Support the Hermitage through transitions

Dear Hermitage Friend,

In late August 1999 June and I moved into Nazareth, the double-wide mobile home on Hermitage property. This began a 3-month season of transition for us, and a 23-year loving relationship with The Hermitage. For most of those years we continued our relationship by coming on retreats, lots of volunteering, and my serving on the board for several years. In August 2018 we moved here again to join the staff. These past 23 years have been incredibly rich and rewarding. And June and I once again have entered time of transition as we’ve heard the call to move closer to my folks in Southern Manitoba.

Kevin and June in the fall of 1999

In conversation with my spiritual direction trainer, a few months before starting here, the image of the inn-keeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan emerged as an identity shaping image for me. I saw him as offering hospitality to all who Christ brough to his door. A copy of the Rembrandt painting of the Samaritan dropping off the injured man at the inn has hung on the wall above my office phone during my time here. I am so grateful for a place to continually discover what this image and identity means for me. Bearing witness to the presence of Christ through our guests whether that be in silence or heartfelt conversation has been the greatest gift the Hermitage has offered me. These encounters have only strengthened my desire to share God’s hospitality and God’s rest. I look forward to discovering how this identity will find expression in our new home.

These years as director have been very rich, and very challenging. Attempting to lead the Hermitage through the season of Covid was a challenge I never could have imagined. The endless needs of our aging facilities included replacing one geothermal unit in the cold of winter, and then the other geothermal wasn’t heating properly and took many months to fully repair. Earlier this year a range, dryer, and microwave stopped working and needed to be replaced within two months. And I continue to keep an eye on the Hanby Center roof which we’ve put off replacing for a couple years. The list could go on.

Throughout my 23 years with The Hermitage, I’ve been overwhelmed by the support shown to the Hermitage. I’ve learned that it is the very presence of guests that most sustains this place. The presence of guests and staff turn this lovely spot in the woods into a place of encounter with God. I am deeply grateful for those who help share in the day-to-day work of the Hermitage, whether that be for an afternoon, or for many years. I am also continually grateful for those who have financially supported the Hermitage over its 37 years. For many years I was one of you and was always grateful to hear about the work happening here and showing my support through time, treasure and talent.

Transitions can be hard on people, and on an organization. There will be rough spots and times of uncertainty for the Biermas as they assume leadership. I can say with complete confidence, however, that the support of the broader Hermitage community will continue and will sustain them and this place for many years to come. I invite you to support the Hermitage through this transition to continue providing a way and a place to pray for 37 more years. No gift is too small.

You can donate online via our PayPal page.

Sincerely,
Kevin Driedger

June and Kevin as we prepare to depart.

Practicing Welcome, pt. 2 – Welcoming Ourselves

Questions for further reflection:

Read the Rumi poem The Guest House. Which words or ideas strike home for you? Why might that be?

What parts of you are like the characters in the parable of the good Samaritan – the arrogant priest, or the ashamed Levite, the over accomplishing Samaritan, or the wounded traveler?

Which of these parts of yourself are the hardest for you to welcome? What might welcome for that one look like for you?

Practicing Welcome, pt. 1 – Welcoming Others

Questions for further reflection:

Spend time conversation/meditation on one or two of the four guests from the parable. What does welcome look like for this person? What of Christ do you see in this person? Do you know a person like this that you’ve tried to welcome?

How is your welcome facing out, or evident to others? Into what do you welcome others? What are the characters/parameters of your welcome?

Hospitality Manager position

The Hermitage is looking for a hospitality manager to help oversee providing nutritious meals and clean spaces for our guests. It is a 75% time position and on-site housing may be available.

To apply send a resume and cover letter to contact@hermitagecommunity.org Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the position.

The position description is below:

Hospitality manager

The Hospitality Manager works to carry out the mission of the Hermitage, the guidance of the board of directors, and the Hermitage core community values and practices. The Hospitality Manager ensures the daily operations of the guesthouse provides a nurturing and hospitable space for our guests.

  • Oversight of kitchen/meals
    • Prepares or coordinates preparation and service of meals
    • Keeps kitchen and pantry stocked
    • Cooks vegetarian fare and is attentive to guest dietary restrictions
  • Oversight of guest spaces
    • Does laundry and cleaning of St. Joseph’s Barn and Hanby Center
    • Ensures guest rooms and bathrooms are stocked with necessary supplies
    • Maintains cleaning/hospitality supplies
    • Is attentive to facility needs. E.g. furniture or furnishings that need repair or replacement
  • Coordinates volunteers or others to assist with this work
  • Participates in Hermitage prayer life and is a hospitable presence for our guests
  • Shares in Hermitage leadership with Executive Director and Facilities manager

The Gift of Rest / by Kevin Driedger

“Therefore, my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure,” (Ps 16:9)

Some years ago, June and I volunteered at The Hermitage while David and Naomi Wenger were on sabbatical. Upon their return I approached David and asked him, “Did you receive in faith the gift of rest?”

