Families and Religion

Meditative Encounters

Brian Gaeta-Symonds

Presbyterian Church

Workshop Session #1

9AM - 10AM -

Session Overview

Faith and Spirituality no longer have to be scary words, especially for the LGBTQ community. Centuries old contemplative practices have been used to assist people in exploring more deeply their own desires for purpose and meaning-making within their own lives and souls. Two exercises that will be experienced during this workshop are Centering Prayer/Meditation and Meditative Text Encounter (otherwise known as spiritual reading). My co-presenter and I have used both of these, and many others, in our own individual Spiritual Direction practices. The first is a meditation tool that is done intentionally in and with silence. The second is a tool that uses sacred texts, literature, and other written pieces to allow a moment for participants to get out of their head and academia and to experience the words on a page. By accompanying others with an empathetic approach and in a safe environment, we can begin to access and utilize all the resources within ourselves to begin the healing process. These practices coupled with successful mental health resources has been shown to greatly increase a person’s mental health status as well as their ability to move towards inner peace and stability all the while increasing self-esteem. In the recent past belief systems and institutions have used their power to tear others down. The practices used in this workshop will help to empower others to possibly reclaim their own belief systems and discover new ways that will help them ritualize what they believe. Participants will leave the workshop with a better sense of how to lean on spirituality in a healthy way as a tool, and also will be able to take with them the steps to conduct these practices on their own, one-on-one, or with a small group.


Rev. Brian S. Gaeta-Symonds – Brian, ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament by the Presbyterian Church (USA), is both Spiritual Director and Pastor. Currently he serves as Director of Admissions consultant for the New Theological Seminary of the West. He has a Master of Divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a Bachelor degree in Public Relations from California State University, Fullerton. He has also completed a three-year training program in Spiritual Direction from which he learned the skills to accompany people on their spiritual journey to deepen their sense of faith and purpose. His heart and passion is very much active with community leadership and ending circumstances of oppression and poverty. Most recently he has taught leadership, spirituality and religious, and many other courses, as well as led different spirituality workshops and retreats. Brian and his husband Gilbert, both native Californians, currently reside in North Hills, CA with their three boys, Victor, Nathan, and Axel.