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Lent Retreat: The Love of Thousands – Honoring Angels, Saints, and Ancestors

March 2 – April 23, 2022

(Live session Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022 6-7pm Ireland/UK time + 1-2pm Eastern + 10-11am Pacific)

with Christine  &  John Valters Paintner and Betsey Beckman 

with Amber Andreasen and Polly Paton-Brown as forum facilitators + Melissa Layer facilitating small group option

Program Description

How the Infinite Community Can Help Sustain Us in Dark Times

We can often feel alone and isolated in our individualistic culture. The frenzy of working long hours and keeping up with all of our commitments can mean there isn’t time to cultivate our relationships with others. In addition we are encouraged to bear the burdens we carry on our own and not show signs of vulnerability or ask for help. This is an exhausting way to live.

The support we need to thrive in life comes not just from people who are living in this physical world alongside us but also from those who have passed beyond the veil, such as saints and ancestors. Jewish, Islamic, and Christian scriptures also reveal to us a long tradition of encounters with angelic beings who bring messages and protection. The Lenten journey begins with Jesus crossing the threshold into the desert where it says he was ministered to by angels.

Angels are those spiritual presences who act as guardians (Eden), appear in dreams to offer a calling (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, and Joseph) or new name (Isaac), who wrestle with us (Jacob), who ask us for hospitality (Abraham, Sarah, and Lot), and who minister and tend to us in the wilderness (Elijah and Jesus). We will begin our own Lenten retreat by asking the angels to support and minister to us as we listen more deeply for our authentic calling.

In the Christian tradition saints are those wise and well ancestors of spirit who have passed through the veil in a state of vibrant wholeness. Not everyone who dies is a well presence and so we look to the saints to be able to call upon those who lived lives transformed by their intimate and abiding connection to the sacred and deep rootedness in Love.

Christian tradition also has a vibrant practice for honoring our ancestors of blood and bone, those beings who walked this earth, struggled with life, celebrated, grieved, and whose choices brought us into being. Our ancestors, just like human beings, have varying degrees of wellness upon death and can continue to heal even after they have passed on. We can do the inner work needed to heal from the wounds we inherited and we can open to the blessings they bestow upon us.

This Lent we will be standing on the threshold between worlds, courting connection with all those well and wise ones who dwell beneath the surface of everyday awareness. In Celtic and many other indigenous traditions, the belief is that we are part of a great communion of beings who live in the Otherworld. Angels, saints, and ancestors are sacred presences we can call upon and develop intimacy with, just like any human friendship. By cultivating this practice of connection we are nourished with tremendous resources of emotional and spiritual support for the challenging times of our lives. It is an act of humility to yield our own agendas and need to carry everything ourselves and ask others to journey alongside of us and support us into our own vibrant wholenes.

Weekly Rhythm of Content 

Monday: Written reflection from Christine Valters Paintner with Video guided visio divina practice (art from Elise Ritter)

Tuesday: Written scripture reflection from John Valters Paintner

Wednesday: Audio guided meditation from Christine Valters Paintner

Thursday: Written creative exploration (poetry or visual art) from Christine Valters Paintner

Friday: Video conversation with Christine and guest teachers** (transcripts included) 

Saturday: Dance Prayer Video with Betsey Beckman 

Sunday: Sabbath

There is also a facilitated discussion forum you can participate in at any time, day or night, to share questions, challenges, and graces from your experience of the retreat. The sacred space will be held by Amber Andreasen and Polly Paton Brown.

*Please note: There will only be one live session for this retreat to begin our time together on Ash Wednesday because Christine is scheduled to have surgery during this time.

**Guest Teacher Conversations are with Imam Jamal Rahman, Mark Burrows, Beverly Lanzetta, Carl McColman, Mary Earle, Lindsay Sudeikis, and Rabbi Zari Weiss and include bonus meditation experiences from each teacher.

Weekly Themes

Week 0

Gathering at the Threshold (Starts Ash Wednesday)

Week 1

The Infinite Community: Angels as Messengers and Protectors

Week 2

Connecting with the Angels

Week 3

The Infinite Community: Saints as Companions and Wisdom Guides

Week 4

Connecting with the Saints

Week 5

The Infinite Community: Ancestors as Sources of Healing and Joy

Week 6

Connecting with the Ancestors

Week 7

Integration and Practicing Resurrection

Small Group Spiritual Direction Add-On

We are offering the option to also meet with a dedicated, facilitated small group weekly during the Lent retreat for an additional fee of $160. Each group is limited to 8 participants. You are asked to make a full commitment to the group and show up for all 7 hour-long sessions.

If you would feel nourished and enriched by gathering weekly with kindred souls to share from the heart, see if any of the group times offered would work for you.

Groups start the week of March 7th and will be hosted on the Zoom platform.

Your Guides for the Journey


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Christine is the director of, a virtual monastery exploring contemplative practice, creative expression, and ways to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness. She is a spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, and author of numerous books on spirituality and the arts. Her deepest belief is that the earth is the original monastery–a wisdom guide and mentor in living a soulful and vibrant life. Visit the “About Christine” page for more information.


John Valters Paintner, MTS

John Valters Paintner is the online prior for Abbey of the Arts, where he assists his wife Christine in ministering to global community both online and through in-person programs. John was a youth minister and pastoral associate for four years before becoming a high school religion teacher for twelve years. He has a Masters of Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. His love for the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, emerged when he taught the “Old Testament” at an all-boys high school. John is also a lover of the art of story-telling and has written dozens of short stories, one-act plays, and short films in a variety of genres.

