Retreat Journal #203

May 30-June 3, 2011 Swans Island, Maine


The Register for this retreat, the second for the New England Chapter this year, is as follows:
Bro. John MacDuffie, Bernard ME
Bro. Charles Erb, Belfast ME
First-Timer Jay Sprout, Barnet VT
Bro. Jeffrey M. Lewis, Brattleboro VT
Novice Richard L. Waddell, Jr., Farmington ME
Bro. David C. Stillman, Mt. Desert ME
Novice Janice Chilek, Weathersfield VT
Bro. David Andrews, Middlebury VT
Bro. George C. Bland, Jr., Castine ME

Monday p.m. May 30
We "officially" began our retreat with the winding of the clock and setting of the time-3:34 p.m. "Unofficially" we began with hugs and greetings of God's love after not seeing each other for a year. What a blessing to be back! We are graced with the most glorious day-sunshine, warmth, calm seas, and clear blue skies. The flag of the Order waves gently in the breeze. We sang, we prayed, we laughed, we loved....excellent hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and salad for supper. Readings-a rather profound "prayer-poem" by Michael Quoist about the gift of grace from God in the form of "time." Two thoughtful and sometimes humorous stories by Bill Schubart (The Lamoille Stories-from Vermont.) We closed the evening gathering as disciples at Christ's table and sharing in Communion. Closing words shared pastoral current concerns. Then off to bed!
Sister Janice, Evening Scribe

Tuesday a.m. May 31
The poet says, "What is so rare as a day in June, if ever come perfect days?" [Even if this is not a day in June] it is bright, sunny, glorious! Much trauma over breakfast-no brown sugar for oatmeal, no half-and-half for coffee. To quote my esteemed cousin, "My, how we suffer!" We survived. The bananas, OJ and blueberry muffins were just fine. Dick Waddell read from Kate Braestrup, Here If You Need Me, and John Bell, Ten Things They Never Told Me About Jesus. Much appreciated, I would say. Brother George's homemade Minnestrone the hit of the noon meal. His challenge: to learn two more soups for next year.
Bro. Chuck Erb

Tues. p.m. May 31
Chaplain Waddell offered grace at noon meal; all enjoyed Bro. George's creation of homemade minestrone soup. In the afternoon Bro. Jay Sprout finally identified a dead bird that Bro. John had found on the windowsill-one he had not seen before in this part of the country: an orchard oriole. Bro. Jay also told of watching two seals at the other side of the cove-one barking at the other vigorously trying to get it to move. He thought the still one was dead, but it finally moved into the water as the other one left, barking all the way.
All were doing their own things in the afternoon. Music for the listening time was a CD by Anonymous Four entitled "Miracles of Santiago"-music from the Codex Calixtinus. Hymns were sung with much energy on the deck. Doxology for grace preceded sitting down to a delicious meal of baked haddock, scalloped potatoes, string beans, cole slaw & cake.
Chaplain Jeff Lewis shared the following selections for the evening readings:
from The Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill
Devotions by John Donne
Jerusalem Bible: Letter of James
"The Last Battle" from Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Ended with silent and spoken prayer, then Communion.
Bro. David Stillman

Wed. June 1st a.m.
Bros. John and George field-tested their new leadership paradigm for Retreat Directors by remaining (themselves) in bed almost to the 7:00 a.m. rising bell, as Bros. Jeff and David effortlessly (well, we don't mean to minimize their efforts) produced a delicious breakfast featuring pancakes and pork sausages. Bro. Jay read some very searching passages: In What Paul Meant Garry Wills proposes a comprehensive corrective to the Church's understanding of Paul's letters and reputation-reaching as far as Patristic writers and G.B. Shaw. From Buechner's Listening to Your Life we heard "Our Pilot, Our Guide," (Jan. 8) on Christ's reality to us, if always in faith. And the reading concluded with Nouwen's "Keep Choosing God" from The Inner Voice of Love.
Quiet Time turned out to one of those few when nothing had an easy time keeping silent. Leading the band of sound was Nature, who arranged a thunderstorm. Bro. Dick ran from Fine Sand Beach; Bro. Jay came from the point. Towels were brought in, windows were closed. In the event, heavy rain, lightning and thunder, not much wind. All the hurrying led to whispered kibitzing in the kitchen. Oh dear. Sacrosanct traditions regarding the two-hour Silence were ... umm... violated.
Lunch featured clam chowder and grilled cheese sandwiches. Some restiveness with Joke Day, if it were to involved the Joke Book, ended up meaning that there was no Joke Day-but we may have it yet. I have a joke-it's clean, and not sexist.
Bro. George CCLVII

