Do you remember back in March when it rained and rained and rained? Maybe you don’t because that’s often the case in Oregon most months out of the year. But I remember the late March rains because there was a women’s retreat coming the first of April at Grove Christian Camp and heavy rains were not going to be welcome. Katharine and I and her two young granddaughters drove out to the camp a week before the event to look over the facilities one more time. We parked in the designated area, got out of the car, and slogged through the mud until we got to the concrete walkway. And so, I wrote to all the attendees to be prepared for rain and mud. We were blessed with a sunny, warm weekend, allowing for lawn lounging, hikes and walks, river wading, and outdoor Happy Hours.
Whenever it’s my turn to lead the program at a retreat, I open my Bible and find inspiration in the women found there. Our theme, Nurturing Our Souls, guided me to the nurturing mothers of the Bible, Hannah and Anne, the mother of Mary; to the women who cared for the grieving, especially the midwives; and to the nurturing advocates, the daughters of Zelophehad and the women of Israel. But who I also found inspirational at this retreat were the women who accepted the invitation to give a testimonial that blended with the women in the Bible. With very little guidance from me, their experiences of nurturing they have received and nurturing they have given led the way for all the women to share in the small groups that followed each meditation. We were blessed with their stories.
Prayer and worship are a part of every retreat. This year gave us the gift of the Rev. Christine Marie, a great addition to the clergy staff at St. Mary’s. Our weekend of getting to know each other better and forming bonds of friendship culminated with our Sunday morning Eucharist. I had told Christine+ before the weekend began that afterwards she would see familiar faces no matter which service she served back at St. Mary’s. And she told me recently that when she went out into the congregation at the 9:30 service to pass the peace, she not only saw familiar faces and welcoming smiles, she also was introduced to a lot of the children. We were, we are, blessed to have Christine+ in our midst.
I look back and remember with a thankful heart Paula’s music and leadership in song; Christy’s singing that enhanced our Sunday worship; Carolyn who coaxed the younger women to give the retreat a try; the “elders” who know how to sit back and relax; Margaret, so aptly named, who had a real hard time being served; Hilary, who made it to the top of the rock wall; Sue Ann, who brought the games; and the wedding at the covered bridge and our merry band of crashers. Evaluations from the retreat have been received and read. Responses were positive and suggestions for next year build on what was good about this retreat. There was affirmation of this year’s location, program, and schedule.
To get a sense for yourself of the women’s retreat, visit St. Mary’s Facebook group and St. Mary's Facebook page to see photos of the joy found in each other’s presence at this lovely location. Plan to attend next year! We all are blessed to be a part of the welcoming community found at St. Mary’s and a retreat is a wonderful opportunity to be in community with each other.