Women’s Retreat Day: A Lenten Passage in the Celtic Spirit
by Ronda Toll, Christ the King, Tabb
A beautiful early spring weekend at Camp Chanco offered the perfect setting to explore Celtic spirituality. As I learned in Friday evening’s introduction, the prayers of the Celtic saints are filled with experiences of God’s power and majesty revealed through nature. To the Celts, walking in nature serves as a reminder of the Lord’s handiwork and of His sacred presence in all things. Surely the presence of the Lord was at Chanco as I arrived to take this amazing journey!
Ashley Scruggs, our Diocesan Youth Missioner, opened the program on Friday by highlighting the importance in Celtic spirituality of the sacred presence of God, three in one; the unbroken circle of the Trinity. The simplicity of living in unity and harmony with creation is a hallmark of Celtic spirituality and is represented beautifully throughout the Celtic artistic tradition. In her presentation, Ashley shared numerous images of art, many from the Book of Kells, as well as examples of elaborate metal work and Celtic carvings depicting animals. At a time when literacy was uncommon, wonderful works of Celtic art served as a powerful form of prayer and told Christ’s story. As I reflected Friday evening on Christ’s story and on His passion, I was reminded that the sacred presence is for all times, all places, and all people.
After Ashley’s introduction, we were invited to create our own Celtic work of art. Inspired by the images and Celtic symbols Ashley had shared, canvases were soon painted and new experiences, relationships, and understandings were formed.
On Saturday morning, musician Karey Sitzler explored with us the Celtic idea of worshipping through the whole of our humanity, including the intellect, the senses, the imagination, and the emotions. Karey’s carefully selected pieces of music carried me from ancient days to modern times as I sang (and sometimes cried) with other women on this musical pilgrimage.
Just before lunch on Saturday, the Rev. Eileen Walsh led an empowering workshop surrounding the life ofCeltic figure and Christian Saint Brigid, even instructing us in how to make our own St. Brigid’s cross. I will most definitely share this great activity with my EYC group! I learned that Celtic Christianity encouraged people to live and work in local communities of prayer, learning, and hospitality. Eileen highlighted the important and strikingly powerful role women held in these communities. As Eileen pointed out, the clarity, simplicity, and wisdom of these women speaks directly to many of the concerns of our modern age. Eileen’s words challenged me, as a woman living in a hyper-busy, multicultural world, to slow down and look more closely for the sacred soul in others.
Before our time together closed, the Rev. Kathie Price evoked images of ancient, sacred places like Iona, Lindisfarne, and Ireland. The Celtic saints called these places “thin spaces” because in these places it seemed only a thin veil separated them from Heaven. Kathie invited us to explore and share our own “thin spaces” and to take a symbolic pilgrimage by walking a labyrinth. St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, Virginia Beach lent us their mobile labyrinth, which was laid under the bright, beautiful, sunshiny skies of Chanco. Following Kathie’s instructions, I walked the sacred pattern of the labyrinth, into its center and back out again as a journey of release (walking in), receiving (pausing at the center), and renewal (walking out), rediscovering with every step the power of the pilgrimage.
An absolute highlight of the weekend was our afternoon tea, brimming with conversation and yummy treats. As I sat in the dining hall with dear friends and new friends, it struck me how truly blessed I am to be on my spiritual journey in such company. I plan to return to Chanco in December for the Advent retreat, knowing that the Spirit of God will be waiting for me there.
*Please save the date and join us for the women’s Advent Retreat at Chanco December 1-2, 2017. More information will follow on this website and our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chancoonthejames!