For over 100 years, Montreat Conference Center, in North Carolina, has been a place set apart for those who journey there seeking a closer relationship with the Creator.
This past August, it was also the site of Well-Being Retreat 2019, a three-day event co-sponsored by the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation. More than 115 active and retired ministers and employees of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), spouses, and surviving spouses gathered by Lake Susan’s shore for rest, renewal, worship, and learning.
For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
— Luke 12:23
The tranquil beauty of Montreat reinforced this year’s theme: Life Is More — a reference to Luke 12, which reminds us that it is primarily spiritual, not material, pursuits that fulfill us.
“At each retreat, we strive to create an experience in which participants will be nourished in all ways, especially spiritually,” said the Reverend Lori Neff LaRue, the Board’s Director of Wholeness Education and retreat organizer and pastoral host.
Now in its fourth year, Well-Being Retreat gives participants opportunities to develop those areas of wholeness ― spiritual, health, financial, and vocational ― that need attention. To that end, this year’s retreat offered 30 unique workshops and other offerings — some more than once — giving participants practical information and resources to help them on their paths to wholeness.
Retreat attendees also had the chance to join the Reverend Frank Clark Spencer, President of the Board of Pensions, on a literal path: a hike to Lookout Mountain, which 20 participants intended to summit. The hikers had just begun their climb when thunder and the threat of rain forced them to turn back. Determined to make the most of their time together, the group stopped at Chapel of the Prodigal to linger over, and learn about, its renowned Ben Long fresco.
Resilience such as that shown by the disappointed hikers is a hallmark of health, participants in several workshops learned.
Harnessing Resilience, a workshop by a representative of the Board’s Call to Health coaching partner, ADURO Inc., helped participants understand, and improve, their emotional reactions to change. Another workshop addressed building physical resilience through strength training and stretching.
Yet another examined spiritual resilience: Christians Believe in the Resurrection, led by the Reverend Beth Scibienski, considered changes in the vocation of pastor and addressed the question, How do we grieve what is gone so we can embrace what is resurrecting? Rev. Scibienski is the author of Who Is God When We Hurt?
Other workshops were led by guest presenters the Reverend David Norse and R. Eric Thomas, Board of Pensions benefits partners Highmark and Fidelity Investments, and Board staff.
Attendees had opportunities to engage in various forms of creative spiritual expression — drawing, painting, coloring, and crafting — in a space curated by CREDO faculty member Debbie Hamrick, who has a degree in fine arts. Those who visited Creativity Corner found themselves reconnecting with God the Creator as they mindfully performed creative work.
“It refreshed my soul!” said one participant of her creative experience.
Four prayer stations were staged throughout the conference center, each building on the theme Life Is More. Designed by Ms. Hamrick and Education Program Administrator Devin Johns, each station included an art component, to which participants were invited to contribute. At the final worship service, those components, which included prayerful reflections, came together to form a communal tree.
As Well-Being Retreat 2019 came to a close, participants reflected on what they had experienced. “This year’s Well-Being Retreat was particularly rewarding, combining both inspiration and information shared in big and small groups and individual conversations,” said one participant.
“After our time together, especially surrounded by the natural beauty of Montreat, it is easy to acknowledge the truth of the retreat theme: Life is more!”
Mark your calendar now to attend Well-Being Retreat 2020 in Montreat, August 17-19. Additional details will be available in early spring. Until then, check out all that Board University has to offer, including seminars, e-learning, and webinars related to your health and wholeness.