One thing 2020 has taught me is that we have absolutely no idea what to expect in the coming months. We make the best plans we can and then move forward until we are buffeted by the next storm. What I can say with certainty is that 2020 has been hard. For me the unfathomable weight of so much death is heavy to carry. There are glaring reminders that equality, which we pretend to have in this county, has never really been true equality. It makes me angry. I feel deep betrayal when lines that I thought were uncrossable have been crossed with little moral or legal consequence. The sense that my outrage isn’t heard or doesn’t matter is damaging my soul.

2020 has been exhausting – bone-deep exhausting – and we haven’t yet lived through the ugliness of election season. I do not imagine that I am alone in my weariness, and that is why I am so ready to share AwakeningSoul 2020 with you. We all need a place of refuge.
Image by Rara Schlitt
Last year when Fran and I first spoke with our three speakers about AwakeningSoul 2020, we were stunned by how their voices seemed so perfect for what we expected in the post-election moment when we will be gathering. It truly felt as if the spirit had led us to this line-up. Today, we believe that is even more true.
Brian McLaren – Brian's focus with us will be “how do we each become agents of healing for the soul of our nation while also tending to our own souls?” As a public theologian, he is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” – just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. Much of his energy is currently focused on a project called Vote Common Good. He is coaching young congressional candidates to talk authentically about their faith while they campaign for office. In our conversations with him, Brian has emphasized the need to do the work of healing in the aftermath of this election season. While we pray for major changes to come, he believes that healing cannot take place if the celebration of victory turns to hubris.

Jennifer BaileyJen has much to teach us about grief, hope, and possibility in these tumultuous times. As the executive director of the Faith Matters Network (FMN) and co-founder of the People’s Supper, Jen has been bringing diverse groups of people literally to the table, creating brave spaces for hard, humanizing conversations. She is building bridges in this divisive time and will help us understand how we, too, can build bridges. She understands healing to be at the core of the justice movement as FMN is building a cohort of chaplains through The Daring Compassion Movement Chaplaincy Project. Every time we talk to Jen she talks in threes; dying/emerging/blooming, grief/hope/imagination, and heal/learn/grow. In each of these triads there is space for possibility. Jen is a Black millennial AME pastor married to a Jewish psychotherapist/religious scholar. They are about to bring a new life into the world.

Serene Jones – Drawing on her expertise in trauma, Serene will help us explore our collective woundedness while finding strength in Grace, Justice, Mercy and Forgieveness. As the President of Union Theological Seminary, Serene is raising up activist faith leaders. As a writer, she models theological reflection and offers trauma theory as a lens to look at brokenness in the world and our in our lives. At our last several events, AwakeningSoul presenters have encouraged us to interrogate our own lives regarding race and privilege. Serene shows us how to do that deep soul work in her memoir, Call it Grace. Our nation, and the individual lives that make up our nation, have been traumatized over the last few years but especially throughout 2020. Serene will help us imagine a future - finding grace that will move us forward toward healing.
I don’t know about you, but I need to hear these voices. I need to hear their lessons and to be touched by their belief in possibilities and to be again challenged to be an agent for change. AND I need to hear Fran McKendree and the AwakeningSoul Ensemble in the context of those powerful lessons. I need to let Lindsey Blount’s voice pierce my heart as she sings Grace Awaits. I need to let the repetition of the ensemble's simple chants vibrate my being. I need to hear Brian Prior weave story and prayer and questions in the midst of all of this. I need periods of silence to intentionally reflect on my life and to find my center and hope and grace and possibilities. I need to be in this community so that I am reminded that I am not alone. I need all of this.

Do you need all of this, too? I am excited that this is what AwakeningSoul offers and offers so very well. Everything that we have offered in the past will be offered at our virtual gathering – well, except for hugs. We will have to wait for 2021 for the hugs.

Won’t you join us for AwakeningSoul 2020?

Be well and stay safe,

We'd love to have you join us for ...

AwakeningSoul 2020 - a Virtual Gathering
November 5-8

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AwakeningSoul 2020 - a Virtual Gathering
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And I leave you with - If We Don't Have Love

Performed By the AwakeningSoul Ensemble at AwakeningSoul 2019
Written by Brian McLaren
AwakeningSoul Is the collaborative partnership of Fran McKendree and Ann Holtz. Fran is a gifted musician based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Ann is both a spiritual director and an independent consultant. She lives in Waynesville, NC. Together they have formed AwakeningSoul to offer spiritual events to feed hungry souls. Ann can be reached at or 865-414-8509.