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Highlights and Plans
Celebrations of Grace & Gratitude:
2017 HIGHLIGHTS, 2018 PLANS
We hold a vision of embodying Divine Love in the world ...
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts
but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service,
but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
It is with continuing gratitude that Contemplative Outreach moves into its 34th 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 volunteers and donors whose gracious generosity with their many gifts allows this work to flourish.
Among the highlights are the following ...
Launched on January 9, 2017, Love Matters was a new weekly series of one-minute excerpts of spiritual enrichment from the footage of God is Love: The Heart of All Creation. A new offering was presented each week. English and Spanish transcripts are also posted. The series continues each week in 2018.
In 2017, as planned, the technology platform was migrated to Drupal 7 and new Drupal-based office database CiviCRM. This had been in research and planning throughout 2016:
- The migration to D7 and CiviCRM database occurred at the end of March 2017. A list of over 200 tweaks and fixes was addressed by team members before and after the migration.
- The migration appears to have addressed a lot of technical issues that required monthly ad hoc tasks by our website developer. After the migration was deemed complete, very little work was required by the developer for the remainder of the year.
- Our webmaster of almost 20 years retired and a search was conducted for a new webmaster with Drupal experience. The new webmaster started the beginning of August. This new webmaster is able to handle more technical adjustments to the website at a lower fee level than our developer.
Website statistics ...
(37.5% of visits)
(33.1% of visits)
Top visiting countries in order of visits are: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, South Africa, Philippines, India, Germany and New Zealand. Total visits represent 207 countries (74% from the US).
In 2018, priorities include:
- updating look and feel of the website
- development of a website template for international chapters
- exploring connecting bookstore with MailChimp to leverage some of its features
- exploring a new community forum plug-in to enable CO to host its own online offerings
- exploring podcast delivery mechanisms
*Two new factors that were not present in prior years – the Drupal migration and new Google analytics metrics – may have affected the viewing statistics in ways that we do not yet understand. We’ll have to wait until the end of this year to see if web traffic is declining or if this was a one-time anomaly.
**One of the reasons for the decline in online donations was that this feature was not enabled after the migration and not caught until later. It is currently enabled.
The Centering Prayer mobile app for iPhones and iPads is now three years old.
Mobile App Statistics for 2017
|New devices in 2017 (downloads)||Avg. daily active devices||Avg. active users/week||Avg. active users/month||Total sessions in 2017|
|% inc./dec. over 2016||28%||50%||39%||30%||50%|
The Centering Prayer mobile app for iPhones and iPads is now almost four years old. The app functions as a prayer timer to support a Centering Prayer practice. In 2015, 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.
2017 focused on fixing issues due to software upgrades, optimizing performance and ongoing maintenance.
App downloads and usage is still strong, increasing each year. The app continues to reach a younger audience than is traditionally attracted to and served by Contemplative Outreach. Looking at both platforms, it is estimated that in 2017 about 20% of new devices (downloaded the app and opened it up) were from 25-34 year-olds and about 47% of new devices are from 35-54 year olds. About 30% of new downloads are from those 55+ years old – usually this group comprises our largest representation. Interestingly, more of the younger segment comes from Android devices and more of the 55+ segment comes from iOS devices. (Note: not all new devices allow for age determination, so the age statistics relate to less than half of all new devices tracked).
Included in mobile app enhancements in 2018 will be podcast integration via a new left-hand menu to support podcast streams.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
The CO Facebook presence continues to grow rapidly, now with over 7,400 global members, a 28% increase over 2016. The Centering Prayer Twitter feed reaches over 7,851 followers, a 13% increase over 2016. YouTube is also seeing more subscribers due to increased video content – 12,959 subscribers, a 61% increase over 2016, and 706,770 views as of February 20.
Last year was the fourth year Contemplative Outreach hosted a yearlong program of online courses in partnership with Spirituality & Practice. The Journey into The Light series included three 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 1,189 participants worldwide, 212 of which were signed up for the yearlong program. Since 2008, over 18,000 people have participated in the online courses.
The annual series began on January 8, 2017. Titles for the year included:
- 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 - November 24 - December 22
- Word of the Week - Weekly before and between e-courses – beginning January 8.
CEUs for chaplains were available.
Since 2008, over 17,000 people have participated in the online courses.
For a number of years there has been discussion within Contemplative Outreach about creating a curriculum to lay a foundation of teaching, formation and community support for first understanding, and then living, the Christian contemplative life. An idea emerged from Fr. Thomas Keating who in January 2017 stated that he felt his legacy was the Spiritual Journey videos. He went on to express his desire that their viewing and study be stressed as foundational to understanding the journey and that it should be experienced by all who aim to take this journey.
From this conversation with Fr. Thomas came the idea to offer a year-long, online program with the Spiritual Journey series as the foundation. Stated intentions are:
- The offering is for education, participation, formation. Assumes a yearning to know, but no religious background.
