During the week of November 22nd, 2021, I took four days to spend time in prayer and study at our home in Chapel’s Cove. I invited four friends in ministry to come and spend a morning with me for reflection and renewal as I continue in my ministry as a chaplain to the hospitals, and in preparation for the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
On Monday morning, I invited the Rev’d Russell Osmond, retired priest in the Parish of St. Philip’s. Russell, along with his wife Joan and our friend Gloria, joined us for the first day of the retreat. After singing one of my favourite hymns of the season of Advent, “Come thou long expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free,” Rev’d Russell led us in Morning Prayer as we prepared for this occasion. He reminded us that the Advent season, like other liturgical seasons, is a season of hope and grace as he began his meditation with us. His presentation, entitled “And Grace will lead me home,” referred to God’s unmerited favour. It is goodness and kindness from God that we don’t deserve and cannot earn by our own merits. It is God’s goodness and benevolence, or his favour upon us as unworthy as we are to receive it. As far as we know, Jesus never used the word “grace,” but his person, his ministry, and his teaching disclose that he was full of grace. Grace was part of his character and nature. He taught us parables of grace; perhaps the best of them was the parable of the prodigal son. Using the scriptures and quoting people like Barbara Brown Taylor, Rev’d Russell put into perspective how God’s grace is a gift and how his grace is at work in our lives. He ended his meditation with these words: “As children of God, people onto whom grace has been bestowed, we enter a season of emphasis on waiting and yearning; hoping for wholeness, transformation; waiting for a time when all brokenness is mended; wounds are healed; when God’s peace and justice rules the earth; when the lamb and the lion can pasture together and we become the people God intends for us to be.” Grace will lead me home. Amen and amen.
On the second day, Father Rudolph Anthony, Rector of St. Augustine’s, came to share the morning with us. After prayers, we listened for eight minutes to Denzel Washington as he reflected on his personal faith and ministry. This led us into the theme for the morning: “Our Calling to Ministry” for both ordained ministry as well as the important ministry of our laity. Father Anthony’s talk caused us to reflect upon our calling and the ministry we share with others in the life of the church. His thoughts were focused from the Book of Acts, chapter 8, verses 26 – 33 and 34 – 40. We had time to share some of our own experience in ministry as we reflected upon these scriptural references. We concluded the morning by listening to a beautiful song by Jason Ingram and Kari Jobe, “Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)”.
The Right Rev’d Cyrus Pitman, retired bishop of our diocese, came on Wednesday morning to be my guest for this third day of meditation. After Morning Prayer and a renewal of our baptismal covenant, the bishop moved into his theme for the day: “The seasons of our lives.” This theme was based on his first reading in Morning Prayer from the Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, verses 1- 8. He talked about the different seasons in the life of the church, and said we as individuals go through seasons in our lives; sometimes we hurry through them rather than being present. Often, we find ourselves going back to the past or centring ourselves on the future and not enjoying the time we are in, whichever season that may be. I was able to more greatly appreciate the significance of the importance of waiting and taking time to be present in the moment in the seasons of life.
Finally, on the fourth and final day of this retreat session, Archdeacon Charlene Taylor from Church House came to spend Thursday morning with us, and our friend Gloria once again joined us. Her theme was: “The Waiting Place of God.” In her opening devotion, Archdeacon Charlene focused on the sentence “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 49:31) In her first reflection on waiting, she led us to think about the prophets by looking at the scripture of the Old Testament foretelling the coming of Christ into the world. Afterwards, we shared some reflections on some thought-provoking questions she had prepared. Her second talk centred on thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the different “times of waiting” she experienced: the time she spent with Elizabeth, and waiting for the birth of Jesus, and the journey to Bethlehem as his birth was imminent; also the time of waiting at the foot of the cross. Our session concluded with a guided meditation before we closed with the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. In essence this final retreat session reinforced the understanding that when God works in our lives, no matter how long it takes, it’s always worth the wait.
Each afternoon, after the guests left, I would do my daily walk which gave me time to reflect upon what I heard each morning. This experience was worthwhile and I encourage others to do it for their own spiritual growth. It was truly an experience of sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to the word, and having the word penetrate in my heart and mind.
I want to thank my wife, Joyce, for preparing breakfast and lunch for our guests, and for sharing with me in these days of meditation as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.
I want to thank Rev’d Russell Osmond, Father Anthony, Bishop Pitman, and Archdeacon Charlene for travelling to Chapel’s Cove to share with me in this personal retreat time. Your sharing and friendship have been a blessing in my life. I give thanks to God for this time together and for our many years of friendship. Thank You for sharing your faith, love, and commitment in the one who has called us into his ministry. With each of your presentations, you allowed us the time to share and reflect. We were glad to have others join us for these meditations and to be able to share their thoughts and feelings, too.
These four days of prayer and meditation have indeed been a blessing for me as I move forward in my ministry and took the time to stop and smell the flowers once again. Have a blessed season, whatever “season” you find yourself in as you journey through your life and ministry.
My prayer for you is the same as Father Anthony shared with us in his session on Tuesday morning in this Irish Blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be ever at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hands. Amen.