Rise Retreats

Meet the Rise Family

Lauren Harkness


Lauren founded Rise Retreats to create a space where women could feel welcomed just as they are and invest in their health, both physically, mentally and spiritually. 

“Late in 2018 I was searching for a retreat that would offer movement and food that healed my body and ground my heart and mind in my Christian faith. I was journeying through a dark and heavy space personally. I carried the weight of grief after the loss of two babies through miscarriage and the heaviness and heartache of the unraveling of my husband’s mental health struggles. I had a deep yearning to connect with a place offering holistic physical and spiritual nourishment, a place of rest and ‘time out’. I found it difficult to find a retreat that offered all that I was seeking. 

In the stillness of the Australian Southern Highlands one day, I heard a whisper and felt a gentle (and firm) nudge from God to create such a space for other women who may be on a similar journey. A call or mission to create a space where women could learn spiritual practices for the rhythm of daily use, a space of stillness and rest, a space of wellness and nourishment of the body. A space of love, acceptance and care.”

Transparent, warm, efficient, and friendly, Lauren enjoys creating each retreat space to ensure the needs of all participants are catered to, and that each retreat delivers the kind of soul-stirring, restorative experience which she herself originally sought to find. 

An Event Manager by profession, Lauren brings the skills and experience of a successful 17-year career to every aspect of Rise Retreats. Lauren also owns a successful event business Rise Events

Lauren is a mother to two gorgeous young daughters and a wife to Colin. She loves to travel, spend time with her extended family and dance with her daughters to the music of Australian musician, Kate Miller-Heidke. 

What makes you happy? Spending quality time with friends or my family and seaside holidays! 

Based in: Canberra, ACT Australia

Kylie Ly


Before moving to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2017, Kylie taught primary school on the NSW Central Coast, studied theology and loved to travel. She loves living in Cambodia, despite the humidity and being so far from her family. There is great joy in trusting that God has you in the place where you are meant to be. In early 2020 she married Seang and is now living in Battambang, Cambodia. 

What makes you happy? Chocolate, the ocean, red wine, exploring new places, and great, deep, honest conversations. 

One woman that inspires you and why? I am inspired by the unnamed, unknown women of the world who quietly, humbly and prayerfully live out their lives and love those who God places around them. Friends, aunts, mothers, daughters, wives. To me, they are just as inspiring as those who have done big things and have their names known by many. I want to know them. I want to hear their stories. I want to be one of them. 

Based in: Battambang, Cambodia

Amanda Hallihan

Creative team - Design & Creative Direction

Amanda first began working with Rise Retreats early 2019.

“I immediately fell in love with the vision for Rise Retreats. As a Christian woman I deeply resonated with the vision of Rise to create space for self-care, spiritual reflection and time with God within a Christian wellness context. Rise Retreats is such a gift to so many women, and I am excited to be a part of the unfolding vision of this space”.

As a professional Graphic Designer and Digital Content Creator, Amanda brings a wealth of marketing knowledge and creative insight to the team along with a passion for the vision and her signature warm enthusiasm.

Amanda is a mother to Fionn and wife to James. She loves getting away with the family and ‘retreating’ in the mountains, by a wood fire with a glass red in hand.

When she’s not working Amanda enjoys creating art, coffee with friends, bush-walking and photography.

What makes you happy?  Spending time with the people I love in the beauty of God’s creation, discovering new places with my husband and son and enjoying the wealth of creative gifts on proud display in the world around me.

One woman that inspires you and why? I never would have thought I would say it, but when I think of the woman that inspires me the most I would have to say my mum. Her generosity of spirit, resilience, dedication to Christ and strong work ethic has influenced me more that I ever thought it would. As the years go by I am increasingly thankful for her love and commitment to her family and the gift of her spiritual heritage. For all that she has given of herself she has taught me what is most important in life, and for that I am so thankful.

Based in: Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Naomi Pryde

CREATIVE TEAM - yoga + meditation

Naomi has spent the last 10 years living in Varanasi, India and Pai, Thailand where she helps to run Jesus Devotional spaces and ‘ashrams’, places of retreat and a contemplation for spiritual seekers, wanderers and the heart sore. She is inspired by seeing the boundless Christ expressed through different cultures and practices around the world.

She is forever a spiritual seeker, and whilst she has found her path in Jesus; every day that she wakes up, and watches for the movement of the Spirit in the world, in others, and in herself. Naomi loves meeting folks on different spiritual paths and creating safe spaces to love each other well and learn from each other in kindness and deep respect. 

Naomi is an Enneagram 9, and an INFJ, which means you’ll find her thriving when there is the pursuit of peace and justice. She fell in love with Christ incarnate, the God-man who didn’t stay far off, but came close, into the dirt and the mess of humanity. She fell in love with the Christ that upset the religious people, rule makers and line drawers. The God-man who reached straight into the lives of the poor, the marginalised, the outcasts and the oddballs and said “Yes, you are welcome too!”. 

Naomi feels the nearness of the Divine in contemplative and embodied practice. Yoga, Meditation, Movement, Nature, Music, the Senses and Spiritual Practice. Leaning into the Divine, messes with personal comfort and plans and security, but she is finding it is the safest and most beautiful place to be to experience deep, unshakeable peace. For a girl who loves to be in control, this is a lesson to learn and re-learn over and over again.

Naomi is a 500hr E-RYT Yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance and has training in Trauma Sensitive Yoga, Movement Meditation. 

What makes you happy: A beautiful big, warm and comfy bed with masses of cushions! 
One woman who inspires you and why: I have most recently been inspired by incredible writers and poets who put such beauty and truth into words that seep deep into my heart and help lead me straight into the presence of God. I am going to cheat here and mention a few women writers who inspire me: Sarah Bessey, Jan Richardson, Anne Lammot and Rachel Held Evans. 
Based in: Naomi still lives in Thailand, but is currently in Sydney, Australia due to Covid-19.

Maria Matherson

Creative team

Hello! My name is Maria Matherson, and I have been in full time ministry for 13 years.  I have served in three local churches as an Associate Pastor and volunteered my time in a church plant for two years. 
I have a love for the local church but over the years my understanding of its role has changed and so it has caused me to question a lot of the traditional training I received at bible college. 
I believe that God’s love can change us and our communities.  I believe that Christianity is a relationship with God, therefore unique.  I believe that we need to trust God’s love for his creation more.  
What makes you happy: My family, I love my boys and the few times I get to take a nice bath, with a cup of tea or coffee listening to either the Michelle Obama Podcast or the Evolving Faith podcast.
One woman who inspires you: I have to say Sarah Bessey, her spiritual journey into the wilderness is inspiring, full of grace and incredibly challenging.
Based in: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Sarah Agnew Headshot

Sarah Agnew

CREATIVE TEAM - Spiritual reflections

Sarah Agnew is a storyteller, poet, and minister (Uniting Church in Australia). Her words have been published for worship resources with Wild Goose Publications, Seasons of the Spirit, and Uniting Church publications and events. Her poetry has been published by Ginninderra Press and Resource Publications. At sarahagnew.com.au, find her blog where she reflects on rising out of Chronic Fatigue and Depression, more of her work as storyteller and scholar, and of course, her books.

As shared with the Rise community, Sarah’s poetic prayers composed in response to the Revised Common Lectionary, facilitate worship and devotion at any time, in many contexts, and can be found in the Pray the Story book and blog, praythestory.blogspot.com

In the Rise Retreats team, Sarah will contribute to online retreat content, participate in live and online events, and bring her experience of emerging and alternative church leadership to support Lauren as she leads and grows the Rise community.

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