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Going Silent

Posted by on Jan 25, 2019 in News | 1 comment

Going Silent

(I wrote this reflection awhile ago before I joined the Hermitage Community. I share it to provide a glimpse into how silent retreats might be experienced.) The road sign into The Hermitage property in Three Rivers, Michigan (USA), says, “Begin to drive slowly.”  It is a safety request but it is also a sign of what is to come while I stay at the contemplative prayer retreat facility. My desire is to slow down, to stop pushing, to cease striving, to go silent.  My desire is to pray, to listen, to quiet my inner noise. Often, when I first arrive at The Hermitage, I go to the library and check out several books that I foolishly think I am going to read during my retreat. It is a frenetic reading, quickly trying to grab information to enable me to find the inner peace and quiet I need and want. Rather than simply getting quiet, I skim the books and continue to feel restless and fidgety. After a few hours of my arrival, I begin to relax. It is like I have an inner coil that has been overly wound and the coil begins to ease the tension. I allow my shoulders to drop and become conscious of my breathing, inhaling deeper then slowly exhaling. The silence of The Hermitage begins to seep into me as I am only distracted by the wind and the birds. At last, I grow quiet and enter into a deep silence. Prayer undergirds life at The Hermitage—silent prayers, meal prayers, communal prayers.  The mission statement for The Hermitage is, “Creating an environment of attentiveness to God” and this is my primary purpose as well. I want to be attentive to God. I want to see God in the beauty of the landscape and to see God’s loving face in the faces of the staff. My favorite activity while on retreat is the daily morning prayers with the staff and other guests. Although we come from different locales and denominations, we join together to pray, confess, affirm, intercede, and bless. The Holy Spirit moves in us and amongst us as pray. Near the conclusion of the morning prayer, we bless one another with these words: “____, you are the bearer of God’s infinite life.”  Each person around the circle states their name and we repeat: “David, you are the bearer of God’s infinite life.” Some people look at one another as we bless them while other people look away as if this blessing is too intimate, too wonderful to receive from strangers. At my turn, I state my name and as everyone else says, “June, …” I say with them, “I, am the bearer of God’s infinite life.” I claim this blessing as a fact even if I am not feeling particularly holy or godly. As I become more attentive to God, I begin to write prayers in my journal. Or, I begin to pray what is known as the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” Or, if I am trying to discern a decision, I might write about the decision within a spirit of prayer, asking God to reveal to me which way to go. I resist demanding a quick answer to my prayers as I demand when I am anxious and frantic. Instead, I can be with God, waiting quietly, like sitting alongside loved ones, waiting for God to speak. In deep silence, I become more attentive to God. When I am in deep prayer, I can let God be God and me be me.  When I am...

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What Sustains the Hermitage

Posted by on Jan 18, 2019 in News | 3 comments

My relationship with The Hermitage through the last nearly 20 years has been as volunteer, retreatant, board member, and now resident community/staff. In each of these four roles I have noticed different things that sustain The Hermitage. In the fall of 1999 my wife and I lived at The Hermitage for three months as volunteers when Gene and Mary Herr were here as directors. The Hermitage had a history of young people, and others volunteering for extended times. I saw the crucial role these volunteers played in sustaining this place. As a retreatant I was most aware of the hard work and attention to detail that the Herrs, and then David and Naomi Wenger brought to The Hermitage. The Hermitage was sustained though their ability and perseverance. I was like most guests who experience my time here as effortless, but know that this only happens through the dedicated sustaining work of the staff. As I grew into my role on the board my attention toward sustaining The Hermitage was often viewed through the lens of finances. The work of running a retreat center costs money and sustaining The Hermitage required the influx of money through payment for retreats, spiritual direction, and charitable contributions. So many have given so much to support the ministry of The Hermitage. And now my wife and I are part of the resident community/staff and I have been delighted to encounter a new vision for what sustains The Hermitage – it is all our guests, past, present, and future, and their prayers. Without the presence of these guests and their prayers, this space is just a lovely physical environment. I have been struck by how reliant this place is on individuals and groups spending time here attending to their relationships with God. Their presence and prayers sustain this place in ways I never would have imagined. I am deeply grateful for all that sustains The Hermitage, the volunteers, staff, financial support, the prayerful presence of our guests, and ultimately the generous and abundant love of our God. Kevin Driedger...

