Spiritual Discovery: Together


In 2014, Martha created a spiritual community for women called Our One Word—a hospitable, no-guilt, no-expectation, thinking, feeling shelter for sacred and secular discussion, growth and peace.

Each week we focus on one significant word and explore how that word has, or has not, been at work in our lives that week. By focusing on the simplicity of one powerful word, women can move through what is negative, confusing and distill what is hopeful, life-giving.


Our One Word has connected me with a group of women with different faith experiences and different backgrounds. We come together once a week to pray, support, encourage and laugh, all while discussing one word. It is an hour I cherish.
— Lenore

"Martha Bourlakas led an Our One Word Women's Retreat at our parish last fall and I'm going to have to use more than One Word to summarize the experience. Holy, Inspirational, Hopeful, Faithful, Laughter, Tears, Friendship. These are words that come to my mind. Our One Word connected us in profound and life changing ways. Thank you, Martha!"
— The Rev. Dr. Diane E. Vie

One Word is such a lovely and uplifting way to spend a Thursday afternoon. I go each week with anticipation of how God will reveal himself through the discussion and prayer of ONE single word. But most of all, it is the fellowship with this group of beautiful women of faith that enriches my life and keeps me coming back.
— Suzanne


Martha Johnson Bourlakas grew up hiking the Appalachian Trail (an excuse to eat trail mix M&Ms for breakfast) with her Dad and is grateful for the long path that brought her back to the mountainous turf of Southwestern Virginia.

She received her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Spalding University and has taught middle school, high school, Chicago Traffic Safety School, at the Knoxville Police Department and at Virginia Western Community College. Her book, Love Feast: Together at the Table, is a collection of essays on the intersection of disability, faith and hospitality.

She loves the holy chaos of mothering, writing, teaching, baking and being married to an Episcopal bishop who travels. She reads nonfiction and the Maisie Dobbs mystery series when she is supposed to be writing, grading papers or mothering. The family’s dachshund mix, Sammy, is her constant writing companion.

Martha’s favorite food is yellow cake with chocolate icing. She bakes cakes, eats them and starts all over again. Her ideal retreat—which she will one day take—is solitary reading and writing in a Laura Ingalls Wilder-style mountain cabin with a fireplace. She will wear blue jeans and a sweatshirt and drink coffee all day.