Retreat provides perfect escape | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Jan 28, 2018

Last weekend, I attended a church retreat. In retrospect, I realize that during the weekend I sometimes felt a bit like a little kid at summer camp, free and at ease with everyone around me.

Of course, I’m not a little kid, and neither was anyone else on the retreat. And it’s January, wet and chilly, no resemblance to summer camp weather. It was a great retreat, though, for a variety of reasons, some of them deeply spiritual and some of them light-hearted.

How often do groups of adults with a common connection escape together for a weekend of contemplation, relaxation, activity, learning, community and private time? Not often enough, I think.

In this case, approximately 40 members, pastors and friends of Edmonds United Methodist Church carved out time for a Friday evening until Sunday noon retreat from all that ordinarily would occupy them over a weekend.

It isn’t easy to make such a plan. Somehow, the planning committee designed a perfect retreat, with “Deep Hope” as its theme.

I think the words at the top of the retreat Itinerary were significant and reassuring: “Note: All activities are optional. Please choose what is right for you.”

Well. What a great statement to place at the top of the page! Clearly, individuals would have plenty of opportunities to decide for themselves how to use the precious weekend time.

The site of the church contemplative retreat, an annual event, could not have been more appealing or more appropriate. Rainbow Lodge Retreat Center, nestled within old-growth forest just outside North Bend, provides groups with a rustic, comfortable, spacious place to gather without the distractions of the busy outside world.

With my first breath of fresh woodsy air, I felt all tensions ease. And from that first moment, I knew that signing up for the retreat had been a good idea.

Our retreat included workshops, discussions, meditation, worship, singing, crafting, yoga, tai chi, piano and harp music, and, at the end of the day, vespers services. Saturday evening following vespers, we relaxed by the fire, sharing stories, poetry, jokes – lots of laughter – and more harp music.

Saturday afternoon all of us entered a four-hour Great Silence. During the silence, attendees could use the time as they chose. Some chose to pray, read, nap, write, knit, color, meditate or walk.

I spent part of my Great Silence walking in the forest – in the rain – among ancient cedars, ferns, firs, mosses, and dense undergrowth. I followed pathways matted with the soaked brown leaves of autumn, crossed slippery little footbridges and followed along a rushing creek, reaching a vantage point with a glimpse of a waterfall.

During all that time, I saw only one other person in the forest; she was standing very still, looking upward. With many possibilities for how to spend four quiet hours, I think the Great Silence appealed to everyone on the retreat.

Silence is rare, isn’t it?

As to the lodge facilities, we relaxed into the kind and capable service of the small staff, who fed us royally, never hurrying us, providing an environment of total ease. We had no responsibilities. We were there to get away from the busy routines of our lives, to recharge emotional and spiritual energies, to connect with others and to spend quiet time, alone or together.

We spent rare privileged casual time with our pastors. We sat with old or new friends in the dining room chatting, drinking coffee, strengthening relationships – or we walked alone in the rainy forest.

It was all good.

From Friday evening until Sunday noon, I felt the privilege of being part of a group sharing a grand experience in a setting of great natural beauty. “Deep Hope” was a perfect theme for the weekend, reinforced by our closing Sunday worship.

I brought that deep hope home with me, and I think everyone else probably did, too.

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