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Prairie Prayer Gardens – Praying Counter to the Flow

Posted by on Jan 11, 2019 in News | Comments Off on Prairie Prayer Gardens – Praying Counter to the Flow

While walking the trails at The Hermitage, you may come across two seating areas, each with a bench and a single chair, nestled into the edge of the woodland overlooking a short-grass Prairie. The grasses, sedges and abundant wildflowers in the Prairie provide a home to butterflies and other insects, birds, and small mammals. Deer and other larger animals find forage and prey in this verdant place. The first Prayer Garden is dedicated to the memory of Gertrude Bailey Ruder, whose life of prayer and careful concern for living things we honor by this placement of a bench and chair, plantings of bulbs, flowering shrubs and the gathering of nut trees in this natural clearing on the edge of what was once the middle of a wooded area. The second garden sits on a hill overlooking the trails and much of the wildlife that has come to call this prairie home. This area also has a bench and a single chair situated under the shading branches of a white oak that will hopefully become the dominant tree on this forest edge. What you cannot see under the Prairie are three fossil fuel pipelines. The first, was initially constructed in 1968. This pipeline was retired in 2014 after a massive rupture in 2010 dumping over 800,000 barrels of crude oil into the tributaries of the Kalamazoo River. The second pipe, carrying natural gas, was installed in 1999. The gas runs at a rapid rate through this 4-foot diameter pipe. Friction inside the pipe heats the surrounding soil so that the snow melts first here each winter often leaving a stripe of bare land. The third pipe is actually a “replacement” for the first pipe. The new pipe, is two times the size of the first pipeline, carrying millions of gallons of the Athabasca oil sand’s diluted bitumen (dilbit) to the refineries. As part of our “protest” against both our own way of life and the oil company’s placement of a poison stream under the earth’s surface we planted the Prairie. We also created the two prayer gardens flanking the Prairie. The placement of these two gardens across from each other, counters the flow of oil and gas through the pipelines. As folks pause to pray, to listen, to watch and learn, they participate in the hope we have for this land: that someday, it will no longer be needed to transport toxic materials to support our unsustainable lifestyles of ease and injustice toward the world’s poor and marginalized. We hope that the Prairie symbolizes our trust that the land will be returned to its more productive use of sustaining all kinds of life. As we pray “across” and “against the flow” may we find what actions we can do in our own lives to send the message to international oil and gas companies that this pipeline is not “needed.” Naomi...

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Clay/Straw Building Workshop June 1-2: THIS WEEKEND!

Posted by on May 27, 2018 in News | Comments Off on Clay/Straw Building Workshop June 1-2: THIS WEEKEND!

Click here for full information Join us this weekend, June 1-2,  for the clay/straw building workshop with Thomas Hirsch of Bungalow Builders. Thomas has years of experience building with natural materials and creating earth-friendly and spirit-enhancing homes. He will help us build a small meditation shelter. This will be our “trial-run” for building a home for community staff. We encourage you to consider participating in one of the following ways: Come for the entire workshop, 9:00 am, Friday,  June 1 through 5:00pm, Saturday, June 2 Come for Thomas’ presentation on Friday evening at 7:00 Come for one day or part of a day, get dirty and have some fun in the mud Come to see what we are doing, heckle the workers, and be glad you are not so dirty Most of all, come. We’d love to see you. Your presence is valuable to us. Don’t let the cost of the workshop be a hindrance to you. Consider making a donation toward the cost of building the structure and Thomas’ time. Let us know if you will be here for a meal: lunches at 12:30 and suppers at 5:30. Meal reservations should be made before Wednesday, May 30. We still have a few rooms available for overnight stay. Contact us to reserve a room or bring your tent and camp with Jay....

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Taizé Evensong on Hiatus for 2018

Posted by on Dec 14, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Taizé Evensong on Hiatus for 2018

We held our final Taizé Evensong service on December 10, 2017. The candles were all lit and the gathered voices ended with “Gloria, gloria, in excelsis deo” to the ringing of the bell. We are grateful to have hosted this sung prayer service for 14 years on the second Sunday of each month (excepting August) for groups from 2-25. We give thanks for the faithful musicians who have given years of service: Jeffrey Keefer, Beverly Schmitt, Verna Troyer, Elisabeth Wenger, Margaret Wenger, Emily Wenger, John Mark Wenger, Karla Kauffman, Pat Farris, Bob Reetz, Zac Bowman Cooke, Naomi Wenger, and David Wenger. May we all continue to be blessed with a perpetual song in our hearts that sings when we forget...

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Annual Letter from The Hermitage Board

Posted by on Dec 14, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Annual Letter from The Hermitage Board

Deanna Risser, Hermitage Board President, has written a letter to all friends of The Hermitage. Please read it here: 2017 Annual Appeal.

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