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Highlights and Plans
Celebrations of Grace & Gratitude:
2016 HIGHLIGHTS, 2017 PLANS
We hold a vision of embodying Divine Love in the world…
I trust in the goodness of God
forever and ever.
I thank you for evermore,
for this is your doing.
from Psalm 52
Again, it is with great gratitude that Contemplative Outreach moves into its 33rd year and goes forth deeply aware of the grace manifested daily in the thousands of minds and hearts of those touched by Centering Prayer, grateful for the work ahead, for the worldwide community of practitioners, and for the sustaining support of those whose generosity allows this work to flourish.
Among the highlights are the following …
Voices of Grace & Gratitude ... continued in 2016
Launched on January 6, 2014, Voices of Grace & Gratitude is an online program of one-minute video excerpts taken from interviews with Centering Prayer practitioners from around the world. They are joyful expressions of gratitude for the gift of Centering Prayer in their lives and its powerful implications for all humanity. A new offering appeared each week on the homepage of the website during 2014-2015-2016. English and Spanish transcripts of the Voices are also posted. Over 150 Voices were aired during the three-year period.
As planned, 2016 was a year of maintenance and preparation for the Drupal migration:
- As the Drupal 8 discovery became increasingly complex, the decision was made to migrate to Drupal 7 (D7) instead, as it is a more stable platform with less risks and unknowns. (Drupal is the software platform of the website).
- In addition, Contemplative Outreach (CO) was informed by Blackbaud (database software provider) that the in-office database system would be discontinued in March 2017, forcing an investigation and review process for a new database platform. A requirements document was created and a search done for a new solution. CiviCRM was chosen as the new database as it a) meets the requirements and b) is part of the Drupal platform which allows for an integrated system and c) therefore, removes the database sync issues currently experienced between current database and Drupal website platform.
Website statistics ...
(34.1% of visits)
(25.7% of visits)
In 2016, the 291,821 visits came from 200 countries/territories. The top visiting countries are: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand and India.
In 2017, the priority was to complete the implementation of the Drupal 7 and database migrations in Q1. Done!
Conversion of DVDs and CDs to downloadable products
During 2016 a special project began to convert older DVD and CD products in the CO online store to MP3s and MP4s as downloadable products – resulting in lower costs and ready accessibility – especially attractive to worldwide audiences who do not have to incur the costs and risks of overseas shipment. This continues in 2017.
Free videos on YouTube
Many talks given by Fr. Thomas and others will be made available for free on YouTube in order to promulgate the contemplative message of hope. This began in 2016 continues throughout 2017.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
The CO Facebook presence continues to grow rapidly, now with over 5,800 global members, a 45% increase over 2015. The Centering Prayer Twitter feed reaches over 6,940 followers, a 25% increase over 2015. YouTube is seeing more subscribers due to increased video content – 1,838 subscribers, 501,064 views as of February 20.
2016 was the third year Contemplative Outreach hosted a yearlong program of online courses in partnership with Spirituality & Practice. The Path of Life series included four online retreats and a Word of the Week email to keep yearlong subscribers inspired, practicing and connected with a worldwide online community. The four courses reached 1,789 participants worldwide, 295 of which were signed up for the yearlong program.
- The Gift of Life: A Lenten Retreat - February 10 – March 25 – 549 participants
- Wisdom for Living: The Parables of Jesus – June 6 – July 1 – 655 participants
- Embracing Living: The Welcoming Prayer – October 3 – October 28 – 866 participants
- Lumen Divinum: A Retreat for Advent – November 25 - December 23 – 604 participants
- The Path of Life annual subscription – 295 participants (these numbers are also included in each of the above) receiving the Word of the Week beginning January 6.
Since 2008, over 17,000 people have participated in the online courses.
‘Let there be light’ is the transcendent creative light
that is present as the basic energy of everything that exists.
… It is that light that is the source of the spiritual nature
Of our being. It is that light that dwells in us
as our inmost spiritual nature and
… shows us exactly who we are and the true state
of our relationship with God.
… The journey in to the light,
Which is synonymous with the true self
… is to make ourselves aware of the height,
length, breadth, and depth of the love of Christ
in taking on our human nature.
Thomas Keating, Consenting to God As God Is.
Building on the successes of 2014’s A Path into Divine Love, 2015’s The Way of Silence and 2016’s The Path of Life, now Journey into The Light is being offered, again giving the option to subscribe to an annual series, or to the courses individually. If the former, the participant receives a ‘Word of the Week’ message, the opportunity to participate in a year-long ‘practice circle’ and to form a worldwide community of intentionality and devotion for a whole year.
The annual series began on January 8, 2017. Titles for the year include:
- A Lenten Journey: The Transformation of Suffering – March 1 – April 14
- A Journey of Discernment, with The Teachings of Mary Margaret Funk – October 3 – 28
- Lux Divina: A Retreat for Advent – December 1 - December 29
- Word of the Week - Weekly before and between e-courses – beginning January 8.
CEUs for chaplains are available.
The Centering Prayer mobile app for iPhones and iPads is now three years old.
