Retreat Reflections

The chaplains did some good work at the retreat
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This is belated, but I got stranded in Hershey, PA the day after the retreat so I’m sharing now.

This past weekend the Eastern University Student Chaplains held their third annual winter retreat at Central Baptist.  It’s a big weekend for me, as my wife and I were both chaplains while we were at Eastern and re-connecting with the program was high on our list of priorities once we got back into the Philly area.  It’s an additional joy for me, because I feel that my particular gifts lend well to short, intensive, learning experiences – and this annual retreat lets me develope those gifts in a forgiving setting.

As with all my teaching, I do my best not to do a lot of “pre-chewing” for people.  Part of the joy of teaching for me is hearing insights I wouldn’t have come up with, and I work that into my style.  I also refuse to pre-chew because I often have no context for what is going on in the dorms where the Chaplains serve – thus, my goal is to help the chaplains construct some “theological tools” which most Evangelicals™ are used to (if “a” happens, do “b” stuff).  Still, the “applicability” rating was the lowest score (3.97 out of 5) in the retreat responses the chaplains gave.  So we’ve got some room for improvement on that front.

One of the things I most appreciated was how the chaplains got into the opening Wii™ Home Run Derby.  They were formed into four teams, which became their small groups for the retreat, and had a two round competition.  The goal was to demonstrate how important encouragement is in a community through cheering on each contestant, which I wasn’t sure the group would get “in” to – but they went nuts.  Even better, the chaplains called upon Joe Modica (the University chaplain) to swing the wii-mote and went nuts as he proceeded to hit more home runs than any contestant (video coming soon).  It was a great opening moment, for which I’m greatful.

Small group exercises were rated higher this year than last, which was gratifying because I wrestled with their work-outs quite a bit as I wrote the materials.  Each group wrote a prayer for use on their floors which was meant to help focus residents on doing life together well – they read these prayers during Monday’s worship and I hope they do get used on their floors.

The evening session, however, continues to lag.  Between a full belly and a full schedule before the evening teaching session, folks just seem ready for a break (though, to their credit, the chaplains did have some good reflections in the evening worship).  I think we’ll keep the skits, since there’s something to be said for just having some fun with a purpose – but I’m not sure we’ll keep the same lesson-format for the evening next year.  Instead, I think we’ll do a version of evening Vespers that might include some Lectio and personal reflections.  That would limit “teaching” to two sessions, but I think it will work.  It also might be a good idea to set up some ideas that give more form to the afternoon free-time, but I’ll have to ponder that before coming to any conclusions.

So, to the chaplains, thanks for coming and giving us the privilege of being with you.   To Central Baptist, thank you for seeing my heart in this and making space for me to prepare/lead the retreat, as well as making such wonderful hospitality avaiable to a group of students you don’t really know (your hospitality was the highest response in the retreat survey).