Rural Routes

Rural Routes is - was - will be again - a gathering of people who live in rural communities and serve/support a rural congregation. It is a retreat to a church camp space along the strait and under the sky where we can breathe and think, worship and talk, move and interact more freely than we often do in our home communities, where everything is familiar and routine, and struggling for relevance and survival. 

This was the first time I've attended a church-related retreat at a camp in ... many, many years. Twenty-five years, perhaps? Because I pulled away from church, and found my spiritual nourishment in places similar to camps, in books, in music.
But always alone. 
It's been too long since I've done this. As soon as we settled in on Friday morning, I remembered. 
And I felt like I was home. 

This was the first time I've spent three days with like-minded people in a quiet, welcoming, relaxed setting (the two-day Master Class in Preaching in March 2020 was a completely different experience. more formal, more brain than heart). I can hardly put into words how I felt being there, but I did thank the coordinators/hosts multiple times for doing this. And I did offer to be part of the planning group for next year. 

And I did not want to leave. 

The thing with retreats is
you return home
to the real world
to the same old same old

and all the inspiration
and new ideas
all the conversations 
and the connections
all the motivation
the commitment 
the energy
the different ways of doing 
the same old thing

stay behind

a retreat is like a wildflower
it looks beautiful waving in the field
clustered with others like it
creating this eye-catching pop of colour
in the familiar green landscape 

but as soon as you pick it
it begins to wilt
and you never make it home
with the wildflower looking as vibrant
as tall and alive and sparkling
as it looked in the field
in its space
where it is free and unencumbered

by rules and policies
resistance and stagnation
reluctance and apathy 

The music
the words
the atmosphere
making connections with new people
was nourishment for my soul
while the lasagna
and strawberry shortcake
and hot, dark tea
was nourishment for our breath and our brains
for the prayers with our bodies
and the discussions at our tables

conversations about collaboration
and creativity
farmers as mystics
what people are doing with their lives
and why we are lonely
being hungry for spirit and connection

but a retreat is a time apart
and back home
in our regular communities
it's hard to keep that energy
that unique and inspiring force
when you can't see how to feed it
like you did when 
your heart and mind
your soul and your strength
like wildflowers in a sunny field
the day after a rainstorm 

wild and free
and fleeting
hard to contain
overlooked and ignored
but so essential
to our existence 

~ SJ 


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