On Friday October 13th Hinenites travelled to beautiful Gibson's to have a retreat at Consolation House, which is run by Pastor Brian Heinrich and his partner Nathan Strijack working out of their repurposed Orthodox monastery.
We arrived after dark to the peal of the monastery bell and the toasty warmth of the wood-burning stove at Consolation House, which one resident excitedly described as “Instagram worthy.” Our time together began with a wonderful chocolate cake, baked by Heidi, to celebrate Jason Brown's recent successful defense of his dissertation!
In the morning several of us gathered in the tiny Consolation House chapel to have Morning Prayer. We used Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, a wonderful resource put out by members of the new monastic movement. We emerged to an amazing breakfast, only the first in a series of astonishingly generous and delicious meals.
We then gathered downstairs to share our spiritual autobiographies, which all did with sacred honesty and openness. A few tears were shed, and the response in one instance, which left my heart most warmed, was, “You don't have to apologize for your feelings or your tears here.” I have rarely felt so honoured to be among holy people.
After a quick break, we dived into the Gospel of Thomas. I wasn't sure about the biblical and hermeneutical literacy of everyone in the group, so I kept things open by using a Godly Play inspired model of presenting a text (read three times) and asking “wondering questions.”
The following passages were read over the course of the day in three separate sessions, with the accompanying questions asked after each presentation.
Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, 'Look, God's kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, God's kingdom is within you and it is outside you.”
I wonder what God's kingdom is.
I wonder what God's kingdom feels like within a person.
I wonder why people might think that God's kingdom is in the sky or the sea.
Jesus' disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?”
“It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, God's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it.
I wonder what God's kingdom looks like.
I wonder why people don't see it.
I wonder why God would spread it out upon the earth.
The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us, how will our end come?”
Jesus said, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is. Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death.”
I wonder why the disciples were asking about the end.
I wonder what it means for the end to be where the beginning is.
I wonder what it means to stand at the beginning.
After each presentation, all of us were given the chance to respond in some way. In proper Godly Play style, I asked each person specifically what they would do. Some caught up on their sleep, wrote in journals, coloured some colouring pages I had brought, or went for a walk around the property. There is a beautiful path leading up to a fantastic lookout that several folks enjoyed.
We were treated to a magnificent lunch, and some time with our hosts, who told about their adventures living in the monastery and having guests. We also had a tour of the monastery itself, and got a chance to have Evening Prayer in the chapel. I had brought my harp to lead us in music.
After a scrumptious dinner we had some time to relax and enjoy one another's company. We drank wine and were treated to some guitar and bodhran by residents and Nathan.
In the morning several of us joined Pastor Brian in the monastery chapel for Eucharist. It was wonderful to be together, singing, learning, and feasting. This was a highlight for a couple of the residents.
We ended our time with yet another amazing meal, and finally packed up and headed back on the ferry. The clouds had cleared and we were treated to a beautiful afternoon, despite the heavy traffic!
This was a great opportunity to strengthen our bonds as a community, and I am really looking forward to our next community retreat at Rivendell in May.