In early February, ISP’s COVID-19 Response Committee met to discuss when ISP might safely resume in-person programs. The ISP Network has agreed on the following dates: In-person spiritual reflection/accompaniment (hour-long reflection small group sessions at partner agencies, e.g. using the ISP Journey app) can begin on April 1, 2021 and overnight retreats will resume on August 1, 2021.
This has certainly not been an easy decision. The very aspects that make ISP our retreat programs so powerful–that they are intimate, group-oriented and often include hugs, handshakes, small groups, shared meals–are the very things that pose the greatest risk. Ultimately, we do not feel we can adequately mitigate, or justify, the risks involved in overnight retreats until summer, when experts estimate a high percentage of people will be vaccinated.
Our hope is that setting these firm, realistic dates will allow ISP teams to move out of a “holding pattern” and take concrete steps forward in ways that work for them. This might mean doubling down on virtual reflection gatherings, planning for in-person spiritual reflection at the recovery homes and transitional residences, and/or reserving future retreat dates for the late summer/fall.
That said, not all teams may be ready or willing to move this quickly. ISP coordinators and their teams are encouraged to make decisions that fit with their needs and local circumstances. Network protocols will be available to assist those teams who wish to begin in-person spiritual reflection groups after April 1, and to begin planning for relaunching retreat programs in the coming year.
It has been a challenging year not being able to gather together, but we are looking forward to safely and gradually relaunching our in-person ministry.