“But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!” Habakkuk 2:20 MSG
This Fall the conference sponsored three silent retreats in different locations. September’s Silent Retreat was held at Olmsted Manor, October’s was at Jumonville and the final retreat took place at Camp Alleghany. A common question was asked at each event.
What do you “do” at a Silent Retreat?
This is an understandable question because about 90 percent of the people attending had never been part of a silent retreat before. We like our “doing” … its how we evaluate actions and ultimately ourselves. If our doing results in positive results, then all is good (read ‘I am good’), but if the results are bad, then something must have gone wrong (read ‘I am wrong’).
This can be dangerous for us because this understanding subtly makes its way into our theology. We begin to believe that our “doing” is the reason why God loves us, or at least loves us more; that in our doing we are approved of and delighted in. What we believe in then is that we add to the work of Christ on the Cross.
The beauty of a Silent Retreat is its simplicity. It is not simply being silent. It is giving our agenda to God and asking for Him to fill it. In the silence we are able to recognize our own agenda is larger than our desire to be with God. We feel as if the time spent in silence is wasted, but it is actually an invitation to prayer. As we remain in the silence, the contents of our hearts are revealed – good and bad. Continuing in silence, the inner noise and chaos of our lives quiets. Our capacity to enter into the presence of God grows and we find ourselves in places not easily found amidst the din of everyday life.
At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
Hebrews 12:11 MSG
Silence does not come easy; there is something counter-cultural in our intentional silence. Most often it is greeted with a sense of skepticism and a lack of understanding. “Your going to do what?” people will say. “I could never be silent… I like talking too much.”
If we only understood how our Heavenly Father is calling out to us, inviting us into a moment where we would be silent before Him to hear words of guidance, hope, correction, and love.
At each retreat a common response to our time together was, “when is the next one?” We are working on the dates for the Spring 2015 Silent Retreats, but they will be scheduled soon. Be sure to check www.wpaumc.org/events for more information, or subscribe to the blog for future updates.
WPA Commission on Archives and History