sun setting over field with grass in the foreground
  • GilChrist Retreat Center
  • Retreat
  • Southwest Michigan
  • Spiritual Formation

When we think of "resilient” people, we generally think of individuals who adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, stress and/or tragedy, Resilience is a capacity that each of us can build within ourselves through our thoughts, behaviors, habits, and actions. The goal of our time together will be to explore strategies to deepen our commitment to live authentically and to undertake challenges to transform cultures to become more just.

During this retreat, we will immerse ourselves in the writings of adrienne maree brown, Grace Lee Boggs and bell hooks to examine their personal strategies to meet interpersonal challenges and transform social contexts from ones that limit to ones that expand opportunities for growth. Our explorations will be further supported by poetry and other artistic works to help us explore the relationship between resilience and transformative justice.

The GilChrist center, located on 67 acres of rolling hills, meadows and forest, is intentionally designed to foster mediation, contemplative practice, and engagement with nature. We will fully engage our surroundings to help us craft strategies for creative engagement and personal resilience to embolden leadership, strategic patience, and action to build inclusive cultures. Our deep dives will explore the connection between mind, heart and soul through journaling, labyrinth walking, mindfulness work and historical reflection. At the end of the retreat, participants will be encouraged to do a self-tour of historical sites commemorating the lives of local 19th century activists who expanded freedom through the Underground Railroad.  

About the Facilitator

Kathy Purnell, Esq., Ph.D., has over two decades of professional experience as a lawyer, professor, and nonprofit administrator. She is a graduate of Harvard University (A.B.), Cornell University (Ph.D.) and the DePaul University College of Law (J.D.). She is trained in philosophical counseling techniques from the American Philosophical Practitioners Association and is an affiliate of that organization. Dr. Purnell is a licensed attorney in the State of Michigan and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where she served as the Diversity Chair of AILA’s Michigan chapter. Her current practice is focused on civil and human legal practice as well as mindfulness and resilience for transformative justice. She has also used her advanced training in political philosophy, law, and ethics to teach students at seven different universities including Kalamazoo College, Western Michigan University, and DePaul University, has led “Resilience Retreats” at GilChrist, and is a member of both the Kalamazoo Truth Racial Healing and Transformation’s (TRHT) Law Design Team and its Racial Healing Circle Practitioner Cohort. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and is a regular leader of their Ethics Book Clubs for challenging public dialogues on topics such as immigration, racial equity in education, hate speech in democratic community, and housing as a human right.

Also check out the retreat with Kathy called Resilience For Transformative Action: Exploring Stoic Virtues and Social Justice at GilChrist June 16-18.

Retreat Schedule

The retreat will begin on Friday, July 14, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. and end on Sunday, July 16, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.

Registration and Lodging Details

First, complete this form to register for the retreat. The cost for the retreat program is $150 and includes all books and materials. Space is limited. Please inquire about options for financial accessibility.

Once you have registered and paid for the program with the facilitator, contact GilChrist to reserve your cabin using the online registration form or by calling the main office at (269) 244-1130. Lodging is $60/night per person in addition to the program fee. Participants will check into their cabins between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 14 at a time you communicate via your cabin reservation. Cabin check-out is at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.

A light continental breakfast will be provided Saturday and Sunday and a communal dinner will take place on Saturday evening, so please let Kathy know if you have any dietary restrictions. Other than Saturday evening, individuals are responsible for their own meals. Each guest space at GilChrist is equipped with a complete kitchen. See the complete GilChrist FAQ for more information about the facility. All participants must comply with COVID-19 protocols established by GilChrist Retreat Center.



GilChrist retreat center logo with white pine sprig

GilChrist is the public retreat center of the Fetzer Institute. We support the Institute’s mission of helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world by preserving a contemplative environment for healing self, society, and the natural world. We warmly welcome both groups and individuals and people of all faiths and affiliations.


GilChrist Retreat Center

Three Rivers , MI 56265 Day Rd