Next week (September 20 – 28) I am off on my Silent Retreat/Study Leave.  Each year of service here at CFC I’m given 10 days of Study Leave.  Providing Study Leave is a wise thing for churches to do for clergy, in recognition that clergy are called to be Pastors and Teachers as we believe in the United Church of Christ.  In fact, one of the Ordination Vows for UCC Ministers is, “Do you promise to be diligent in your private prayers and in reading the scriptures, as well as in the public duties of your office?”  Truthfully, it’s hard to stay in the grind of week in and week out congregational messages (in the form of these Thursday Thoughts, weekly sermons, teaching Bible Study and Discipleship, etc.) if you’re not learning and growing in your own faith.  

So I’m off to Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts for an 8 day directed retreat.  I went on retreat at Eastern Point in 2020, it’s truly a beautiful place.  What will I be doing?  Here’s how the good folks at Eastern Point (this retreat center is run by Jesuit priests) explain Directed Retreats: 

“Although differing in their duration, Directed Retreats are a privileged time for you to deepen your relationship with God. You will be assigned a trained spiritual director with whom you will meet briefly each day to discern the movements of God in your life as revealed through your prayer. Aside from these daily conversations and the time you set aside for your own personal prayer, your time is unstructured. The only group prayer offered is the daily Eucharistic liturgy. An atmosphere of silence is to be maintained in the house and on the grounds for the duration of the retreat.” 

Retreatants do what God is inviting you to do.  This time away entails 22-23 hours of silence every day.  Those on retreat are invited to mass and to speak with their Spiritual Director daily.  Meals are taken in silence.  Walking the grounds is done in silence as well.  You cannot speak on your cell phone even in your room.  Sure, you could bring some headphones and watch Netflix on your laptop all day . . . but I don’t!  I actually put my cell phone in airplane mode so that I don’t receive any messages at all, using it only for the camera (because photography makes me happy).  So yes, no phone calls, texts, emails, or social media messages for 8 days.  (Though I do make one exception, and that’s to check in with Neill every day!)

Anyway, what will I bring with me?  A stack of books, my Bible, my journal, some markers and paper to color should creativity strike, and decent shoes to walk the beautiful grounds.  Oh, and a large coffee mug is a must for me . . . but most importantly, I’ll bring an open heart to truly be on holiday with God.   

The next edition of Thursday Thoughts will arrive in your inbox on October 6, and I would be honored to be held in prayer during this time away.  Thank you, beloved congregation, for providing this time for me to deepen my own relationship with God.

Pastor Lauren

Photo by Rev. Lauren L. Ostrout: Eastern Point Retreat House, Gloucester, MA, 2020.

Thursday Thoughts 9/15/22