“Come away to a deserted place …” (Mark 6:31)

Engaging fellow travelers on a plane in conversation about the destination and purpose of their trip is a common way of helping to fill the time. It can also be extremely instructive. On a recent journey, this writer was told by the fellow across the aisle that he was headed to an Episcopal convent for a silent retreat. An Episcopal convent, of all places! What were the chances of that?

Much talk ensued, about the value of retreats in general and about focused contemplation in particular. We discussed how, after a period of particularly intensive ministry, Jesus urged his disciples to “‘[c]ome 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 6:31-32).

We talked about the Savior’s own 40-day retreat in the wilderness, in the course of which he put focus to his preaching and teaching (Luke 4:1-13). And Jesus’ renewal of mission in a private mountaintop retreat was discussed to some length (Mark 6:46). Those seated around us couldn’t help but overhear, so we just might have been engaging in evangelism.

Time apart from the business of everyday living has value for every Christian who takes it. There’s benefit simply in getting rest, and most of us stay far too busy during vacation times even to begin to do that. There’s tremendous spiritual strength to be gained through focused study and contemplation of the scriptures, and doing nothing but that. And the lessened levels of stress and anxiety experienced by those who take regular time to put their lives in perspective can be a gift beyond measure.

Regular retreats, either silent or directed, could certainly benefit any number of church leaders and members. Episcopal convents, monasteries and friaries, moreover, are wonderful places to experience the renewal they offer. Today might be an excellent time to find out what religious houses exist in our own diocese or region, and to learn about the opportunities they offer for personal renewal. The website of the Conference on Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas (http://www.caroa.net) is a useful place to start. Today might be a good time as well, to start planning to take advantage of their special ministries.

Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, urges his disciples to “[c]ome away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” We, of course, are those disciples in our own time and place.

Look it Up

What religious orders have a presence in my diocese or region? What are the ministries that they offer?

Think About It

How might I personally benefit from taking part in a formal retreat?