Retreat Journal #205

Retreat #205  Irons Homestead, Chepachet,RI

May 20 – 24, 2012

In attendance: Members

Bro. Ken Landin #347, Sister Jennifer Geary #340, NE Chapter Sub-Prior, Bro. Tom Campbell #231, Bro. David Keller #332, Bro. Les Norman #334, Bro. Jerry Fritz #338, NE Chapter Prior, Sis. Alison Jacobs - 1st time - Stoddard, NH,cell: 207-712-0011 #366

Sunday, May 20th

We gathered one by one at the Lodge. Supper provided a possible choice, since sandwiches had been bought in addition to pizza. We agreed that sandwiches were the more environmentally friendly choice. Four of us consumed our choices, and then Bro. Ken arrived, having already eaten.

We then engaged in intense theological discussion while we awaited the arrival of our two missing retreatants. Sr. Alison did eventually arrive, with a tangled tale of delays on the road. But where was Bro. David?

We eventually decided that the time had come to celebrate, so Bro. Ken led us in worship. Bro. Jerry finally produced a schedule for the week’s duties (opportunities) so we retired to bed feeling that the retreat was now almost organized.

Monday, May 21st AM

Bro. David arrived, complete with bicycle, having decided that he was too late to come yesterday evening. Breakfast started with cereals enriched by a variety of berries. After this splendid start we adjourned to the ball field, where Bro. Jerry hoisted the BSOW flag on the left hand (or was it right?) pole.

Bro. Tom then offered selections from Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books. Then we engaged in our time of quiet.

Lunch was sandwiches with ham or turkey with lavish side choices of salads. Cookies (sorted or assorted) followed.

Monday, May 21st, pm

A misty gray met us after lunch for our free time.  We walked to the Lake.  We gazed over the ancient stone fence at the old Irons cemetery.  Then on the way, the rains began.  We walked, talked, read, ran, cycled, napped and sat.  What a gift!  Free time in the midst of this life in ministry brings renewal to the body, mind, and soul.

At four the bell was struck calling us to music and that was no easy feat as the bell had been previously conspicuously absent from the official box of things.  An adventure brought about a chime that will do just fine.  We listened first to Chris Stillers song from the album “Time Stands Still” in which to a lively folksy tune the lyrics posing a divine who has fun with observing the intelligent design of all things.  Following, we listened to the new offering from Yo Yo Ma with three others entitled “The Goat Riders” in which improvisation and formal musicality come together in both melody and rhythmic dynamism.  Ghosty and symphonic, melodic and discordant, we all had different hearings of this fine work.

At half past the hour we “flung wide the western door” or we tried as the western wall is the restrooms.  So after discussion it was decided to sing on the east porch and fling wide the main door to the lodge as it was clearly on our western face.  Singing hymns of the faith with vigor and not so worried about who carried which pitch got us through to our daily singing of the B.S.O.W. hymn with the original verse intact.  The closeness of the weather made for an island in the sea atmosphere.

Gathered for grace, Bro. Less recalled that it does rain on the just and the unjust.  Memory casts a glowing glee upon previous retreats in which order was maintained with rigor rather than our current care to keep one another in line with love and laughter.

Dinner was baked fish, escalloped potatoes, peas, and salad.  It was agree it was a feast fitting for the heavenly banquet, much was had by all and much appreciation given to Sister Jennifer and Brother Tom for preparing such a great meal.  The dessert was fresh strawberries, homemade biscuits, and real whipped cream!

The dinner dishes proved the evidence of such a meal of abundance as Brother Jerry and Brother David ably handled the finicky appliances in the kitchen.  “Praise God From Whom All Dishwasher’s Flow!” came the newly revised hymn.  Bro. Less served as Chaplain in the evening reading and presented a wonderful remembrance of his youth listening to BBC radio.  In 1941 playwright Dorothy L. Sayers presented 12 plays for BBC radio, first aired on the Five O’clock Sunday Children’s Hour.  With her great skill as a writer, her strength as a reader of the Holy Scripture, and her courage of artistic integrity, the play “The Man Born to Be King” was scandalous at the time for daring to assert that the King James Version was not the original text of the Bible.

Reading the introduction to her book, we heard a bold proclamation of how modern sensibilities have long rejected the true nature of the great story of our Lord with niceties and formal phoniness.  She says, “Loose and sentimental theology gets loose and sentimental art!”  Jesus is theology in action.  A play needs to speak the truth of today.  This story brings Jesus, the real Jesus, “Face to face with the scandal of particularity.”  The irony is, the people of his day did not know him as God, and we say, “it couldn’t happen here!”  Not a classic tragedy, the gospel story is a divine comedy in which even “the worst of his sins is redeemable by his worst suffering.”  All were taken by the freshness and boldness of this playwright and we entered lively discussion about the insight of this writer.

We pray, “Holy God, help us to stand up to conventional morality, let us be true to ourselves, and to the desire to share that with others.”  Our night closed as we gathered at the Lord’s table by candlelight.  Bro. David’s sourdough bread gave rich taste and texture to the fond fellowship that we are so grateful to share, the bread and cup, gifts left to us by a wonderful Lord.  And, then, the Spirit calls us to quiet conversation and to sleep.

In Christ, Bro. Ken, evening scribe.