Betsey Beckman, MM

Betsey Beckman, MM is nationally acclaimed as a spirited dancer, storyteller, teacher of SpiritPlay and dancing Spiritual Director. With her extensive repertory of sacred storydances, she is regularly featured as artist/presenter at national conventions as well as local churches. She earned her Masters in Ministry degree from Seattle University, her certificate in Movement Therapy from the Institute for Transformational Movement, and is a certified InterPlay leader. As dancer, choreographer, author, mother, wife, teacher and spiritual director, she is passionate about living life fully and fostering creativity in all those with whom she shares life and ministry. Betsey’s publications include books (she is co-author of Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Expressive Arts to Spiritual Direction), recordings, and The Dancing Word series of DVDs on embodied prayer. She offers the gift of playful improvisation whenever possible.

Forum Facilitators and Small Group Guides

Amber Andreasen

Amber Andreasen is a contemplative, ever desiring to deepen into and dance the rhythms of monk and artist. She has trained as a spiritual director, receiving her M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from The Institute of Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology. Wherever she finds herself, she desires to nurture a compassionate space where others can be listened and loved into fuller being by the Beloved. She is continually awed by the body as sacred storyholder and storyteller, and her heart beats loudly for the weaving together of creativity and spirituality in the discovering of what it means to live an embodied, fully human life in all its mystery and wonder.

Polly Paton-Brown

Polly Paton-Brown MA UKCP worked for many years as a psychotherapist and trainer in the field of trauma. More recently, Polly’s focus has been on helping people explore their spirituality and prayer,  using creativity and connection with nature. Polly has a particular passion for creating healing dolls as a portal to transformation. 

Always a lover of nature, horses and creativity, Polly now integrates all of these into her practice. She has trained in Nature Based Practice and Eco-pychology, Environmental Arts, Expressive Arts and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. She is a licenced facilitator of Chakradance,  The Art of Allowing , Creative Awakenings and the  Wild Soul Woman Programme. 

A member of the Iona Community, Polly was coordinator of their healing ministry for 11 years and when in that role ran regular retreats on the Isle of Iona. She is also a Sister of Belle Coeur.  With roots in the contemplative and monastic traditions, Polly also draws wisdom from other spiritual paths such as Druidry and Sufism. She is passionate to help those wounded by the institutional church, to restore their image of God and themselves. Visit Polly’s website here>>

Polly Bio

Melissa Layer, MA, LMHC

Melissa Layer, MA, LMHC honors the unfolding journeys of our wild and precious lives as compelling invitations for creative, integrative meaning-making in BodyMindSpirit.  Her sacred calling and formal training as a psychospiritual therapist, hospice grief counselor, and spiritual director have taught her about the potency of thin places in thresholds and dark nights of the soul.  Cultivating curiosity, Melissa offers expressive exploration of the Great Mystery through journaling, collaging, poem-making, dreamwork, visio and lectio divina, creation of rituals and altars, and engaged encounters with nature.  Like the honeybee for which she is named, she claims her role as “a bee of the invisible…passionately plundering the honey of the visible in order to gather it in the great golden hive of the invisible” (Rilke).  Melissa offers a compassionate, attuned presence and deep listening with the ear of her heart from the Pacific Northwest in Washington, where the Salish sea meets the evergreen forest. Visit Melissa’s website here>>

Melissa Layer Head Shot


Your registration constitutes an agreement with our online program Terms and Conditions below.

We offer a sliding scale of 3 fees for payment. The reduced fee for those who have lost their income and the sponsorship fee helps support our ability to offer scholarships. In an effort to keep this program accessible, please carefully consider both your own resources as well as honoring the expense, time, and energy required to run these programs and keep our work sustainable. Thank you!
Please be careful to enter your correct email during registration.
All prices displayed in USD.


REduced Fee


Regular fee


3 monthly payments of $60

Sponsorship fee

If you need a different payment plan or a greater scholarship to make this program accessible, please get in touch with us.

Small Group Options

We offer dedicated (same group for duration of program) and facilitated (by our wonderful Wisdom Council members) small group options. The groups are limited to 8 maximum and to register you are asked to make a commitment to show up for all sessions.

If the group you want to join is full, please let us know and we can start a list to form additional groups.

Small Group with Melissa (FULL)

$160 Registration fee

  • Small Group Option facilitated by Melissa Layer
  • Starts Tuesday, March 8th for 7 weeks.
  • Meets Tuesdays from 8:30-9:30AM Pacific time (11:30-12:30 PM Eastern time).

Terms and Conditions

Please consider your purchase carefully and review the many free materials we have on our website to make sure the program will be a good fit or get in touch with any questions.

We ask that you honor our work by not sharing the program materials with others who are not enrolled.

Please contact us for permission to quote in settings beyond the program

These videos are made available to registered participants and may also be included in future versions of the program including self-study. If you choose to speak during a recorded gathering, you are giving us your consent to record that contribution. If you prefer not to be seen or heard, you can of course switch off or mute your camera or microphone at any time. Chat sessions are recorded and posted as well. Participation in the chat function is also giving consent to their recording. Breakout groups are never recorded.

If you choose a payment plan and stop payment before fulfilling the commitment without contacting us to make other arrangements, your access to the program will be removed.