Participant’s Reflections on the 2013 Fall Retreat, New Harmony, Indiana

Pilgrimage as Prayer was the theme of the 2013 Fall retreat in New Harmony, Indiana. We began by thinking about journeys we had taken and whether or not they were simply trips or perhaps could be thought of as pilgrimages. What is the difference? For me it is attempting to remain in God’s presence throughout the journey. This moved me to begin thinking of my entire journey through life as a pilgrimage.

The Rev. Susie Skinner, our experienced retreat leader suggested we think of a pilgrimage as our being led by God on a sacred journey. She guided us throughout this process through the use of scripture and brief meditations, giving us time for silent reflection that was enhanced by allowing our subconscious to assist our meditation through the use of various art media. Each session concluded with the opportunity to share our reflection with the group.

IMG_3232In addition there was time to enjoy simply being outdoors surrounded by nature. New Harmony is delightful in Fall. We were encouraged to take silent prayer walks around the lake and through the woods surrounding the Abbey Barn that was our home for the weekend. We also experienced taking a prayer walk in a group as we journeyed to the Cathedral Labyrinth. This beautiful granite labyrinth was modeled after the one in Chartres Cathedral in France. As I walked the twists and turns of the labyrinth towards the center, I thought of all the twists and turns that my life had taken to this point, some of which felt like wandering in the desert full of angst, others full of purpose and filled with joy.  On reaching the center I became conscious of God surrounding me.  I let go of all that was not God that had been in my life in the past and it was as though a burden dropped from my shoulders. As I journeyed out again going through the same twists and turns of the labyrinth it was with a sense of lightness and joy.

It soon became apparent that there was a rhythm to our life together modeled on Benedictine Spirituality. ThereIMG_3241 was a balance between worship, times of quiet solitude, and work (simple chores of food preparation and clean up,) that is necessary in every community to insure that our time together runs smoothly. Our days began with Morning Prayer from our Episcopal tradition and ended with Compline from the Celtic tradition. Our weekend concluded with an informal celebration of the Eucharist, where each person brought something meaningful from her time spent in prayer and reflection to place on the altar, as an offering of thanksgiving to God for this sacred time spent together. Our entire weekend was greatly enriched by the music provided by Lura Koch’s playing of her Tibetan Singing Bowls and her melodious flutes. Music would call us to silence at the beginning of our sessions together.  Music accompanied us on our communal prayer walks and as we journeyed around and around the labyrinth. Music was an integral part of our worship together.

IMG_3255I will remember this retreat as a joyous time to simply “be” with God and other pilgrims. I will remember it as a time I reveled in the incredible beauty of Fall in New Harmony. And I will remember it as a time I was brought closer to God through the haunting music of the Tibetan Singing Bowls and the incredible flutes.

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New Harmony was a perfect setting for retreating from the world and taking time for spiritual renewal. Susie is an excellent mentor and guide for those seeking to deepen their own spiritual awareness. The women who attending shared so many talents during the weekend, each adding her uniqueness to the total experience. Those who came as strangers left with connections to the other participants and to their own pilgrimage towards God. I will take the seeds of this experience with me into the future and grow stonger in my faith.

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Thank you so much for a wonderful retreat. What keeps coming into my mind several times a day is that I hope to make my life more of a pilgrimage, in other words, I hope to make my life more intentional and prayer is an important way into that life.

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I would recommend this retreat to anyone wanting a relaxing weekend in the Fall. Arrive early enough to take the walking tour of the historical part of the town. The colorful leaves and crisp air add so much to the memories.

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