What are your reactions to the Fall 2011 retreat?

“Celebrating Creation,” a women’s retreat, brought together 13 participants under the leadership of the Rev. Susan Skinner on the last weekend of October. The Barn Abbey in New Harmony, Indiana, provided a spare, monastic setting, with simply furnished bedrooms, communal baths, and a big living/meeting room with windows on the woods and a gas fireplace burning.

The picturesque town of New Harmony, home of two different utopian communities in the 19th century, offered opportunities to hike through the wooded areas, walk a labyrinth, enjoy outdoor sculptures, visit reconstructed cabins of the first settlers, and observe water birds on a nearby pond.

A joyful atmosphere pervaded the weekend, which began with a simple but tasty supper of soup, salad, and bread on Friday evening. Then the group confronted this spiritual dilemma: how to maintain a peaceful and monastic atmosphere in the face of the final game of the World’s Series? In a wise compromise, the opening evening session was moved up a half hour, and a television was located for those who wished to celebrate creation in the form of a Cardinals’ win.

The entire weekend was blessed with chilly but sunny fall weather, perfect for meditation on the beauty of creation. Readings and stories drawn from Benedictine and Celtic traditions led to suggestions that the participants go out into nature and respond with drawing, writing, photos, or simply with remembrances to share when the group gathered again. In a spirit of the Benedictine “ora et labore,” everyone pitched in to help prepare and clean up after meals. Even the bread for Eucharist was baked by group members, filling the Barn Abbey on Sunday morning with a delicious aroma.

Many of the participants were strangers at the beginning of the weekend, but a bond developed as group members shared their experiences, thoughts and prayers, and by the end of the weekend, a true spirit of community had formed. Everyone left with a sense of refreshment and renewal, and a desire to return to New Harmony at some future time.

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4 Responses to What are your reactions to the Fall 2011 retreat?

  1. Janet Schisser says:

    I’m still enjoying the healing and rejuvenation I received at the fall retreat. What a great group of women to spend 36 hours with – surrounded by the Holy Spirit. Thanks to Susie and Mary Jane for pulling it together.

  2. Pamela Evans says:

    I did not know anyone attending except for Rev. Susie Skinner who led the retreat – which was enough reason to enthusiastically sign up! I now have 13 more friends on my spiritual journey! New Harmony was fabulous, the weather cooperated and we enjoyed soaking in the beauty and contemplating prayer in every part of the day. Nature abounds in New Harmony and I had just one word at the end of the weekend – JOYFUL! Thank you Susie and thank you “spiritual” friends. We laughed, we cried, we ate wonderful food – brought home a World Series win to St. Louis and the weekend could not have been more perfect in any way. In Gratitude to all of you 🙂 and to God.

  3. Susie Skinner says:

    It was a joy for me to be with the group at New Harmony.

  4. rsdowns says:

    It was a joy to participate in this retreat in New Harmony. The grounds were a perfect setting to be part of God’s creation and the Barn Abbey the perfect place to meet with the 13 women.

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