Tuesday Morning, May 22, 2012

And it was evening, and it was morning, the second day.  Which opened with a light rain, misty and mild.  The brothers and sisters rose at their various times.  Bro. Tom went out for a walk; Bro. David followed him running.  Sister Jennifer, assisted by Bros. Tom and Les, prepared breakfast, discovering that there were no muffin pans, and hence preparing uniquely shaped muffins, along with a copious amount of oatmeal.  Bro. Ken, the chaplain of the morning, offered thanks as we all dug in to a delightful feast, leaving sufficient quantity of oatmeal for another day’s breakfast. 

Bro. Ken led us through a fine series of readings, first recalling the Pentecost miracle of each hearing the good news from the mouths of Galileans in the native tongue of each.  Then, he recounted an exchange between Peter Rabbit and Old Mr. Toad, in which Old Mr. Toad demonstrated the usefulness of his tongue for catching bugs to the astonished Peter.  Next, as he read from Joyce Rupp’s the Open Door, he invited us to consider what the door to our hearts was like, and what kind of sign might be hanging from it.  (“Do Not Disturb”; “Wipe your feet”)  Finally, he offered a rich extended reading from a new collection of Henri Nouwen’s work entitled Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, in which Nouwen reminds the reader of the importance of holding discipleship and discipline together, and in a second chapter, recalls his friendship with Adam at the L’Arche community as his experience of breaking down distinctions.

With a closing prayer, the brothers and sisters were sent into our hours of blessed silence.

The rain kept us mostly indoors, some of us grateful for the porch, others for the rest of our rooms. 

Lunch broke the silence, with a delicious meal of vegetable soup, sandwiches, and an awesome cole slaw designed and built by Sr. Jennifer. 

Bro David

Tuesday, May 22, PM

During free time in the afternoon, most people read either on the porch or in the Lodge.  Sr. Alison took a nap. The rain kept us inside.  At 4pm, Bro. Less shared music: Two Ralph Vaughan Williams selections by the Vancouver Bach Choir and Symphony Orchestra, “The Old 100th Psalm Tune,” and “Serenade in Music.”  He also shared the amazing voice of Welsh singer, Bryn Terfel , “The Vagabond,” “Let Beauty Awake,” and “The Roadside Fire.”  At 4:30, we went out on the porch and “threw open the west facing door” and sang hymns from the New Century Hymnal, ending with the special Brothers and Sisters of the Way hymn.

After hymn sing, Bro. Jerry and Bro. Ken prepared dinner, while Sr. Alison took a long walk (the rain had finally stopped). Bro. David practiced on his mandolin on the porch. Others read quietly in the Lodge. At 6pm we enjoyed a wonderful chicken dinner, with chocolate pudding (w/lots of whipped cream!) for dessert. 

The evening reading time by Bro. David began with the sharing of two “Mad Farmer” poems by Wendell Berry, and then the reading of the Introduction and the Chapter on Incarnation from the book, An Altar in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor, ending with another poem by Wendell Berry “At a Country Funeral.”  Bro. David closed a time of silent prayer with a prayer of his own referring back to the themes of the readings. 

Communion was set-up and Chaplain, Bro. David, used p. 739 “Phos Hilaron” as an opening hymn and #879 in the New Century Hymnal, “A Litany for Evening.”  A communion liturgy from pages 5 through 10 in the front of the New Century Hymnal were used to guide us through the sacrament. Following communion we shared discussion on many subjects around the candlelit table.

At about 10pm people began to drift off to bed, although some stayed and read in the common room for a while longer.

Sister Allison

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 AM

The morning chimes awoke us to another gray over-cast day.  One might have rolled over to linger another few minutes but the scent of coffee and cooking bacon lured us from our rooms. Whether one would actually imbibe or eat either didn’t matter.   Scrambled eggs, bacon, resurrected oatmeal and English muffins were prepared and served by Brother Jerry and Brother David.  The breakfast conversation included lively dialogue about Bangor Seminary and its future.  Hopes of a locus for small church/rural ministry were bandied about along with tales from our respective small church ministries.  This conversation continued after the table was cleared as Brothers Jerry and Ken acted as the Marthas cleaning up the kitchen.

Our morning chaplain, Sister Allison, read to us Romans 8:22-27, the epistle reading for Pentecost.  And followed it with the “Pastoral Perspective” as found in Feasting on the Word, ed by David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor.  She shared a bit about her connection with Anne LaMott and then read two chapters from the book, Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith :  Nudges and The Last Story of Spring.  Time of silent prayer was observed and closed by Sister Allison with intercessions on behalf of all gathered. 

The sky lightened during our two hours of silence and at about 11 AM the sun cast designs on the meeting room floor.  Most used this quiet time to read or write.  Toward the end brief walks were ventured and work continued on the jigsaw puzzle that was begun during the rainy free time of yesterday.

At noon , we were again offered an abundance of delicious and lovingly prepared food.  Clam chowder,  grilled cheese and tossed salad, followed by assorted cookies and fruit.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sister Jennifer Geary

Thursday May 24, 2012

The morning dawned with sunshine (what is that?) but by the end of breakfast the sky had gone back to familiar clouds.  Many retreatants were already up before the ringing of the bell, packing and preparing for departure.  Sr. Jennifer’s husband Bud arrived with the waffle iron, and the making of breakfast waffles commenced.  Breakfast consisted of waffles and sausage, plus accumulated offerings of prior meals: fruit, apple crisp, and the ubiquitous and wonderful whipped cream (hand whipped, mind you). 

Following breakfast and before final clean up, the brothers and sisters walked to the flag pole and, with prayer from our beloved Prior, Bro. Tom lowered the flag and the retreat officially ended. 

Final cleanup commenced and the seven of us were on our way home.


Respectfully submitted,

Bro. David Keller