Amy Jackson, former associate publisher at Christianity Today, recently left her position after almost seven years to start her new endeavor, The Perch, in Aurora, Illinois. “I wanted to create a place where people could engage God, others and themselves in meaningful ways,” she says, noting she craved the same environment to feed her soul. Here, Connect Faith catches up with Jackson to discover what soul care is and how planners can weave elements of it into their events.
What is soul care?
Soul care is carving out time and space to commune with God in fresh ways. When we practice soul care, we are healthier people living in healthier relationships.
What is The Perch?
The Perch provides space and skills for soul care. We offer an environment to experience rest, renewal, reflection and rejuvenation through retreats, classes, workshops, groups and resources.
When did you conceive the idea of The Perch?
I had the idea for something like The Perch for years, but I thought it was silly and risky to start, so I pushed it out of my mind. In 2017, I couldn’t ignore God’s prompting any longer. I created a website and offered two pop-up soul care events. I thought, “It’ll fail, and no one will go,” but the gatherings were popular, giving me momentum and vision for what could be. I still didn’t think it would be full time. It was supposed to be a secondary ministry to my job at “Christianity Today.” In January 2018, though, my career took a drastic turn, resulting in significant inner turmoil, and I eventually left my position and turned my attention fully to The Perch. I offered 12 events in 2018, three in the new space.
Tell us about your new space.
I recently leased an area because I wanted to curate the environment myself. The grand opening was in November 2018. The space is on the third floor of the original YWCA in Aurora. Built in 1911, it has huge windows with gorgeous views of the Fox River. It’s sunny, versatile, warm and inviting.
How’d you come up with the name, The Perch?
I was driving home after an especially rough day at work. I was “angry praying” and God talked to me about what would become The Perch. He gave me the name, logo and first event. I’ve always been fascinated with birds and flying imagery. I want The Perch to be a resting place where you can land for recharging before you take off again and continue to soar. And like any comfy perch, I hope you'll return often.
What is spiritual direction and why is it a staple at your events?
More people should know about spiritual direction. A spiritual director is someone who listens to you, reflects what you’re saying back to you and looks for themes where God may be stirring, leading or working in your life.
Why should planners consider incorporating soul care into their events?
Events can be loud and rowdy pump-up sessions, so incorporating quiet, slow, reflective experiences may seem counterintuitive. Yet, every time I’ve been asked to lead a contemplative exercise at an event, the feedback has been that it was the guests’ favorite part.
Jackson’s Top 10 Ways to Weave Soul Care Into Events
- Use soul care phrases like: “Be present,” “Let go of expectations,” “This is a safe place to be yourself,” “Let your hair down,” “Release expectations” and “Breathe.”
- Lead attendees through “square breathing”: Breathe in four counts, pause four counts, exhale four counts and pause four counts.
- Create a quiet zone for attendees to take a break from a boisterous event.
- Commission an artist to paint a canvas as the speaker presents.
- Offer a prayer or reflection room with soft lighting, music and seating.
- Use a labyrinth.
- Lead a prayer walk through the city.
- Offer appointments with a spiritual director.
- Recruit a prayer team for your event.
- Lead attendees through scripture meditation or yoga.