This may seem like a curious question, and I’m sure I was attempting to be clever, but the words of this question were familiar to David. The words, adapted from Matthew 11, come from The Hermitage Affirmation, the morning prayer liturgy drafted by The Hermitage founder Gene Herr which we pray on Mondays.

Teach us, Jesus,
to hear you,
to come with the heavy loads we feel, to be yoked with you,
to be taught by you,
To learn what things really matter, and to receive in faith the gift of rest.

Today, as director of The Hermitage, I feel I am beginning to glimpse the powerful reality of the gift of rest. This season of Covid has brought many weary and exhausted people to our doors. Their presence with us and their experience of The Hermitage has taught me about receiving the gift of rest.

I confess that in the past I thought of rest as synonymous with relaxation. Rest was a pleasant, if at times, an irresponsible luxury. Rest could easily become a distraction from responsibility and productivity. Rest was good if you were tired, but too much resting was a sign of laziness.

In my quick orientation with new guests, I always point out the chapel and how we gather for morning prayer at 8am. I then add that guests are welcome to join us and are welcome to sleep as both sleep and rest are deeply important parts of retreat.

Rest is a practice and a gift.

Rest is a product of letting go of the need to shape each moment of our day; letting go of ambitions and anxieties; letting go of finding our value in our productivity; letting go of our sense of how indispensable we are.

In his life of ministry, and his training of the disciples, Jesus emphasized rest. “He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat,” (Mark 6:31).

Choosing to practice the spiritual discipline of rest can be very difficult for some of us. It certainly is for me. I find it hard to practice rest because it is difficult for me to accept that, somehow, The Hermitage could survive a day or even a week without my near constant attention. This is foolishness.

Rest can come with feelings of guilt for all the work others have to do for me to rest. Rest can cause us to question our self-worth. “What if I rest from work for a few days and nobody notices?”

Rest is intimately related to trust. Without trust rest is elusive. In order to rest we must trust that life will be okay without us being useful. We must trust the emails and texts that go unanswered while on retreat will still be there when we return and that many of their “urgent” problems will have already resolved themselves. Rest also comes when we can trust food will be available when we are hungry, and a warm bed will be available when tired. We rest in the arms of the ones we love, because we trust them.

As we see in Matthew 11, we are to come to God and give God our weariness and business, and in turn, God will give us rest. The goal of our journey is to rest in the heart of God, the most trustworthy One.

“Did you receive in faith the gift of rest?” I asked of David upon his return from sabbatical. David laughed at my question. “Have I received in faith the gift of rest?” he slowly repeated. After a pause he replied “Why yes! Yes I have.”

Greetings from the Hermitage

Dear Hermitage friends,

In this season of thanksgiving, let me first offer our heart felt thanks for all the prayers and support you have provided The Hermitage during this past year. We would not have been able to provide the loving, hospitable presence of God to so many retreatants if not for your support. Thank you and may God bless you and your family abundantly.

Now, as autumn slips into winter, the glorious leaves are falling, and the gray tree shapes emerge from the golds and reds. Jewel-like harbingers of the dark and cold time. We know that Christmas is coming. Our memories of Christmas do not reflect the weather patterns in the real Bethlehem. We envision snow, winds blowing, and the cold in Michigan where the Hermitage is a sacred nest.

Every Christmas, when I intentionally prepare to write this appeal, the manger comes to my heart. I often think of Mary and Joseph in the dark winter seeking habitation for the birth of Jesus. The Hermitage is a welcome dwelling to pilgrims seeking a way and a place to pray. The dark winter is a time for seeking renewal, the Hermitage welcomes all. We cover our guests with the quilt of love, provide warm and nutritious meals, and grounded spiritual counsel. 

This year we have faced many challenges: the rising costs of completing our house built of earth and sky, the ever-shifting Covid pandemic, and staff transitions. We are asking you to, once again, please help us sustain the grace and mercy of Jesus at the Hermitage by your Christmas giving. Your help is needed in creating the beauty and safety of a place to lay their sweet heads.

We thank you, as always, for your prayerful discernment of your gift to our ministry.

You can donate online or mail your donation to The Hermitage, 11321 Dutch Settlement Rd. Three RIvers, MI 49093

Blessings of Christmas!

Mary Asmonga-Knapp
Hermitage Board president

Ash Wednesday – Venturing into our shadowy areas – by June Mears Driedger

Today is Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent.

