On Monday the staff and residents were treated to a mini-retreat. For a few hours we were invited to “Take A Step Back” from our daily routines to pray, reflect and share together. Adele and Candy planned and led the retreat that began at 11 am and lasted until 2:30 pm.

We began with an opening prayer service where each person was invited to light a candle and state their hopes and intentions for the day by speaking them out loud or holding them silently in our hearts. Candles were also lit for those who were not able to be with us for the day.

After the opening prayer, we were all invited to participate in a scavenger hunt of sorts. We were all given a list of sixteen “items” to find as we wandered around the building and grounds. Unlike the traditional hunt for specific things, these items were more abstract and required the participants to be present to their surroundings. Some of the items we were encouraged to seek were: something simple; something welcoming; a symbol of hope; something that has been transformed; someplace or thing in need of hospitality; a symbol of gratitude. There was no quota of items to find, and no prizes beyond the experience of being present.

After our scavenging, we were invited to share our findings and our experience. It was interesting to hear about the different places people were drawn to and the different perspectives and insights the participants shared about this holy place.

Adele then led us on a meditation journey and asked us to imagine we met Jesus along the way. As we were “on our way back” to the present moment, the meditation ended in a most surprising way when Candy announced, in song, that the pizzas ordered for lunch had arrived. Everyone got a hearty chuckle, and a second chuckle when Candy finally realized what had happened. Laughter is good for the soul, and the unplanned break actually satisfied one of the shared hopes for the day – that we could all laugh and have fun together.

After lunch, we were all invited to experience a walking meditation using our labyrinth. A little exercise and fresh air after lunch was smart planning, and much wiser than going with the request for another “eyes closed” meditation as one of us suggested. When we finished with the walking meditation, we gathered again in the Fireplace Lounge.  Then Candy introduced us to a Tibetan sing bowl, shared some of the story of singing bowls, and invited the bowl to sing for us so we could have that experience.

Finally, Candy distributed to each participant a card that she decorated on the front, and on the back she put our name with lines for writing. She then collected the cards and handed the whole pack to one of us.  She asked each of us to put one positive affirmation on each person’s card, then pass the card to the person next to them. Once all the cards made it around the circle, including cards for those who could not join us, Candy once again handed the card to the one named on the back of the card.  Those present were invited to read their collection of affirmations out loud for the group to hear. The cards were ours to keep as a reminder of the day and a reminder of the good qualities others see in us.

We were all blessed to be able to share a variety of experiences in a very short period of time, and to have a glimpse into what our guests experience when they come here. For some, perhaps all, there were new experiences to take with them. All seemed to appreciate the opportunity to “Take a Step Back” even if only for a few hours.

For the time and opportunity to step back, to leave our daily routines for a few hours to pray, reflect and share together as a team, we say Deo Gratias!