A Gathering of Men

            Try to get a grown man to go on a church Men’s Retreat. Go ahead and ask. See if you can get him to agree to go away from his family and home for a weekend. Getting the guy to agree to binge-watch a season of Housewives of New Jersey would be a much easier sell job. Give your man a choice: head to the mountains with other men from the church or spend Saturday and Sunday at middle school swim meet that’s three-hours from home.  Which way to the meet?

            I don’t really know why men are so hesitant to go on a retreat, though I would guess fear is the prime culprit. A guy away from home, on his own at a church retreat is beset by a host of anxious concerns: who will talk if my wife isn’t here, what do you do all day with a bunch of church men other than pray; and worse of all: what if I have to share a bed?!

            Fourteen men from our church braved their fears and went away last weekend. I’m so glad our fellas were able to stuff their worries at home and make the two-hour trip for the weekend. We had five first-timers attend; and I’m happy to report that each one made it home safely. Thankfully no one had to have a bed-mate for the weekend.

            I was upstairs in the beautiful mountain home we used that was across the street from Sky Top Lodge.  On Saturday evening, as I turned on the landing to head downstairs I looked out through a large opening into the living room below and this is what I saw that caused me to pause for a long minute: Clusters of men, mostly in pairs, we spread around the room in conversation with a roaring fire and several lights filling the large room with warm light.  This is a picture from our Men’s Retreat last weekend.

            I love retreats and I go on them often. Time away from the routine and demands of life is nothing short of a gift. What made this recent retreat so good was the four times we broke off into pairs following four Bible studies—three led by our guest, Rev. Stephen Henziel-Nelson and one conducted by me. We mixed the pairings so that you were always talking to someone new. Here’s a sampling of the kinds of questions we discussed on the night we arrived.

Ø  What are you feeling good about where you are in life right now? 

Ø  What prevents you from being fully present with others—family, friends?

Ø  Do you have a part of your life that you hide? Why?

Ø  Where are you in your relationship with God today? Go back 5 years: what’s better about your spiritual life, what’s not strong?

            We went deeper into our faith and life. I noticed on Sunday morning that virtually every man looked calmer and more peaceful than when he rolled in on Friday night. Every man expressed gratitude for the opportunity to begin and build stronger friendships within our congregation.

            Can you believe it? Most said they’d come back next year . . . maybe.