The treat of retreat.

by Stephanie McCullough

There are several things in our community life that remind us of our position as Episcopal Service Corps residents in our particular time and space.
— When someone says “bless you” from another room after a mere sneeze permeates the thin walls of the GotH Manor = shared life together
— When we are two or three chairs short at the dinner table = simple living
— When college kids keep us awake with their live jazz band concerts next door, or when bikers compliment my hammock as I lounge in the front yard = Oregon Hill
— When we need some random kitchen item and it appears on our doorstep within a few days = the love and support of the parishioners of St. Andrew’s

Particularly notable in our time so far have been the three incredible retreats our program has done. Each time, I am acutely aware of the blessing of retreat. It is a pure and beautiful reminder of our status as ESC members/not-quite-fully-independent adults of society. PtL. A few months ago I blogged about our mid-year retreat at Emery House, a wonderful experience very different from the one from which we recently returned. IMG_2618.JPG Last Friday, we left for a 2-night stay at Chanco on the James. Though I’d never been there, arrival 100% felt like a homecoming to me. Something about summer camp always feels familiar, welcoming, and glorious; years of employment at Camp War Eagle have apparently done that to me. The campus was green and lush, the view of the river lovely. Smiling faces of chipper people greeted us. Their initial friendliness kicked off a weekend of fellowship with some of the most personable, considerate people I’ve met. imagejpeg_0-1 Our program retreated with two ESC programs from North Carolina: The Abraham Project and Johnson Service Corps. Time at Chanco was a blast, spent alongside friends old, new, and even future! I’ll be moving to Winston-Salem, NC after Grace-on-the-Hill ends, and thankfully a few of the folks we met will be living there or nearby next year. Huzzah for meeting future Stephanie’s extrovert needs!

Last weekend we spent our time gaming, sporting, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, zip lining, resting, hammocking, stargazing, praying, chatting, reading, eating, and appreciating the delightfulness of Creation. This is just not the kind of thing “real” adults get to do on a regular basis.

But honestly, they ought to. Rest is healthy. It’s good, it’s necessary, and often it’s inconvenient. The bother of it has long inhibited my busy body/restless soul. I’ve kept up such a buzzing state of busyness for so many years that a few particular times of repose have wrecked my body. After graduating from college I watched Netflix and did little else for at least a week, and I got tremendously sick when the pace changed. For YEARS I have ignored the value of rest and retreat; instead I chose experience and productivity. What a disgustingly American thing to do…

On Abbott’s last Sunday with us before her sAbbottical (sabbatical for normal folk) began, she spoke of the importance of sabbath (sAbbotth in her case?). She ended her sermon by saying, “Discover what it means to enter deeply into a rhythm of life that includes holy rest. Discover what it means to live more fully in accordance with your God-given original design. Delight in your days, for God’s sake… for your sake, for our sake, for the world’s sake.”

This charge is definitely one I’ll carry with me out of this program. Next year provides an opportunity for a very different pace of life, and with it a chance to practice! I look forward for the chance to flex my burgeoning retreat muscles as I begin a new chapter of life. A married one at that! Luckily my fiancé is a champion of repose (a rePROse? eh? eh?) whose expertise on napping may rub off on me yet.

Good, better, best; make some time for rest. Let every bit that’s stressed feel every way it’s blessed.

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