The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

A parish retreat at Bishopswood builds bonds of connection

by Kirsten Lowell
St. Ann’s, Windham

IMG_9793Moments of solitude, moments of fellowship, moments of peace, and moments of laughter. Moments like these were enjoyed throughout the woods of Camp Bishopswood in Hope over Labor Day weekend. More than 50 members of the St. Ann’s community in Windham gathered at beautiful Camp Bishopswood for a weekend of play, relaxation, discussion, learning, and worship. There were parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, friends new and old.

The discussion over the course of the weekend focused on a video by Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability,” which deals with the topics of courage, compassion, and connection. We learned about love and how it can, at times, seem harder than we originally thought. We gained courage to be vulnerable with one another and grow deeper in connection with each other. We showed compassion throughout the weekend by lending a helping hand, offering encouragement, and unconditionally loving one another. We connected through meals, focus groups, living in cabins together, playing games, and worship.

We no longer were strangers, or someone we simply said hello to on Sunday mornings. We left each discussion time with a better understanding of where we each come from and where we are currently.

The youth led a magnificent worship service for us including readings, dance, and music. They worked so beautifully st. anns retreattogether to create a worship service where there was a little bit of something for everyone. It was wonderful to see the youth use their talents to praise God and bring joy into the lives of others. On Sunday morning we enjoyed Eucharist in the chapel overlooking the beautiful lake. During this time we had come together in prayer during a healing service and prayer circles, at which point a young child, just three years old, joined in prayer and laying of hands for his mother. The power of prayer felt throughout the chapel was definitely something all present will remember for quite some time.

The weather was extremely cooperative, which allowed for some extended outdoor play Sunday afternoon. Each of the kayaks and canoes was put to good use by young and old alike, exploring the beautiful Lake Megunticook. A few were even brave enough to try their hand at paddle boarding, some more successfully than others.

IMG_9792Having Camp Bishopswood as a place for retreat from daily life allowed for some reflective alone time for many as well. Some enjoyed their time at Chapel Rocks, others enjoyed time sitting on the Great Hall Porch rocking away in the rocking chairs.

Camp is a place where age does not matter, and St. Ann’s weekend retreat truly reflected that. It was a time when teens and youth were placed in the same discussion groups with the elders of the church. It was a time when each person served one another, both at meal times and in worship. Each person laughed as we roasted marshmallows around a lakeside campfire and many of us stayed up late chatting in the cabins.

Not only did we learn about courage, compassion, and connection, we used the weekend together as a time to put these three things into practice along with the hopes of bringing them back to the rest of the St. Ann’s community who could not join us for the retreat.

We used our time together in focus groups and in play to truly build long lasting friendships and relationships. Folks are already looking forward to next year’s retreat!

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