Report Back from Washington D.C. Alumni Retreat
Sarah Lutterodt (’16) and Kathy Deal (’16)
Desirous of spending extended time together when we could immerse ourselves more deeply in the spirit of the Living School, the DC-MD-VA group of Living School alumni and students decided to plan a weekend retreat in July 2018. Five group members volunteered to serve as an organizing committee and began a nine-month planning process. Each committee member assumed responsibility for one aspect of the retreat, e.g., finances, communications with the retreat center, liaison to the retreat leader, communications with participants. Critical first steps were selecting a retreat location, deciding on a date, and finding a retreat leader.
The venue we chose, Dayspring Retreat Center, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is surrounded by woods and meadow. A large comfortable meeting room and light-filled dining room offered pleasant places to gather. Dayspring has a capacity of 18. This size initially seemed somewhat restrictive. However, after advertising the retreat to LS alumni, particularly those on the East Coast, we ended up with exactly enough participants to fill the space.
Key to our decision to move forward was securing the services of Carolyn Metzler as retreat leader. We knew that she would be an authentic voice for the mystical teachings of the Living School. We would be in good hands. Carolyn led the way in preparing the program with input from the committee.
In terms of our schedule, time was spent between Carolyn’s presentations, Circle Groups, unscheduled time, and worship, providing opportunities for in-depth sharing as well as personal prayer and reflection. The woods and trails of the retreat center provided an oasis of calm that was well-suited to Carolyn’s theme of wilderness spirituality. Two participants introduced the practice of ‘Energy Medicine’ which we all enjoyed. In addition, during one early evening session we shared favorite poems. We broke silence for evening meals, which allowed us time to share laughter and good news, voice hopes for the future, offer one another support, and simply enjoy being together.
Connecting with each other emotionally and spiritually was a very important part of the retreat. Spending several days with others who spoke the same language and shared freely felt like “coming home.” In written evaluations of the retreat, participants mentioned the importance of experiencing a sense of community that left them renewed, refreshed, and re-committed to living out the teachings of the Living School in their lives. Some expressed a desire for more silence, highlighting the delicate balance to be found between time for conversation and connection and time for silence.
Carolyn’s presentations on wilderness spirituality were a crucial factor in the richness of the retreat. She invited us into a wilderness experience through sharing personal narratives, describing stages of wilderness we could apply to our lives, and posing penetrating questions for reflection. She challenged us to go deeper in exploring the meaning of wilderness in our lives, introduced us to new practices, and led us in prayer. She encouraged us to use the wilderness experiences in our lives as a unique opportunity to develop an authentic inner sense of our own authority.
Nourishing body and soul, renewing old connections and making new ones, feeling confirmed in how the teachings of the Living School continue to influence our lives, inspired to go forward—these were some of the blessings and gifts of this retreat.
This article was written by Sarah Lutterodt ’16 and Kathy Deal ’16 with thanks to Barbara Vellmerk-Halpern, Kevin Bliss, and Carrie Briggs-Adams, members of the organizing committee.
About Sarah and Kathy: Since her retirement, Sarah Lutterodt (’16) spends several months each year in Ghana where she immerses herself in the life of the country and, with her husband, sponsors small businesses in the northern part of Ghana. Kathy Deal (’16) recently completed the Stillpoint Art of Spiritual Direction Formation and Training Program at Ghost Ranch; she teaches a class for women in a local jail on emotional and spiritual growth.