- Participants will be encouraged to listen from silence and stillness, in and through the heart, and to ground themselves in a life of practice.
- To the extent possible, we wish to re-frame the language for our times.
The online Spiritual Journey offering was launched January 7, 2018 and has 460 registrants. CO is pleased to be able to offer 113 scholarships.
For the past few years, CO has offered a yearlong program of reflections and online courses with Spirituality & Practice. This year the Word of The Word, which had been a part of the annual series, has become a standalone offering to encourage practice, formation and connection within a worldwide community. Word of the Week was launched on January 1, 2018 and has 145 subscribers.
CEUs for chaplains are available for both offerings.
Introduced in 2016, 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.
During 2017 a companion book which is an edited transcript of the series was introduced.
That We May Be One continues and builds on the works of Thomas Keating over the past 30+ years. In July 2016 Fr. Thomas sat in conversation with a few friends at St. Bendict's Monstery in Snowmass, Colorado in a intimate and wide-ranging conversation on a timely subject of non-duality from a Christian perspective. Though this term has not generally been associated with the Christian Tradition, in fact, its essence runs throughout the New Testament, most prominently in the Gospel of John and the Letters of Paul. Opening to the Divine Indwelling through practicing Centering Prayer is the consent to God's presence and action within us. This separate-self sense gradually evolves into the conviction of self in God.
United in Prayer Day
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. 2018 will be the 26th year of this event and it is devoted to healing violence in ourselves and the world. For five 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 choice of digital offerings for spiritual enrichment. Three 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 2017, about 680 people from 14 countries participated in the prayer vigil.
Newsletters and Monthly E-News Bulletins
Two semi-annual published newsletters were printed and mailed in the U.S. to 20,000 for each edition and 12 monthly e-news bulletins were developed and distributed globally in 2017. 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|
|December 2017 e-bulletins|
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 and will continue throughout 2018.
And, some of the volunteer and prayer group numbers …
- Over 1,500 volunteers worldwide
- Almost 300 Coordinators and Contact persons in 90 chpaters in 47 states in the U. S. and Canada
- 49 International Liaisons
- An International Conference was held in Denver, September 21-24, bringing together sevant leaders from around the world. “Table Summaries” from the discussions that were held have been gathered, reviewed and used as input into the 2018 planning process and beyond. The summaries are posted to the CO website.
- The twelvth annual gathering of the Circle of Friends was held at St. Benedict’s Monastery, July 20-23. Talks were given by Abbot Joseph Boyle. This year’s gathering will be held July 19-22.
- Retreats were held at St. Mary’s-Sewanee, September 15-21, and the Garrison Institute, November 10-16, to introduce God is Love: The Heart of All Creation.
- Pat Johnson is continuing as Adminstrator until a permanent Administrator is recruited, hired and oriented. A selection committee has been appointed and final candidates are expected to be identified in early March; interviewing to begin soon thereafter.
- Other planned new hires include a communications coordinator to assist with ongoing communications (ebulletin and newsletter) and “optimizing” social media, and a short-term intern to clean-up online bookstore features and investigate e-commerce automation features.
- Contributions/Grants: Circle of Friends, DMAs, monthly donations, newsletter donations, tithes, designated income, restricted gifts, other donations
- Chapters: Chapters, UiP
- Programs: International Conference, retreats, international, online royalties
- Books/Other Products: Books & Other Products, CLP, royalties
- Investments: Dividends, interest and unrealized gains on investments
- Chapters: Chapters, UiP
- Programs: International Conference, retreats, Prison Outreach, International, online offerings, newsletter
- Books/Other Products: Books & Other Products, CLP
- Website & New Media: Website, mobile app
- Fundraising: Circle of Friends, DMAs, monthly donations, other fundraising
- Scholarships: Scholarships for International conference, retreats and matching chapter scholarships
- G&A: General & Administrative, Governing Board, Gift Committee
In gratitude ...
Approximately 1,500 donors generously donated to support the movement of Centering Prayer and the furtherance of the contemplative life around the world. Due to the generosity of donors, 193 scholarships for online offerings, retreats, the international conference 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 close with the exhortation that he gave seven years ago on the occasion of a meeting of the Contemplative Outreach board held at St. Benedict’s Monastery. Its poetic truth remains with us today:
The essential thing that we are called to contribute is to serve the coming into humanity in our time of a deeper awareness of the love of God …
- To see Christ as present in everything and everyone.
- To create a context in which the transformation of humanity can take place.
- To make the practice of Centering Prayer and its conceptual background as widely available as possible.
- To heed the call to be transformed and then to rely on God to enable us to pass on the mercy, forgiveness, compassion and love to all humanity that we have received.
- To acknowledge that good accomplished is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Thomas Keating, St. Benedict’s Monastery, May 30, 2011
We are very blessed and grateful.