I've always been a silent retreat fan - so when I arrive, I'll be going into a silence that will last a few days. The only time I'll actually use my voice is to speak - or sing - at worship services. And there will be many opportunities to worship. Opportunities to sit and pray while others do the leading and celebrating. And through all of this, as I slip more and more into silence, I will begin again to hear better the rhythms of God's still, quiet voice.
This particular retreat will be marked by prayers for St. Andrew's - and for our ministry together as we prepare to celebrate the Renewal of Ministry & my installation in a few weeks. This more formal beginning marks an important relationship between priest and parish - and asks for God's blessing on this partnership. So during these next days, I'll pray for the parish as a whole - and for each member by name. And I'll ask God each day to strengthen us all - so that our witness in the world might grow - so that this part of the Body might grow a bit more into the role that God intends for us.
Folks always look at me a little funny, though, when I say I'm going away for a few days to be quiet. Either it sounds strange - or it sounds like vacation. It may be a bit strange - or perhaps it's just me who's a bit strange - but there is a long and beautiful tradition of the faithful before us who have participated in practices like these. Who, far more routinely than I'm able to, set aside time to wait and listen for God's voice.
In truth, this is part of the Christian journey for all of us. Not everyone might want to go live in silence for a few days - and that's okay. But we are all responsible for carving out space - and time - to live into and build on our relationship with God. We do that in different ways, depending on who we are and what we need - but the need for all of us to make time for God is always present. I do so perhaps a bit more obviously - as I will this week - because I've learned that this time fills me up better than anything else. It's important to know, though that this time is not exactly "restful" - as some have assumed. It is in one way, at least - in that there is rest to be found in God's presence. But more than that, retreat time is often very intense.
When I go on retreat, I intentionally spend time reading and praying - and looking for God; often feeling a bit like Jacob who wrestles with the angel. Like all relationships, I have to put the work in - and so I study scripture - get up early to go pray the Liturgy of the Hours along with the brothers - and spend a lot of time intentionally waiting for God. To get what you need out of a retreat can often be a lot of work. The silence helps me, though - so that I don't get distracted from the internal work - so that I have to focus on what's inside instead of outside.
So, off to retreat I go. To wait and listen and wrestle and pray for the life and ministry of St. Andrew's - and for the work God is calling us to do together.