What a Year at The Abbey!

Image credit: Melanie P. Moore and Maggie King

By Melanie P. Moore and Rebecca Hall

It’s always interesting to see what things look like after a storm. In 2022, following the terrifying and sometimes lonely pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, The Abbey emerged as a fertile space for deep spiritual growth—a burgeoning community of seekers and contemplative practitioners right here in Austin, Texas, as well as far-flung parts of the country like California, Indiana, and Florida, to name a few.

2022 By the Numbers:

Here are some metrics from 2022. You may click on the name of the group to jump to more detail on what that group did in 2022 or just continue reading.  

Each area of The Abbey has grown quantitatively. Most groups have between 5-18 people each session.  But what Abbey Director Rebecca Hall, participants, and stewards (involved participants who help cast the vision) of The Abbey talk about when they talk about 2022 is the qualitative growth—the deepening of community and spiritual growth. Such outcomes are both personal and communal and rely on these spaces created at The Abbey, spaces for people to come and explore the depths of their spirituality among a community of like-minded—and open-minded—seekers. 

2022 Recap

Last year saw the clarification of vision as the original ideas for The Abbey solidified into standards of implementation with clear adherence to founding tenets.

Commitment to being outward-facing: The Abbey is, for some, church-related and/or church-adjacent and for others it is simply spiritual community that they don’t have anywhere else. With a flexible connection to the church, it is a welcoming spiritual space for both those who, at this point in their lives, want a connection to the church and for those who do not. This unique combination seems to be part of what makes The Abbey so compelling to the growing number of people participating. 

Commitment to meeting mostly online: Part of the success of The Abbey is that the groups meet mostly on Zoom, which keeps things simple and accessible.  Periodic in-person gatherings (retreats, coffee-meet-ups, and occasional social events) deepen community ties that are built over time online. 

Commitment to collaboration: Leadership is important at The Abbey, as it is everywhere.  But our commitment is to be more collaborative and less hierarchical.  The circle widens when someone shows up with something to offer. The Abbey makes space for many leaders, talents, and gifts.  

Commitment to not being exhausted:  Because The Abbey offers so much, as Janet Davis pointed out, “An important ethos for The Abbey as a whole is to keep it in a life-giving range, to not do more than is lifegiving—for participants and leaders.”

In 2022 the program offerings continued and grew, each with a committed core of participants. Following are the activities that proliferated last year and continue into 2023.

The Gathering

  • Meets second and fourth Sunday mornings of the month, online, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m., Central Time
  • Leaders: Joyce Palevitz, Lynda Young-Kaffie, Katherine Muhlenbruch, Janet Davis, and Rebecca Hall
  • Location: Zoom

The Gathering was developed and launched in 2022 as a Sunday morning time of contemplation and reflection. It lasts about 20 minutes, followed by an optional conversation. It was dreamed up by a group of people who were inspired to create something in a more collaborative way. “We worked as a team to create communal space for people while having individual spiritual experiences,” said Lynda Young-Kaffie. “That’s really different from your typical committee.”


  • Meets second Saturday of each month: in-person walk at 9 a.m.; online group at 10:30 a.m., Central Time
  • Leader: Janet Davis
  • Location: In-person (Austin, Texas) and Zoom

Janet provides monthly written reflections (a collection of poems and other writings) as a resource for walking the Labyrinth alone or with the monthly group. The reflections provoke awareness and reflection on one’s own spiritual journey. Of the participants in the two Labyrinth groups in 2022, she said “There is a now a core of people who come, and a core who tend to sign up for the reflections to participate on Zoom. It’s been interesting that we’ve had some people from outside Austin come to the Labyrinth on Zoom. And people use the reflections in very different ways—some use them to do programming at their church, a local physician who is Jewish used one as the reflection in an administrative meeting at one of the local hospital systems.”


  • Enneagram Circle – meets first Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. – noon, Central Time
  • Other Enneagram workshops – offered periodically throughout the year 
  • Leaders: Caroline Kibler and Calan Thurow
  • Location: Zoom

The Enneagram Circle, a group of regular participants familiar with the Enneagram, met monthly in 2022 on the following topics:

  • Re-entering the World: The challenges for each of re-entering the world after a period of isolation
  • Conflict and Resilience by Enneagram type.
  • Centers of Intelligence: head, heart, body. 
  • The universal growth process of observing ourselves and acting thoughtfully, as well as growth by Enneagram type.

Tuesday Morning Meditation

  • Meets Tuesdays from 8 a.m. – 9 a.m., Central Time
  • Leader: Rebecca Hall
  • Location: Zoom

This meditation group is intentionally designed to be both a space for practice (about 20 minutes each session) and a space for reflecting on the practice.  Through ongoing reflection, community builds and practice deepens.  An optional discussion (about 30 minutes) focuses on our meditation practice (always starting with the question, “How was your meditation?”), and learning from wisdom teachers through readings. The books that influenced the group in 2022 were Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, by Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, followed by The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us about Living Fullyby Frank Ostaseski.  

