we cannot settle for mere “effectiveness” as the ultimate measure of our failure or success. Yes, we want to be effective in pursuit of important goals. But when measurable, short-term outcomes become the only or primary standard for assessing our efforts, the upshot is as pathetic as it is predictable: we take on smaller and smaller tasks—the only kind that yield instantly visible results—and abandon the large, impossible but vital jobs we are here to do.

– Parker J. Palmer

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