I had the opportunity to experience a retreat after the manner of St. Francis of Assisi this past weekend at Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio. Covenant Baptist is a unique place . . . baptists who practice contemplative ministry! This is also the home church of Gordon Atkinson, known to many as the Real Live Preacher.
This retreat came at the right time. I needed to think through a few things before resuming ministry after a three month sabbatical. We practiced the monastical hours of prayer and the retreat leaders encouraged us to write a rule of life. I was touched by many things . . . here are a few:
Hospitality--the Covenant folks are a most hospitable bunch. The meals were excellent and the setting is very restful. They made sure we retreatants had all that we needed to rest and refresh our spirits.
Availability--Gordon, Tim, Paul and the other leaders gave the gift of themselves for conversation and prayer.
Worship--The worship experiences were beautiful (Thanks Paul and Lexi for the marvelous music). I could have used more extended silences, but that is just my taste.
Interesting People--We were about as diverse a group of retreatants as you could assemble. I gleaned a lot from their stories, their struggles, and their insights.
I'm still working on my rule. I'm sure it will have something to do with stewardship of my time. I became really aware that what I value is not at all reflected in the way I allocate my time. My family, in particular, gets short-changed. I need to find a way of being where the way I spend my time reflects what I value more consistently.
Gordon said that he wasn't sure if they would continue offering these retreats beyond their own congregation. This was the third of three planned retreats to the public. He thought they probably would . . . I sure hope that they do. Such opportunities to withdraw for rest and reflection are great gifts to busy people in a chaotic world.