Last Retreat

Last month I led my last retreat before my coming retirement at the end of the year. I realized I’ve been leading contemplative retreat for thirty years.

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I didn’t really know what I was doing when I began contemplative retreats in the early 1990s at Pasadena Mennonite Church. I am grateful for the trust of the congregational leadership of Jim Brenneman, Ceci Lance, and Rod Stafford.

I had an intuitive sense of how I wanted to shape the retreats based on the books Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Bonhoeffer described periods of silence with periods of engagement, and this is the model I have used: periods of silence in community and periods of engagement (aka: “talking”) which enabled those uninitiated to silence to enter silence more comfortably.  At various times I’ve included music and singing with varying degrees of effectiveness. (I still remember Molly and Tudor bursting out laughing at my awkward attempt to lead singing!)

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I am grateful for the variety of retreats I’ve led, and the trust participants placed in me. A few were more head-oriented which takes me out of my comfort zone. And some retreats were more meaningful than others and I am okay with that.

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I haven’t firmly shut the door to leading contemplative retreats in the future, but the door is closed for now. As I enter retirement I plan to rest, read (mostly novels), and move to Canada with Kevin in the late summer. After we’ve settled into our new lives perhaps I will consider leading retreats again.

Life Transitions

 return slowly

(The Hermitage sign along the driveway for departing guests).

 

Greetings from Three Rivers, Michigan! My husband and I moved here almost a month ago—sold our home, sorted, packed, donated (and donated, and donated), and moved to join the residential community of The Hermitage, a contemplative retreat center.

At one point we seriously considered joining the residential community but it never seemed the right time. During a conversation with the Hermitage board someone asked Kevin is he was finished his library career and he realized there was more he wanted to explore. Within the past two years he sensed an inner restlessness and began to discern that he was ready to move on from library work. After pondering and praying we approached The Hermitage about joining the residential community. And here we are.

We are settling into our new home, new work, new schedule, new life. We are learning what it is to pray together as a community six days a week which includes weekly celebrating the Eucharist with one another. We are learning to work together which involves explaining and absorbing details such as which towels and sheets go into which guest room. Working together involves discussing and challenging and yielding and releasing of “my way.”

As Benedict stated in his rules for monastic life: Ora et labora. The literal translation is “Prayer and work.” It can also be translated as “Our work is our prayer; our prayer is our work.”

I discovered this prayer from the Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals which describes my inner restlessness and reflection these past several months:

Prayer for Major Life Transition

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.

Lord, teach me to listen to my heart, teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.

Lord, I give you these stirrings inside of me. I give you my discontent, I give you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longing I hold inside. Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.