The app functions as a prayer timer to support a Centering Prayer practice. In 2015, some upgrades were made, including adding new prayers, new backgrounds, a Spanish-language version and the ability to purchase Contemplative Life Program (CLP) PDF booklets via in-app purchase. The CLP helps establish and support a contemplative life of practice and devotion. CO started to see some small income from the CLP purchases beginning in September 2015, which has increased slowly over time.
The Android version was introduced to Google Play and Amazon in February 2015. In 2016, a Spanish language option was added to the platform, as well as prayers and backgrounds to make it commensurate with the iOS app platform.
App downloads and usage are very strong. One of the emerging statistics is the age ranges of those downloading the app: It is encouraging to see that the app is indeed reaching a new and younger audience than is traditionally served by Contemplative Outreach. For both platforms, 34-35% of new downloads are from 25-34 year olds and 55-57% of new downloads are from 35-54 year olds. Only 7% of new downloads are from those 55+ years old – where usually this group comprises CO’s largest representation.
Mobile App Statistics for 2016
|New devices in 2016 (downloads)||Avg. daily active devices||Avg. active users/week||Avg. active users/month||Total sessions in 2016|
|% inc. over 2015*||84%||97%|
* Note: A full year-over-year comparison can't be made as the Android app was not introduced until mid-Feb 2015.
In 2017, a number of performance improvements and enhancements will be made to both the Android and iOS versions of the mobile app.
A New Offering Introduced
The DVD series entitled God is Love: The Heart of All Creation offers a groundbreaking look into the unfolding consciousness that at once integrates the sciences, religion and humankind’s place in the cosmos - divine in origin, unifying in purpose, unfolding in its grandeur. Fr. Thomas discusses how contemplative practice serves evolution. It is a refreshing look at contemporary questions.
The new series was introduced in a retreat at the Garrison Institute, November 11-17, 2016 with 96 retreatants and a waiting list. During 2017, two retreats were hosted to again introduce the series: September 15-21 at St. Mary’s Sewanee and November 10-16 at the Garrison Institute.
During 2017 a companion book, which is an edited transcript of the series, was introduced.
United Day in Prayer
Contemplative Outreach annually organizes a United in Prayer Day in March, where local prayer groups and chapters gather together all over the world to unite in silent prayer and celebrate the contemplative dimension of life. 2017 was the 25th year of this event. For four years, CO has offered a virtual retreat for those who do not have local retreats or cannot attend one. The virtual retreat includes a suggested schedule and a digital video used for spiritual enrichment. Two years ago, a 24-hour prayer vigil capacity was added to the website in both English and Spanish, which features a sign-up in the person's local time zone for ease of planning. Anyone with any silent prayer practice is welcome to sign-up for 30-minute segments, either as an individual or in groups. Confirmation and reminder emails are sent to participants. In 2016, over 370 people from 11 countries participated in the prayer vigil.
Newsletters and Monthly E-News Bulletins
Two semi-annual published newsletters were printed and mailed to 20,000 for each edition and 12 monthly e-news bulletins were developed and distributed in 2016. Website traffic always spikes (doubles, even quadruples) in the days following each e-news bulletin. Each e-bulletin also stimulates orders in the online store.
Nov/Dec 2008 e-bulletins
Number Sent 9,662
December 2016 e-bulletins
Numbers sent: 22,108
And, some of the volunteer and prayer group numbers …
- Over 1,400 volunteers worldwide
- 203 Coordinators and Contact persons in 45 states in the U. S.
- 33 International Liaisons
- 910+ Centering Prayer groups serving over 8,500 people
- Over 850+ local programs, serving over 20,000 attendees
- The eleventh annual gathering of the Circle of Friends was held at St. Benedict’s Monastery, July 21-24. Talks were given by Fr. Terry Ryan. This year’s gathering will be held July 20-23. Abbot Joseph Boyle will be the featured speaker and other special activities are planned.
- Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, a founding member of Contemplative Outreach, and Susan Komis, a long-time volunteer and staff member retired at the end of 2016, marking the end of the founders’ era of Contemplative Outreach. Their service and devotion these many years were honored in a staff retreat, November 6-9, 2016.
- Pat Johnson has been Adminstrator for one year and Marie Howard appointed as Interim Volunteer Coordinator. All are in the service of looking ahead to what’s needed to serve the worldwide community. An international conference was held September 21-24, 2017 in Denver to bring the leadership together to further determine need and plan for the next generation.
- The Vision and Principles with added Commentary have been newly updated by Fr. Thomas in collaboration with other long-time Centering Prayer practitioners.
In gratitude ...
Over 1,700 donors generosity donated to support the movement of Centering Prayer and the furtherance of the contemplative life around the world. Due to the generosity of donors, 211 scholarships for online offerings, retreats and chapter-related events were awarded.
Finally, special moments …
We are grateful for Fr. Thomas’ presence, prayer and many gifts that continue
to flow to us. We again close with the blessing that he gave three years ago on the
occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of Contemplative Outreach:
On this anniversary, it's worth affirming the good that God has enabled us to do so ... and affirming the people who’ve received this gift and carried it forth. May it be a movement of the whole human family into transformation. May the next years, if God gives them to us, see the increase of Centering Prayer and help us to do what we have learned out of our tradition with complete commitment. Let us enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and allow ourselves to be loved unconditionally and so be inspired to meet the real needs of everyone in the human family, past, present and to come.
We are very blessed and grateful.