Rarely do I feel immediately embraced and supported by love at the beginning of a conference. But that was exactly my experience last Advent. There was no day-long, awkward “do I fit in here” feeling, no “will I meet kindred souls?” The forward planning, the art, and a schedule that allowed personal time for reflection after superior presentations calmed what nervousness I felt. The delicious, healthy meals and especially the daily music wrapped around me like a warm shawl on a wet, winter night. I arrived frazzled and left with a full and peaceful soul. I plan to return annually!
AwakeningSoul is the partnership of Ann Holtz and Fran McKendree. Ann and Fran are supported by a superb team including special consultant Brian Prior, gifted presenters, facilitators, musicians and tech wizards. AwakeningSoul hosts events that offer a time of sanctuary, sustenance, and inspiration in a retreat setting. We are within the Christian household and welcome people wherever they are on their journey.
We believe that we, as people of faith, need be challenged in our thinking about God. This isn't to say that what we have come to believe is wrong, but that without exploring deep questions of faith we risk getting stuck or worse, moving through our lives unconsciously. We need to stop periodically to examine our lives -- asking ourselves ‘Why am I doing this? What is this in the service of? What do I believe and how are those beliefs being lived out in my life?’ We need a safe place, a place set apart from our everyday world, where we can do this work and be opened up to the presence of God.
Our intention is to create and host events where all who gather will be immersed in conversation about things that matter, where it is okay to question and not have the answers. Our hope is that our speakers, music, art, and our worship, all enfolded in a beautiful natural setting, will create a sacred container where important work of the soul can be done. We hope that in this coming together we will all be affirmed that we are not on this journey alone.
Ann is responsible for event coordination for AwakeningSoul. This role draws on her gifts of hospitality, administration, analysis, and process design. After attending an event coordinated by Fran McKendree and Brian Prior in 2008, Ann approached Fran and said two things, "that event was so wonderful - you have to recreate it" and "you need me." Thus, AwakeningSoul was born.
Ann is also an independent consultant working with groups and individuals as they deal with issues of transition. She has extensive experience in leading retreats, developing and implementing training programs, and facilitating intact work groups, teams and congregations. By training, Ann is a chemical engineer, a behavioral scientist, and a spiritual director.
Ann and her husband, Alan Ballew, are starting a new chapter of their lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Ann and Alan have a recently launched daughter who is on an adventure somewhere in the world. Ann describes herself as a weaver of cloth and conversation.
In 2007, Fran was dreaming of creating an event that would feed the soul, mind, and heart. With the help of long time friend Brian Prior, with John Philip Newell and Barbara Brown Taylor as presenters, and a dynamic support team, the gathering that emerged was ground breaking and hugely successful. Recognizing that if the dream was to be sustainable he would need help. He leapt at the timely and generous offer by Ann Holtz to bring her many gifts to the table and AwakeningSoul came into being.
Fran is at his core a musician, with a great passion for community building. He is a composer, retreat leader, producer, and yes, still a dreamer. He continues to explore ways to respond faithfully to where he feels God is calling him, and is grateful that AwakeningSoul is one of those avenues.
Fran lives with his wife, Diana, who has been the heart guide of his journey. They live in western North Carolina, with Cassie, poster dog for underbite and the healing power of love, and Kali, le chat noir.
Diana's passion is working with the dream and images. This has led her to explore a wide variety of professions – from fashion to psychology. Trained as a Jungian psychotherapist, Diana is a skilled educator, an international keynote speaker, consultant, leader of women’s pilgrimages and Iconographer. She is a senior faculty member with the Haden Institute, teaching Spiritual Direction and Dreamwork. Ordained an Interfaith Minister, Diana continues to search for the common threads that weave humanity and soul together. Diana lives in the NC mountains with her husband, Fran.
Aimee is the Director of Youth and Famly Ministries at Church of the Good Shepherd, Austin,TX. She has nearly 20 years of professional experience in youth ministry in congregations, has been the Chaplain at Virginia Episcopal School and Diocesan Coordinator of Youth Ministries in the Diocese of Southwest Virginia. Aimee has worked in a variety of roles doing retreat work with Fran, Brian, Charles, and Eric. Aimee's role with us is in production support and images.
Eric is a superb audio engineer, a joy to work with, and a tireless creator of team spirit. He masters the challenges of working with a diverse group of musicians, balancing all the subtleties, nuance, energy, and passion in a way that invites the listener to the perfect place to hear, feel, and enter into the life of the music being shared. Eric is a native of New Orleans, and the soul, buoyant spirit, and love of the unique that are the pulse of that city emanate from his heart. Eric was the Coordinator of Donation and Goods Accquistions and Distribution for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana following hurricane Katrina. He has worked on NPR radio's 'A Prairie Home Companion's 30th Anniversary Special,' as well as several television specials, including the Latin Grammys for Premio Nuestro Univision. He also designs and installs audio systems for churches and has been a volunteer youth group leader and facilitator within the Episcopal Church.