Tree of Life

The Tree of Life Weekends Programme was established in 1988 as the Weekends at Wollaston Programme within the Wollaston Centre for Christian Spirituality. The aim was to provide a more accessible alternative to the August Programme that ran for two weeks for three years running. The Weekends at Wollaston Programme, because it was confined to weekends, enabled those unable to take the necessary time from their work to participate in an equivalent programme. This made it possible for greater lay participation. The new programme consisted of four weekends a year for four years in order to provide the same contact time as the August Programme and like the August Programme its purpose was to provide a formation in spiritual direction.

When the Wollaston Centre for Christian Spirituality was designated the ‘Centre for Christian Belief, Spirituality and Australian Culture’ it was deemed appropriate to work with the more manageable title, ‘Tree of Life’. When residential accommodation ceased to be available at Wollaston the ‘Weekends at Wollaston Programme’ became the ‘Tree of Life Weekends Programme’. It continues to be a residential programme using, instead, the St John of God Retreat Centre at Shoalwater.

Though the Programme was originally designed as a formation for Spiritual Directors it soon became evident that a number of participants did not feel that they were called to this ministry but still wanted to use the Programme to explore and find their own spiritual path. While not seeking formation as a Spiritual Director they were nevertheless wanting a Spiritual Formation not readily available anywhere else. Hence the full title of the Programme became ‘The Tree of Life Programme in Christian Spirituality, Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction’.

The Programme has always been open to clergy and lay people, not only from the Anglican tradition but others as well. Whilst still maintaining an Anglican ethos in valuing experience, scripture, tradition and broadly Anglican worship, its purpose is to offer opportunities for Spiritual Formation, and to offer a faithful vision of what Spiritual Direction is and can be, not only for the Anglicans community of the Diocese of Perth but also for the Province and for other Christian Traditions.

The focus of the programme is on experiential and participatory learning. Spiritual formation and Spiritual Direction necessitate the formation and transformation of the person, and on learning through practical experience. So, whilst the programme offers presentations and theoretical understandings, there is also the requirement for personal engagement, reflection upon and integration of that which is presented. Learning, formation and transformation also happen as participants observe the formation team and one another’s practice, and are attentive to their own experience. The Tree of Life Programme is a community of adult learners who support and contribute to each other’s formation.

A contemplative stance underpins the structure of the weekends. Each day begins in prayer before moving into the activity of presentations, practicums and group work. It invites a prayerful attentiveness to every dimension of our program, including our interior selves, our relationships, the community we share, the world around us and the one whom we name God.

For further information, please contact The Venerable Michael Pennington, mpenn@q-net.net.au.