Wed. June 1st, p.m.
After a fine lunch, retreat ants spent their free time in various ways. Sr. Janice bailed out the rowboat and then rowed Bro. John to the head of Seal Cove and back. Bros. Jay and David A. biked to the lighthouse and picked up brown sugar and fresh rhubarb on the way back, from which they made rhubarb crisp. Bro. Chuck continued his valiant efforts to create a fine lawn around the cottage. The remaining retreatants talked and read at the cottage. At 4:00 we listened to Russian liturgical music chosen by Bro. Dick, then headed outside for a somewhat chilly hymn sing. Once inside again, wine was shared, the fire lit, and dinner prepared.
During dinner preparations, Bro. Dick took the rowboat and came back with a bucket of mussels, to be enjoyed (by some!) tomorrow. In the course of this expedition, he fell into the water but emerged unscathed, though wet and cold.
To the consternation of Bro. Dick, the leftover oatmeal from Tuesday morning had been dumped into the compost, frustrating some culinary plan for it that he claimed to have in mind.
Sr. Janice read from the two books-Wendell Berry's Sabbaths and Wayne Muller's Sabbath. She then led Communion, deftly solving the problem of how to serve by intinction by having the person to the left serve his/her neighbor to the right, and moving around the table in that fashion.

Bro. David Andrews
Thursday June 2, a.m.
The assembled brothers and sister arose by degrees at dead low tide, energizing with the incoming tide. Sun and cloud assure frequent changes of scene. The morning breakfast crew-Bros. Jeff, Chuck, David A. and Sr. Janice comingled and concocted a breakfast of pure or non-pure (i.e. infiltrated with vegetables and cheese) eggs, bacon, (just right), English muffin/ toast, coffee, juice.
With great precision Bro. Jeff chimed the hour for the reading. Bro. Chuck provided a moving reading of selections from Alan Paton's Instrument of Thy Peace, a series of meditations on the prayer of St. Francis. The community then rested or moved about in silence.... Well, mostly silence. Lunch was sufficiently complex that it required continual, low level susserations. Gathering left-overs-soup, cole slaw, desserts and assorted sandwich fixin's, and the steaming of mussels in water, wine, a couple of onion slices (no garlic available), and salt. Nobody starves on these retreats. But it is suggested that lunch preparation be so structured as to preserve the scheduled silence.
Make me an instrument of Thy peace, loving God.
Bro. Richard L. Waddell, Jr.

Thursday June 2, p.m.
Following the lunch so ably documented above by the author of the mussels himself, the reigning Abbot called to order a business meeting of the members on retreat. Various items were discussed and determinations or recommendations produced. It is a wonder that the Order has maintained itself for so long and that there are still administrative matters that arise. We find small adjustments that need to be made to the menu, the annual schedule, and even the order of the day. We discovered that the proximity of the kitchen to the sitting area meant that many wanted to be active during Quiet Time preparing the lunch which led inevitably to much whispering and even light talking which, in turn, created much conversation during the meeting.
Following the meeting the scullions cleaned up the complicated lunch and the members scattered to individually chosen activities. Novice Jay made an apple and rhubarb dessert for dinner.
Novice Jay, author of this evening's dessert, brought us the recorded music from the Village Harmony project in Vermont. Sr. Janice started a nice fire to drive the growing chill away. The wind is high so singing was held indoors instead of on the front porch-but the songs were well and wisely chosen and sung.
Dinner was a nicely prepared spaghetti with sauce followed by the elegant dessert made by Novice Jay.
Bro. George began his evening reading with Walter Brueggeman on poetry and preaching; he completed his reading with selections from _____________________.
Bro. Abbot led Communion replete with excellent harmony on the hymns.
Bro. Abbot and Bro. George led the consecration service for Sr. Janice and Bro. Dick. Bro. Jeff received his chalice pin as well.
Bro. Jeffrey Lewis
Friday June 3, a.m.
In recognition of the fact that nearly everyone was rising long before the appointed hour (with the possible exception of Bro. George) we agreed to be ready for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. Bro. Jeff again was first up and had made the initial preparations for a buffet breakfast of cereal and many leftovers. One perfectly ripe cantaloupe was added to the board of before-seen foods (the Scribe ate two pieces.)
Clean-up and pack-up were completed by 8:20. The sky was clearing as the BSOW flag was ceremoniously lowered and folded to decommission the MacDuffie cabin for another year.

Novice Bro. Jay Sprout
On the occasion of his 64th birthday