The Lincoln Christian Seminary Student Cabinet provided fellow seminarians with a weekend of community-building during its annual retreat February 21-22, 2014 at Camp Griesham in rural Atlanta. Seminary students and faculty who took advantage of the annual event found themselves immersed in a weekend of meaningful fellowship and simplicity similar to that of the disciples awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2.
“Neal Windham [LCU Professor of Spiritual Formation] challenged each participant with the idea of ‘practicing the presence,’” said event organizer and Student Cabinet President, Jon Magnuson, “a gentle pressure on the will, growing into a larger awareness of God in every part, every season, every struggle or difficulty in our lives.”
Matthew Termeer, a Master of Divinity (Old Testament) student, appreciated the weekend’s calm pace and seclusion. “The chance to get away had the biggest impact on me,” he said.
The two-day respite from a typical weekend of errands, projects, shopping and movies, included lodging, meals, guided times of silence and reflection and break-out discussions. Activities, like meal-preparation, became acts of goodwill and service, while solitude ranged from solo walks around the campgrounds to journaling and prayer, or simply sitting in the Camp’s chapel. Everything pointed to connecting with God.
“Often we fear bringing the messy, dark and broken parts of our lives before God,” Magnuson added. “We question God’s concern for these areas, wanting to get rid of them rather than bringing them into His presence so they may be transformed.”
Transformation happened for some in the most ordinary ways. With little or no concern for timetables, the participants engaged in times of solitude which led to deeper fellowship when the group assembled for discussions.
“The most meaningful times for me were during free time,” said Master of Arts in Counseling student, Elizabeth Humphrey. “The conversations were encouraging and I got to hear how God was moving in other students’ lives . . . I got to know students I would not have met in other contexts.”
Set aside each year as a time of intentional quiet, the retreat offers Seminary students and faculty an opportunity to experience the rejuvenating effects of rest, silence and solitude as a benefit to daily life.
“Silence and solitude are not practices reserved only for the spiritually elite or monks,” Magnuson said, “. . . what if our rest influenced our schedules rather than our schedules influencing our rest? What would our marriages, relationships, ministries and classrooms look like?”