I write to you at an unprecedented time that crept up on us, mostly unaware—that has shifted our direction for the time being. Since our last newsletter how we are human on this planet has changed, yet the earth that sustains us remains the same.
Like all of you I have journeyed in and out of grief, joy, sorrow, pain and despair.
In the week after the school March break, Five Oaks realized that many of the remaining programs and hosted groups this Spring would likely be postponed or cancel. In fact, the centre has taken the long view that due to isolation requirements we will likely not be able to host programs or hosted groups until September. We live in hope that this will change, but also in the reality of what is.
At that time we took the difficult decision to lay off and reduce hours of many staff, to turn down the heat and unplug the appliances, to set up home offices and prepare to batten down the hatches for the storm. Staff and volunteers, with the Board of Directors have reviewed our finances and are moving forward cautiously.
Despite all this, Five Oaks continues to be sacred place where people, as individuals or in intentional community, come apart to look deeply into their own lives and the world in light of faith and values, and find their calling to participate in Spirit’s healing work in creation. At Five Oaks, we are continuing to do our part to help flatten the curve and invite you do the same.
I want you to know about an exciting opportunity for Five Oaks in the global pandemic fight. Last week, Five Oaks began our welcome of unique groups of people on a different kind of retreat. Collaborating with local municipalities and health units, and with local farmers, Five Oaks has become an isolation centre for migrant workers arriving to Canada to support Canadian agriculture. While you will not be able to visit the site during this time period, we want you to know that your contributions are supporting this ministry, in which the staff and volunteers of the centre are fully supportive and invested. While the profit from these groups will not cover what has been lost, it will allow the centre to invest in our staff and property, and be financially viable enough to stay open.
You may have also heard that Five Oaks suffered a series of break-and-enters in late March. The loss from these forced entries will be above $25,000. Not only was there physical loss, but the emotional and spiritual toll on our staff and volunteers was significant. Yet, despite this, we have dusted off, stood up, and have focused on what we can do together to support our community during this pandemic. Welcoming migrant workers to Five Oaks will enable the centre to live into its call to be Spirit’s healing presence in the world.
We want to invite you in the coming weeks to a Festival of Five Oaks, a variety of online offerings that our program team will curate for you from our program leaders and onsite program partners. We look forward to bringing the centre onto your screen for the time being. We want you to know that we will be here for you when we are able to gather together again. The land knows you will come again.
There has never before us been a more crucial time to give generously. Your financial contribution will sustain the important work of the centre. If you are a regular donor, we thank you and encourage you to increase your monthly donation even by just $5 per month. If you have ever thought of becoming a regular donor, we encourage you to sign up for regular monthly giving through PAR. Do you have the capacity to contribute to a Faith Bond, a secure and safe investment that ensures the centre has cash flow during this worldwide crisis? If so, be in touch and we would be so grateful.
I look forward to seeing you soon,
On-site programs will not be possible for a while, so Five Oaks Programs are pulling all the innovation and creativity tools out of the toolbox. We will be adapting how we deliver programs to continue to meet the needs of communities, leaders, and individuals, and provide opportunity to grow in connection to Creator, the world and to one another.
School of Celtic Consciousness
We are working with Heartbeat Journeys and John Philip Newell to present live webinars with John Philip Newell in May and June. Details and registration will be on our website. The School of Celtic Consciousness in July 2020 (a three day on-site retreat) is postponed until July 2021.
SCC (Canada), who host the quarterly gatherings at Five Oaks, has launched a new Facebook Page to provide participants in these programs and others with Celtic spirituality, reflections, music and more.
Guiding communities through new experiences of grief
We are in a new time, and facing things we haven’t dealt with on such a wide scale. As a spiritual leader, how do I help my community navigate and find resilience in the communal experiences of disenfranchised grief, change-based grief, or trauma grief? All of these are realities in our lives now. Our capacities to thrive in the coming months will be severely challenged. Working with professionals in the field, Five Oaks will create and present a series of workshops for small groups to do together to learn skills and practices to understand and respond to all types of communal grief in these challenging times, and grow stronger as individuals and communities. Look for announcements in early May.
The online Festival of Five Oaks will roll out with music, poetry, short talks, encounters in nature and more, over the coming weeks and months. We are excited to walk with you as we live out the vision of Five Oaks in new ways.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
We invite you to and give notice of our Annual Meeting that will be held online on Sunday June 7, 2020. The time and logistics of the event will be shared closer to the date, but please mark this in your calendar and join us to celebrate the centre.
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MESSAGE FROM OUR BOARD CHAIR
As I have ventured out of my home for those necessary walks in these last few days, the word that keeps coming to my mind is ‘eerie.’ City streets that are normally busy with shoppers, with folks dropping into coffee shops, restaurants, and stores, are all strangely empty, save for a few people walking their dogs (the dogs are loving this—somebody is with them all the time!), and those out with young children who need fresh air.
Meanwhile, the language that surrounds us on every side resounds with ‘incredible,’ ‘unprecedented,’ ‘uncharted,’ ‘unbelievable,’ and on and on. This new reality is, indeed, hitherto unimaginable—even in difficult times in the past, during wartime and even during the Depression, we continued to eat out in restaurants, go to concerts and social events, and attend worship services. The new ‘normal’ in which we are all living is indeed beyond anything any of us has seen.
At Five Oaks, our deeply committed staff, under the gifted leadership of our Executive Director, Michael Shewburg, is working flat out to keep the property safe and secure, to handle the implications for cancelled and postponed programs, and to keep the Centre ‘open’ in these uncertain days.
We know that much of our ‘business’ will not continue over these next weeks, perhaps months. We are working as closely as we can with our partners and the local community to determine the ways in which we can make our facilities and expertise available.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to offer deep thanks to Michael and the staff for their unceasing dedication to Five Oaks and all that we can be. The Board is also working hard together, both to protect the safety of our staff and to minimize the drastic effects of this on the employment of all of our staff.
Our financial picture, of course, is dramatically affected by the drop in business and the Finance Committee, the Treasurer, and finance staff are carefully and compassionately looking at the remainder of the year.
We know how generous our members and our friends are—I am appealing to you to help Five Oaks if you can. You might be able to make your planned annual gift early; you might be able to make an extraordinary gift within the next few weeks or months; you might know someone who is in a position to make a special gift. We would be very grateful.
We will all need to do our part through this crisis. We also know that Five Oaks will be back—better and stronger than ever.
Please hold our staff in your thoughts and prayers; please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.
On behalf of the Board, and with all friends, partners, and members of Five Oaks in mind, my very best wishes and our deep thanks.