Sunday, June 18, 2017

Reflections on a Retreat

One week ago, we said our good-byes to each other as those on the Lindisfarne Community retreat prepared to drive home — to Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and, of course, various areas of New York.

This World is Not My Home? was this year’s theme. The question mark is important as we looked at the various aspects of home and what it meant to us. Is home a physical location? Is home a spiritual place? Do we yearn for a home? How do we share our home? Is home our final resting place?  Too many questions for a short weekend retreat but, hopefully, our sessions were discussion starters, ideas to take home and peruse over the next few months.

Friday night was a time of sharing the highlights of our previous year and an introduction to the theme. The whole retreat was themed as “a conversation” with lots of planned discussion and informal talking to each other.

On Saturday, we began with a look at empathy and sharing our home. As an introduction, we watch a short clip from YouTube, The Empathic Civilization by social theorist, Jeremy Rifkin ( This traced how humanity developed as empathic beings, wanting to help and care for others — human, non-human beings and the world. We are sharing our home with others and have a responsibility to care for them and to take care of our world.
Rifkin showed how part of our empathic drive is to find connection with those who share the same nationality or religious identity. So how do we embrace those who are different? A very poignant question when all around us is talk of closing borders, refusing refugees, stereo typing and maligning those with a different religious identity.

Interesting, the first of our lectionary passages for this week starts with someone opening their home and embracing strangers. It is the story of Abraham and Sarah. They were at home when three men arrived at their tent door. Much discussion has been had about whether these men were angels or a pre-incarnation of God. I want only to note Abraham and Sarah’s first inclination when strangers visited them. They washed their dusty feet, they offered them a shady place to rest and they fed them. Not a quick visit as they had to bake bread, kill a calf (not a good story for one who abhors animal killing for food!), prepare curds and bring milk. Their home was a place of hospitality and refreshment.

The next session was about being responsible at home. Here we had lots of discussion about justice and injustice. How do we react to the injustices around us? What is our responsibility?
Here, too, this week’s lectionary affirms the idea of social responsibility. The text says, “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless” (Matt 9:36).

We then moved on at looking at being at home in our body. An introduction to the subject then a time of solitude to ponder our own relationship with our body. The ensuing discussion was lively, focusing much on how many of us are dissatisfied with our own body size or shape, our frustration when illness or infirmity prevents us from achieving all we would like to do and how worth is often linked to body size/shape. It was certainly a discussion which could have continued far beyond the limits of time. It was particularly noticeable that this was a feminist issue, with women being judged much more on physical appearance than men. Again, the lectionary informs us, “It is God that made us, and we are God’s” (Psalm 100:3)

The next session was a led meditation with the motif from the Wizard of Oz; “there is no place like home.” This meditation looked at home as one’s spiritual essence. Our final Saturday session was going home with a look at death. We started by watching an episode of a series called “The Moaning of Life” (Season one, episode 5, available on Netflix). If you like a laugh, worth watching. The presenter travelled around exploring different cultures approaches to death and he designed his own coffin. This led into another lively discussion, where we talked about what we would like to happen to our bodies after death. In addition, there was focus on how do we respect those who are dying and care for their families. Of course, the Celtic idea about where ever bones are laid to rest is the place of resurrection is always worth considering. The lectionary text again, “precious in the sight of God is the death of his faithful ones” (Alternate Psalm, 116: 15).

On Sunday, we were delighted to profess three new members — Jeremy, Scotty and Leah— and welcome a new novice —Yossi. Leah was also recognized as a contemplative and The Waystead as a new hermitage of the community. The marriage of Sue and Ken was blessed. Finally, we celebrated Eucharist with all the themes of home being brought together.

We left to return home rejoicing. I will end with final words from the week’s lectionary readings.  “Give thanks to God, bless God’s Name” (Psalm 100:4)