Tuesday Spiritual Discussion Group

  • Meets Tuesdays from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., Central Time
  • Leader: Rebecca Hall, Director of The Abbey
  • Location: Zoom

This group began meeting during the pandemic on Sunday mornings and eventually migrated to Tuesdays after work. Originally called Spiritual Legacy Book Club, this group came together to read spiritual classics and mystics such as The Rule of Saint Benedict, The Cloud of Unknowing, and authors like Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich. In 2022 the group decided to explore some more contemporary writers and read The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault, and Wild Mercy, by Mirabai Starr.   

Practicing Presence – the blog of The Abbey

The blog of The Abbey, now named Practicing Presence, was revamped in 2022 along with the redesign of the website. Practicing Presence is now edited to curate content by, about, and for The Abbey community. It publishes weekly, with special posts like the Dec. 21, 2022, Winter Solstice Collage which featured prose, poetry, and photography from multiple contributors around the topic of the Solstice. Practicing Presence welcomes general submissions year-round (see Submission Guidelines here) and has periodic calls for submissions for themed posts.

How The Abbey is Making a Difference 

This month, true to the primary format of The Abbey, we conducted a sort of asynchronous roundtable discussion via Zoom, phone calls, and email. The result is a conversation among participants and leaders about their experiences at The Abbey in 2022.

Harriet Knowles: “The Enneagram group has become practical, personal, and meaningful as members listen to one another and speak about specific topics and relational experiences. We all bring different perspectives as we identify with our Enneagram numbers. This has put flesh on the concepts and as each person speaks, I can feel myself growing in acceptance and compassion towards another—not only toward the group member but toward a family member or a neighbor or coworker with the same Enneagram number. As I listen in this safe and respectful space, I feel myself begin to have a deeper understanding of their reactions and behaviors which seem so different from my own.  This small group experience has also given me more compassion for myself.  I have read many books and listened to various podcasts on the Enneagram and, although very helpful, nothing compares to how much I have learned by participating in The Abbey’s online classes. They are gently and expertly facilitated and taught in the narrative tradition.”

Katherine Muhlenbruch: “The biggest change that I saw happening, aside from the number of people showing an interest and staying interested, is that people have been more empowered to own their own spirituality and their own journey, complete with questions and doubt and joy and uncertainty. For the most part, people are willing to share, not from the perspective of ‘I’ve found the way,’ but from ‘This is what I’m experiencing and it’s helpful for me to talk about it and share it and if it’s helpful to you, that’s great.’ It feels more like a table, a feast of offerings. At The Abbey it’s more ‘Let’s find out what it means together, let’s support you in finding out what it means to you.’ We’re not looking for someone to tell us what to look for or explain to us what our spiritual struggle is. But to learn to listen to yourself. People want spiritual connection and spiritual community, but they are wanting it for the purpose of having the freedom to examine and investigate it for themselves, outside the purview of the experts.”

Janet:  “What I’m hearing from people is that in this deep soul work, which can sometimes be painful and lonely—not everyone wants to ask these questions—with this community they aren’t alone. We offer a place to gather and people are feeling met.”

Lynda Young Kaffie: “It’s still here! It goes into some depth—people are willing to go deeper, and you don’t always find that. On this level of spirituality, [community] is hard to find and it’s hard to sustain. The Abbey is set up for all sorts of people to share what they’ve learned. The lack of hierarchy is significant. I get surprised by The Abbey being able to continue to function in that fashion because that’s not the way typical spiritual or religious sites are set up.”

Rebecca Hall: “It [2022] was a pivotal year. I think it’s the depth. The groups seem to have solidified into deep communities. I think the Spirit was fostering this community building, and that community can be built on Zoom.”

Joyce Palevitz: “People are demonstrating a very strong commitment to the groups they’ve decided to be part of at The Abbey. We’re also seeing a hunger for connection. When The Abbey first started, it was conceived as a repository of content that people could access on their own, but it’s become far more clear that what people want is connection. For example, after a two-week break in December, we got back together and everyone said how much they missed each other. Because people are committed to this.”

Lynda: “A lot of people write to us when they’re not able to come. I think sometimes it reduces the significance of something when you measure it quantitatively. This is successful because people come regularly and it matters [to them].”

Janet:  Another ethos of The Abbey that is being lived forward very well is that the voice of authority is from the people, not the leaders. We help people listen to the Spirit in their own lives and give them a place to talk about it. They can be witnesses to other people and they can be witnessed. The Abbey is a place to listen, a place to speak.”

Joyce: “This idea of shared leadership is intentional. There have been times when Rebecca [Hall] couldn’t be there and people have stepped up. It’s no longer completely dependent upon the single leader.”

Lynda: Also, there’s never been an argument. No one says, ‘You’re wrong.’ Rather, they say, ‘I never saw it that way.’ It’s really counter-cultural.” 

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for the recap, an inspiration in itself. It helped me realize that the non-hierarchical nature of the Abbey groups is one of the most compelling aspects of participating in them.

  2. Hats off to The Abbey –> there is so much quality at every turn! Like a life giving fountain flowing from heart to heart to parched heart…seeds are cast to root thrive and grow!

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The Abbey, 2022 | Site by Batch Creative