Encountering God

lake at Pilgrim PinesThis past weekend, despite a growing pile of laundry, a laundry list of to-dos and a total absence of all things fall and festive being done in and around our home, my family and I attended our church‘s All Church Retreat. It wasn’t a casual decision, in fact, in part, the retreat evolved from a conversation I had with one of our ministers last winter. It was the first time the church had ever had an all church retreat and they pulled it off like Houdini; it was magical.

If you’ve never participated in a religious retreat of any sort or don’t even attend a house of worship for that matter, it’s not too late to try one on for size, you may be surprised how well it fits.

I grew up on the Main Line, in a wholly Waspy, highly social, see-and-be-seen sort of church. I have a vague memory of Sunday School, a fleeting recollection of Coffee Hour and a peptic sensation about my family’s actual religious conviction at the time. But the experience was evocative and somehow this half-baked exposure during my formative years stuck with me.

Like many, I exerted a great deal of energy during adolescence and young-adulthood rejecting the establishment, abstaining from anything conforming and shunning all things religious, not spiritual, just “religious.”

Fast forward 25 years: DH and I genuinely invest in our spiritual development and our children are being raised under the same premise. It’s a challenge, living in New England, where religion is a private, closed-door topic and talking openly about one’s affiliation leaves you feeling like a pariah. On the other hand, connecting with like-minded, mutually-seeking travelers on their own religious journey is as exhilarating as being stranded in a foreign culture and stumbling upon an enclave of native English speakers.

And that’s how it felt this weekend, for the first time our church has ever had a retreat, 120 of us gathered in Swanzey, NH and encountered God together. Young kids were taken under the wings of older ones; teens engaged adults in spiritual dialogue; empty-nesters held babies; seniors communed with young families; ministers experienced services as laypeople; and parishioners delivered sermons. Labels were abandoned and replaced by the mutual value we all have placed on our spiritual growth and we left feeling exhilarated and fulfilled. So while many things this weekend may have been neglected at home, the most important things were attended to. Now if only I could figure out how to pull a Houdini act around my house.

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