This Lent season it might be time to venture, as Jesus did, into the shadowy areas of our lives, confident of God’s merciful light surrounding us as well as willingly accepting the support of others. Lent is not about the ostentatious fasting that Isaiah (58:1-12) scoffed at, but a time to open ourselves to more light by lifting the lamp a little higher, by being God’s light to others and receiving it from them. It’s time to learn something new about God and move outwards to do something with it.

Lent might also be a time for us to move inwards with trust, to allow God to show us more of our own need and do something about that. As we live with the memory of the light and the hope of the Easter light to come, may the shadows we encounter become for us places of healing, wisdom and hope as well as fuel for the flame of light that we pass on to others. As light-bearers, let us be for others as merciful, gracious, and loving as God has been to us. God has taken the risk of sending the light of the Word into the chaos and terror of the world, and the darkness has not overcome it. God trusts us to keep ourselves faithful and transparent carriers of that light for the world. As the saying goes, “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

During this Lent season, let each of us carry God’s light into the shadows of our own lives, of our families, of our communities, and of the world.

Lent discipline of transformation – by June Mears Dreidger

Thirty years ago my first spiritual director, a Catholic lay woman, asked me: “What are your disciplines for Lent?” 

“Oh, I think I’m gonna give up watching ‘Star Trek’,” I told her.  “I watch it every Monday evening with my roommates. It’s kinda a ritual for us but I think it will be good for me to give it up.”

She studied me for a several seconds then sharply responded: “If you do that you will miss the whole purpose of Lent.  You will end up with more pride–you will be proud of yourself rather than seeking transformation.”

I was shocked at her response.  I was shocked by her rebuke as she was a gentle, humorous woman.  I also was shocked by her statement about Lent–I thought the whole purpose of Lent was to give something up.  I’d always heard about people giving up chocolate for Lent or red meat or television watching, so I figured I was on the right track with the whole Lent thing. Lent was a new concept for me.  In the church tradition I grew up in we never talked about Lent. We talked about Good Friday and of course, we celebrated Easter, but never Ash Wednesday or Lent, or even a period of preparation for Easter, the grandest day of the year.

The word “Lent” comes from Old English, meaning “spring” or “lengthen” as in the lengthening of the days.  This is not the image of a spring of pleasant warmth but an image of change–of transformation, of conversion.  In the lengthening brightness from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday–our Lenten spring–we are called to offer our brokenness to God. In offering our own brokenness we can then offer the world’s brokenness to God.  

Lent spring is 40 days (excluding Sundays), echoing the 40 days of temptation Jesus experienced.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.  During these weeks before Easter, the church enters into a time of reflection, repentance, prayer and fasting, and renewal. Early in the history of the Christian church, new converts were baptized on the Saturday just before Easter Sunday.  Prior to baptism, these new converts participated in an intensive spiritual formation which included instruction, mentoring, practice in spiritual disciplines, and the development of the disciplines or habits of service, justice, charity and witness.  Also at this time, previously baptized persons reflected deeply on their own conversion and ongoing transformation.  At the Saturday Easter vigil people renewed their baptismal commitments along with the new converts who were baptized for the first time. Everyone together participated in a festive communion celebration to welcome the arrival of Easter.

As Lent begins again, I ask myself these same questions: what in me needs transforming?  What transforming does God wish to do in me?  This year, I am praying for an open heart to trust God more deeply, to believe that God is all I need.  It is essential for me to open my heart to ask deeper questions of God and of the world around me and to keep my heart open to live into God’s answers.

            What are your disciplines for Lent?

60 Second Prayers

The call of God is that this be a house of prayer.

This line from the Hermitage Affirmation morning prayer has become increasingly formative for my (Kevin) time at The Hermitage. It is both a reminder of what The Hermitage is to be about offering a welcoming place of prayer, and a reminder of my own place within The Hermitage. To tend a house of prayer, I must be about the work of prayer. 

This physically disconnected time of Covid has us rethinking place and presence, and what a house of prayer might look like. Our places of worship and business are often online. Our family gatherings are online. Our retreats are online. And so how might The Hermitage be a house of prayer online?

One way we are attempting to do that is to offer online prayer-filled experiences. One new endeavor is sharing videos of “60 second prayers”. 60 seconds is not long, but it is long enough to stop what you are doing, and give your attention to God. It is long enough for a few deep breaths and an Amen. Our days are filled with many 60 second moments, so why not set aside some of those for prayer.

Each Monday and Thursday we share these prayers on our various social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. We hope you will take a minute to pray with us. 

Here are some earlier prayers.