Debra Jarvis
The Irreverent Reverend with something to share.

The Existential Expedition

The Existential Expedition

The Agenda
To provide a forum for discussion and exploration of issues around job stress, grief, moral/​spiritual distress.
To build community
To support and learn from one another
To gain new perspectives

The Plan
A program of three sessions designed to deepen our understanding of critical life issues: 1) life's meaning, 2) spirituality, 3) death and grief.

The Rationale
Discussion of sensitive issues around spirituality, death and dying will not only help us clarify our own beliefs, but also help us to be more comfortable talking with patients about these issues.
Exploring questions about our own underlying beliefs and assumptions can bring about an awareness of how and why we feel what we do when stressed. Choice follows awareness.

Ground Rules
Speak from the heart.
Listen from the heart.
Treat everyone and their stories/​beliefs with respect.
Confidentiality: no private, personal information will be repeated outside the group.

Small groups of 6-8 people.
Meet for two hours.
Commit to meeting 3 times.
Open with a check-in.
Share answers in the Way of Council. Each person answers all the questions in the session without interruption. Everyone speaks once before anyone speaks again.
Discussion of job stress and how the answers to the questions impact the job stress issues raised. (e.g., if you were raised to believe that life should be smooth and easy, it may be difficult to deal with crises in life.)

Existential Expedition Questions

Session 1: Life on Earth

1) In my family of origin, what were the beliefs (spoken or unspoken) about
pain and difficulties in life?

2) What was your childhood dream of adulthood and how does that connect to what you are doing now?

3) What motivated/​inspired/​called you to do the work you do?

Session 2: Spirituality

1) With what spiritual beliefs were you raised and what do you believe now?

2) How do you integrate your beliefs into your every day life?

3) How do you nurture your spiritual life?

Session 3: Dying and Death

1) What do you believe happens when you die?

2) Is death the worst thing that can happen? Why or why not?

3) Is cancer the worse kind of death? Why or why not?

4) How would you like to die? i.e. disease, house fire, murder, drowning, car
accident, poison mushroom. (Note your reaction to this question.)


I also provided optional readings before each session that dealt with the topic of each session. I encourage you to do this as it gets everyone thinking about the topic.

At the end of the EE I provided everyone with a Bibliography which you can download from this site. Feel free to use this as is or add your own selections to it. There are lots of great books out there that I have not included!

My Works

2001 Soul-Making Literary Prize Honorable Mention
1999 Jack Straw Award
Reflections on being in Manhattan on September 11, 2001.
A book about exercise, love, and a faith journey. (Lion, 1986)
How to control Type II diabetes through diet and exercise. (1989)
A pocket-size book which deals with the spiritual issues around HIV.(1990)
How to be a caregiver for someone with AIDS.(1992)