By Elizabeth Scott, St. Philip’s Church, Charleston
What does the word “Retreat” bring to mind? A get away? A break? A time for reflection? R & R?
During a recent weekend, September 21-23, a group of Anglican women gathered at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center for such a time.
The journey to St. Christopher itself is a drawing – a drawing away from the hustle and bustle of schedules, the towns and city, the traffic (the traffic!). It is a drawing to a quiet, secluded tip of land at the end of an island lush with vegetation, trees, wildlife, mosquitoes and chiggers (bring your spray!) and merging of ocean and river where quiet buildings have settled in amidst this former wilderness. This very expanse of nature can easily draw you into the presence or at least an awareness of God Himself.
As you enter the gates to this sanctuary, luxuriant with nature’s abundance and the sense of development and growth left behind, you can almost feel the weight fall away of whatever it took to get you there. There is a replacement of a calming sense of promise and renewal. The recent Diocesan Women’s Retreat did not disappoint.
Whether the choice was to stay overnight in available lodgings or commute from nearby locations, all registrants were able to fully participate in every aspect of the well- planned and organized weekend.
The retreat began with a welcoming greeting by the organizing committee, and we were treated to delicious meals, as always, by the St. Christopher kitchen staff. On Saturday afternoon we had the option to attend two lay witnesses, one on the power of forgiveness and the second on sharing your testimony. The organizers also provided a time of soaking prayer, meditation, and the laying on of hands for healing and refreshment in the Lord. There was free time, as well, to explore the island, visit with friends, or have time to yourself . On Sunday we gathered for a service of Holy Eucharist in the chapel.
The highlight of the retreat, though, was the three teaching sessions by Bishop Lawrence.
He spoke on the Lord’s Prayer, starting out by telling us this was going to be a journey from the head to the heart. One of the hopes he expressed was that we would move from saying it to praying it; that so often we fail to really pray and to really listen to and for God. He then proceeded to peel back the sections of the prayer, breaking them down and giving them new life to the hearers. On Saturday night, at his request, after his teaching on forgiveness, there was again, time for prayer and the laying on of hands. The Bishop is a most effective communicator and compelling storyteller and speaker (in this writer’s humble opinion) and he proved once again that there is no better material from which to reach hearts than the Scriptures themselves.
It is no secret that we are blest to have such a place as St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center. If you have been there, you already know this. If you have not, you have yet to discover it. Either way, when the next Diocesan Women’s Retreat rolls around, do yourself a favor. Get a friend – or a group of friends – from church and head on out to the island! Your efforts will be rewarded.
View photographs by Janet Stoda, below.