Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Retreat

Retreat Photos on Facebook

On Friday morning, Willard and I attended the men's breakfast at First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca. I ran into my friend Eric there and had a good time chatting with the various men who attended. Afterwards, I strolled around the Ithaca Commons and had a cup of tea at Juna's while Willard ran some errands. After lunch, a nap, and taking care of a few last minute details online, Willard and Dorothy drove me up to the Lindisfarne Community retreat, held for the past two years at Casowasco Camp, Retreat, and Conference Center affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Casowasco sits right on the banks of Lake Owasco. When I was a student at Ithaca College, the Protestant Community took a retreat there my first year. I still remember that we stayed in Wesleyan Lodge. This time, the Lindisfarne Community stayed at Galilee Cottage, the mansion that was the original building on the property, called a mere cottage by its extraordinarily wealthy owners, that was then donated to the Methodists. The facility is quite nice with plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms, a large living room, a central dining room, a foyer, a kitchen, a nook, and a library. Just outside is a gazebo in which we held morning and mid-day prayers each day. Evening prayers and meetings were held in the library that overlooks the lake through the windows that line its outer edges. The ordinations were held in the living room because we needed space for James and Scott to make the prostrations.

Many members of the community were running behind schedule and arrived just in time to drop their bags off and rush over to Emmaus Commons for dinner. When we arrived for dinner, we learned that we were sharing Casowasco with a large women's group from a church that several members of the community had affiliation with in the past and a middle school group. The middle school group was quite loud, not very well behaved, and often downright rude. Typical middle-schoolers. After dinner we ventured back to Galilee Cottage for a meeting and night prayer. The meeting began with silent meditations for 10 minutes and then moved on to an introduction to the theme of the retreat - mindfulness - by Abbot +Andy, Abbess +Jane, Prior John+, and Prioress Chris+. Each of theme shared thoughts on what mindfulness consists in. In the middle of the reflections on mindfulness, James+ took vows of celibacy, the first in our community to do so. After the vows, Bishop +Joe of the Celtic Christian Church, a sister communion to Lindisfarne Community, asked for a chance to address the community. He explained that he had been a Roman Catholic priest who left the priesthood upon falling in love with Cait+. For the last 20 years, +Joe and Cait+ have been working with women who have fallen romantically in love with priests. +Joe explained that priests have two options in such a situation: either leave the priesthood and marry the woman, or stay in the priesthood and remain single and celibate. He went on to commend the way the Lindisfarne Community handled James+' vow of celibacy because it was a voluntary vow undertaken after much prayer and discernment. He further commended the community for making a clear distinction between the vocation of celibacy and the vocation of ordination. His reflections were powerful and provoked thought from members of the community throughout the rest of the retreat.

The following day I led morning prayer in the gazebo. For the meditation, I read a poem my friend Danielle commended to me for reflection before I left: “Heavy” by Mary Oliver. I also chanted the psalm, which many of the members of the community commented that they liked; perhaps it will become more common in the community in future. We finished at precisely two minutes to 8 and so had just enough time to get to breakfast. After breakfast we had free time until mid-day prayers. I took some time to chat with +Andy about the various projects we are both involved in: university chaplaincy for me, teaching for him, both of us writing in various academic genres, especially philosophy. After our chat I decided to try one of the many trails Casowasco boasts. I took the gorge trail which climbed rather steeply and sometimes precariously up the gorge to the main road. It was a thoroughly energizing hike and then I walked back down the road and through one of the camp sites back to Galilee cottage for a change of scenery. After mid-day prayers and lunch, we gathered in the large living room of Galilee house for the ordinations. We first professed Scott+ and James+ and vested them in the garb of the community. Following this, we had the service of ordination. As the deacon, I read the gospel and presented the candidates for ordination to the bishops on behalf of the community. James+ was ordained a deacon and then a priest and Scott+ was ordained a deacon. Both shared moving parts of their faith journeys that had led them to the Lindisfarne Community. Following the ordinations was Eucharist and then we moved out onto the lawn for pictures; many pictures. After the pictures we were all glad to get out of our vestments because it was in the high 80s that day; I had practically sweated through my alb! After dinner we had a time of sharing in which we got into a deep conversation about our role as ministers to people on the margins. This was punctuated by several lively games facilitated by Prior John+. After a snack and night-prayers, many people stayed up late into the night, carrying the conversation about ministry forward and reflecting on the ordinations. It was a deeply rich day for all involved.

On Sunday we had morning prayer on the gazebo again and then had the liturgy of the word in the library. In addition to the homily we had a time of sharing about what the retreat had meant to us and several of us shared some highlights from our ministry over the past year. I played a couple of recordings of the Marsh Chapel Choir, which has been a deep source of community for me over the past year even as it is also one of the best, if not the best, church choirs in Boston. Mike+ shared a DVD full of pictures from a mission trip he took to Haiti. +Andy preached on the Holy Trinity, it being Trinity Sunday and all, and talked about how the Trinity is a symbol that carries us beyond words to a deeper reality. Following the liturgy of the word, we vested for the Eucharist around the table in the dining room. I set the table as the deacon and +Jane celebrated. After lunch we packed up Galilee Cottage and departed.

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