Building Relationships At The Parish Community Weekend

 

A wonderful time was had by all who attended Redeemer’s Parish Community Weekend from September 23rd to 25th. Over 60 parish members of all ages attended the retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Camp & Conference Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire. This year’s event was led by Janet Kern and Connie Parrish.

Friday night was filled with fellowship, evening prayer, and a campfire with marshmallows and singing. On Saturday, the group went through a new program called “Sharing Our Stories” to understand the vision of community for Redeemer. Later that evening, attendees had fellowship time, dinner, and Games Night.  The retreat concluded on Sunday with breakfast and worship.

The “Sharing Our Stories” program started with attendees placing themselves and significant life events connected to Redeemer on a timeline. The participants connected in pairs, and then in groups of four, to share their stories in progressively larger groups. The program culminated with groups of eight acting out a metaphor for Redeemer’s future. The groups’ collaboration and creativity yielded wonderful skits that included:

  • A giant sweater knit by the community and wrapping around the community with room for everyone to wear it;
  • Hands that pray, welcome, comfort, feed and clap/celebrate;
  • A camp fire, warming, cooking, providing light and spreading light; and
  • Bread made of different ingredients that are each necessary to create a wonderful whole.

“What really struck me about the ‘Sharing our Story’ program most,” reflected Ian Fox, “was the diverse range of creative responses that each group came up with, but at the same time how those different responses affirmed the same core idea of a community that cares about being together, expressing our love for each other, and reaching outwards to share our message and love with those outside the congregation. Each group found a different metaphor, through visuals like a giant hug or gathering to share warmth and food around a fire, but ended with that idea of extending the participation out to the rest of the audience. To me, it reinforced that there is a shared hope that we can bring the message of what we share at Redeemer out to the broader community.”

The intergenerational aspect of the weekend was an important part of the experience, too. Janet Kern said, “I think that having the opportunity to be with many different ages in various ways – some families sharing cabins, sharing meals, playing games, taking walks, and culminating in a worship service that everyone prepared for in some way – developed relationships that are the foundation of our community.”  Peter Jacoby added “We love getting away and hanging out with other families.  At meals, the children would often sit at a kids table where they got to talk to their “church friends”.  And that allowed us to sit with other adults and have some grown-up time which was great.  It’s also great to allow the children to be raised by the church “village” where they can feel comfortable with the other adults and we can feel good knowing there is a community around them watching out for them.”

Children especially enjoyed the retreat.  Sarah Conrad said of her children “Jake and Janie love the retreat and look forward to it each year. It’s a great opportunity for them to develop some independence in a safe environment. They particularly enjoy the Saturday afternoon time on the water, including our annual canoe ride over to the playground across the lake. In addition, they enjoy the Minute to Win It activities on Saturday evening when they get to team up with other members of the parish.  And, of course, the s’mores can’t be beat! And Peter added about his children Hannah and Caroline, “They loved the retreat!  They liked the novelty of all sleeping in the same room, going for a hike through the woods, the climbing wall and the bonfire.”

This special retreat weekend, noted Connie Parish, “allows us to do things together that we can’t do on a Sunday morning. Every year existing relationships grow deeper and new relationships are built,”. Echoing this sentiment, when asked about the best part of the weekend, Ian responded, “It’s really the constant flow of time spent together, the opportunity to run into people and share in conversation, the natural beauty around us, in various activities – it’s comforting and nourishing and very healing in the end.  I’m not sure any one part stands out because every part is important to that whole experience.  Quiet, boisterous, silly, contemplative moments shared together really make up the ‘best part’ of the whole experience.” As Kathy Mockett said about what she liked most about the weekend “What I liked most?  I have to be honest…everything!”

 

Put next year’s retreat, on September 23 – 25, 2016, on your calendar today!