In about 10 days, I will offer the Sunday message at a place called Ridgeview Park near Derry, PA. I have spent a few Sunday hours there for about the past six years.
In the decades following the Civil War, many Christians sought places of retreat and renewal from the hurts and agony of that awful time. All across the nation, small summer communities sprang up for the expressed purpose of restoring the human spirit and seeking the Presence of God. Many of these “places” were started “near a grove of trees and water” – nature’s own symbols of peace and renewal.
Methodists started many of these communities. Some of them still exist today. One consistent feature of these setting is a large worship facility near the center of all the cottage homes.
Ridgeview Park is one such place. I have known the privilege being at several similar places in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey.
I am particularly familiar with a summer place called Lakeside. Located on the shores of Lake Erie—the Marblehead Peninsula—near Sandusky, Ohio, Lakeside is often called the “Chautauqua of the Great Lakes.” This one-square-mile community consists mostly of Victorian style cottages in something called “steamboat architecture.” The pace of life here for about 10 weeks each summer is radically different. That pace is captivating and contagious.
I began going to Lakeside when still in high school. Elaine and I owned a cottage there—a gift from my parents—for about 20 years when our children were growing up. Often, we were there for three consecutive weeks in a summer. Lakeside was “home”, a setting different from a church-owned parsonage. It was a place to walk, reflect, read, write, play miniature golf and pray.
Now in retirement, our secluded farm property offers me a similar kind of renewal and refreshment.
We all need such times and places in our lives. A place and time to lay aside our cell phones, our laptops, our iPads, our mega-screen TV’s and such to just “be” for a short while. A place to ride a bicycle, fish, read or “meet and greet” old or new friends. A time to be simply human.
One of the sessions I offer in my “newer clergy mentoring” is a session on self-care—practical suggestions on not taking yourself too seriously, finding time for reflection, for family, and for re-creation. But it is a need for every believer, every disciple, every person who would experience the holy and the mystery of our God.
May you find some precious and necessary re-creation in this summer season.