A vista of mesas, a vision of peace
Casa del Sol spiritual center represents Ghost Ranch’s vision for new beginnings
Ed DeLair, a lifelong Presbyterian, made his first trip to Ghost Ranch when he was only four years old. That early visit turned out to be the first of many, and DeLair is now on his second stint of living on the ranch.
“The ranch, for me, is a part of my sense of growing up in the church within the nurturing care of family, congregation and the Presbyterian Church,” said DeLair, who was recently named the ranch’s program director.
“People use terms like ‘thin place’ to describe it here — the mesas and the sky and the light — it really is located in a unique part of creation,” he said. “Many folks will come — with faith or with no faith — and be taken in by the beauty and splendor. It’s my sense that God’s Spirit is working here in ways that we can’t even articulate.”
It was at Ghost Ranch that DeLair first passed the peace of Christ.
“I had grown up in the church, but I had never done this — I didn’t like it at first,” he said. “But then that sense of Christ’s Spirit eventually embraced me and enveloped me — it’s my desire to offer that blessing now to others.”
DeLair hopes that Ghost Ranch can continue to be a place that offers that peace. Many of the people who find their way to the ranch might do so to take a class on go on a hike, but underneath, they often long for healing or clarity.
Realizing this underlying need, Ghost Ranch has sought to be more intentional in offering a spiritual center through the ministry of Casa del Sol.
Casa del Sol, about two miles from Ghost Ranch’s main facilities, was founded in 2006 as the spiritual retreat house for the ranch. The 1930s adobe hacienda — once home to Jim Hall, the first director of Ghost Ranch — was now hosts individuals and small groups for spiritual retreats.
John Philip Newell, a poet, scholar and teacher known for his work with the Iona Abbey in Scotland, helped create the vision and give direction to Casa del Sol, said Pat Slentz, coordinator of the Casa del Sol Companions.
Part of that vision and direction was the formation of the community of companions — those who have felt a deep commitment to the vision of Casa del Sol and who seek to carry that back to their own communities. These companions — more than 100 scattered around the country — covenant to pray daily for one another and the ministry of Casa del Sol, and to, as Slentz puts it, “come back to New Mexico and refresh themselves in the well as often as they can.”
Newell had been teaching at Ghost Ranch for a number of years when one day in 2004, he and Jim Baird, former director of programs at Ghost Ranch, spent a day “prayerfully imagining what could happen in that space.” At that point the adobe house had partially fallen into ruin.
“The vision was born in us that day — we saw that it could be a significant place of new beginnings, combining inner renewal and outward commitment to justice and peace in our lives and the world,” Newell said.
During the summer of 2005 Newell and his wife spent a month at Ghost Ranch, leading daily prayers and weekly prayers around a fire pit at Casa del Sol.
It was from that weekly gathering that the vision of Casa del Sol was formed: “A community of the Living Presence, seeking the oneness of the human soul and the healing of creation.”
Within a physical space that had begun to fall into ruin, a new vision was born, just as the vision itself is seeking to heal a broken world.
“How do we get ready to open to the new Pentecost, to the new thing that the Spirit is doing in the earth and the human soul?” Newell said.
It’s an idea DeLair is pondering as well.
“My hope is that as we commit to our calling, especially to the peace and justice of Christ, and do that honestly and authentically, that God is going to do new things — not just for Ghost Ranch, but for all of God’s creation,” he said.
From his office, DeLair has a perfect view of Convocation Hall, where worship was held that summer when he was first offered the peace of Christ, where he met his wife the following summer, and where they were married three years later.
“That is what I like to say to people,” he said. “The peace of Christ be with you as you come and the peace of Christ be with you as you go.”
Erin Dunigan is a freelance writer, photographer, and pastor who lives in a small coastal community in Baja California, Mexico when she is not following her wanderlust out into the world.