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Past Retreat Themes


THEME: The psalms (our oldest “hymnal”) record the worshipping community’s earliest conversations with and about our creator God.  These ancient poems show a startling ability to speak to our souls today.  Psalmists tend not to hold back in expressing the full range of humanity’s joyful and painful encounters with questions of faith. From thankful confidence in God’s goodness to the desolate cry of abandonment to the affirmation of ethical living that builds community harmony, the psalms give voice to the plethora of emotions with which we grapple while seeking to know and love God.



            The psalms eloquently communicate the shifting nature of our relationship with God, self, and neighbor.  One biblical scholar suggests that the psalms capture the human experience of moving from an ordered, reliable world to one that has “run amok” and then back to a world of renewed hope.   The psalms speak to these three dispositions: confidence in the goodness of creation and the bonds of community (“poems of orientation”); despair over setbacks and pain (“poems of disorientation”) and rejoicing in thanks for the renewal of God’s promises (“poems of new orientation”).   


We as a faith community are in the midst of change as a new rector approaches; each of us has faced (and will again) unexpected change that forces us to make transitions, as well as change that starts inside us—self-initiated transitions.  And as friends and family members of people we care about who are struck by (or trying to make) change, we all have a role in helping to discern where God is in the midst of these shifting winds and how best to claim the grace God intends for us. 


The Advent and nativity narratives involve people who are aware of change.  John the Baptist announces that we need to look within and make space for God’s presence.  Are we ready?  Divine messengers inform Mary and Joseph of a rather big change in their lives.  Will they cope?  Mary hurries to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  How does their visit together ease the transition?  These are starting points for our reflection on the ways in which faith strengthens us in times of transition and perhaps challenges us to look at change in unexpected ways. 


Advent: Visions of Work
Scripture and pieces by contemporary spiritual writers guided retreatants as they delved into the meaning of their own work—paid and unpaid.


Advent: Shepherds and Kings
Reflecting on W.H. Auden’s For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, retreatants identified with the challenges of the shepherds and kings in the Christmas story.


Advent: Struggles and Hopes
Joan Chittister’s examination of the story of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel was a gateway into reflections on retreatants’ own struggles.


Advent: What Child Is This?
Retreatants studied the scriptures for three great feasts: Christmas, Holy Name, and Epiphany.


Spring: Beach Reading
Spitually themed works by contemporary writers invited retreatants to probe issues in their own lives and souls.

Advent: As We Forgive Those . . .
The story of the prodigal son, and Henri Nouwen’s reflections on it, sparked rich discussion about the challenging call to forgiveness.


Advent: Messiah Musing
Retreatants listened to and drew insights from Handel’s beloved masterpiece.


Summer: The Puzzle of Prayer
Drawing on Margaret’s Guenther’s writings, retreatants explored the why, when, where, and how of prayer.

Advent: An Advent Carol
Charles Dickens’s tale of Ebenezer Scrooge prompted thoughtful looks at past, present, and future.


Lent: Journey Into Holy Week
Retreatants examined the Tridium liturgies.

Summer: More Life, Less Stuff
Retreatants explored the role that clutter―literal and spiritual―plays in our lives, and sought to clear space for the holy.

Advent: Gifts From the Sea
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic sparked reflection and discussion on the need for stillness―and the insights that come out of it.


Lent: Vision
Using the metaphor of sight―literal and figurative―retreatants refined their spiritual vision.

Summer: Big Words
Drawing on Scripture and the writing of Kathleen Norris, retreatants plumbed the meaning of “salvation”; “Father”; and “Christian.”

Advent: Harry Potter and the Riddles of Community
Harry Potter’s adventures at Hogwarts offered retreatants a chance to wrestle with the questions―and challenges―of what it means to be a community.


Lent: Healing Journeys
Drawing on the writings of John Claypool, retreatants reflected on the need for healing from the wounds of grief, grievance, and guilt.

Summer: 3:16―A Core Sample of Scripture
Like scientists taking core samples, retreatants looked at verse 3:16 from various books in the Bible.

Advent: My Soul in Silence Waits
Using a book by Margaret Guenther, retreatants studied Psalm 62 and its theme of waiting.


Lent: Christ’s Seven Last Words
Retreatants reflected on the traditional “seven last words” uttered by Christ during his Passion.

Summer: Sabbath Keeping
The traditional Jewish Sabbath served as a lens for reflecting on the need for quiet in one’s life.

Advent: How Can This Be?
Retreatants pondered the question that Mary posed to Gabriel and connected it to times of questioning in their own lives.


Summer: Baking Bread
Terry Doyle guided retreatants in the art of baking bread, while Scripture and selections from contemporary writers sparked reflection.


Lent: Walk in Love . . .
Retreatants pondered the weekly admonition to “Walk in love, as Christ loved us” and reflected on how to live that out.

Summer: Tell Me a Story
Discussions drew on selections from Listening for God, a collection of works with spiritual themes.

Advent: What Are We Waiting For?
Retreatants explored what they are waiting for, both in terms of the Christmas story and in their own lives.


Advent: Emmanuel
Retreatants explored what it meant to have “God with us”―and to be with God.