sun setting over field with grass in the foreground
  • GilChrist Retreat Center
  • Retreat
  • Democracy
  • Southwest Michigan
  • Workplace / Life

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 read Stacey Abrams’ book Lead from the Outside to examine her personal strategies to meet inter-personal challenges and transform social contexts from ones that limit to ones that expand opportunities for growth. Our explorations will be further supported by a wide range of thinkers to help us explore the relationship between resilience and transformative justice, including adrienne maree brown, Grace Lee Boggs and bell hooks.

GilChrist Retreat Center, located on 67 acres of rolling hills, meadows, and forest, is intentionally designed to foster meditation, 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 by visiting 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 as a life coach. 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.

Retreat Schedule

The retreat will begin on Friday, July 8, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. and end on Sunday, July 10, 2022 at 12:00 p.m.

Registration and Lodging Details

First, please email Kathy or call her at (269) 350-3046 to register for the retreat. The cost for the retreat program is $100. 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 $50/night per person in addition to the program fee, paid by cash or check (made out to the Fetzer Institute) at the end of the retreat. Participants will check into their cabins between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 8 at a time you communicate via your cabin reservation. Cabin check-out is at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 10.

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.

Note: all group participants are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.


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