Wednesday, February 25, 2009

12th Annual Garland Women's Retreat

I love being a woman. And I love being surrounded by them. I love the way they smell and the sound of their voices. I love listening to them sing and watch them minister to each other.

We started having a retreat for the women in our church twelve years ago. We started out with a little under 40 women but now average around 70. Who could resist it? We have lots of free time to go shopping in town, gifts, crafts, nature hikes, great music and two massage therapists. This is in addition to the bible study and keynote speakers and the whole “not having to wash dishes” part.

It’s also turned into a reunion of sorts. The third year we had the retreat, the theme was ‘Sisters in Christ’ and the opening skit was a sight gag featuring a choir dressed as nuns singing the ‘Sisters” song from the movie White Christmas. I’m not sure we’ve ever been able to top that moment. But from that year came the habit of inviting your sister to come with you and some of the sisters and best friends are now so much a part of the weekend that I would really miss them if they didn’t come. It’s the only time of the year we see Nancy’s friend Tina or Kat’s sister, Patty. We even have women like Renee who’ve moved away and come back for that one weekend. It’s just like a family reunion of women.

Some of these women are especially cherished. Now “cherished” is a female word. I seriously doubt that men use this word very much. One of the dearest women God ever created was able to come and spend some time with us. She moved away from Garland years ago but stayed in touch through friends. Once in a while she and her husband would show up at Christmas or special events. Then her husband died and then she started showing signs of forgetfulness and frailty. So when we heard that her daughter would be able to bring her for the day everyone was thrilled. But the daughter couldn’t stay so two of our other dearest ladies stationed themselves on either side of Dorothy like guards. She didn’t take a step or meet a face without those two there to help her. That gentle and loving touch is what makes being alive and growing old such a special journey. These women know each other well. Some we grew up knowing or have known a time that spans a generation. Our lives would be empty without them. Others, we’ve just met but the weekend provides an atmosphere of such trust that they are instant friends. There is unconditional love. When we needed to light candles for an impromptu Taize worship service Saturday night we knew each other well enough to instantly identify the three women at the retreat who smoke. As one of them handed me the lighter she told me we didn’t have to run back to return it. “See? Sometimes you need the smokers, don’t you?” As much as we worry about each other’s health we try not to be bossy about it.

I am the generation who span the gap between the time before and after women’s liberation. When I was in my twenties the women’s sewing circles of the church were the only established place a women could flex her management skills. Women couldn’t be elders or deacons or pastors until the 1950’s. The administration and management of even the churches were void of women. So we used the circles to exercise these gifts. We created an administrative hierarchy and started building events that weren’t just fun and informative--they gave us a chance to exercise our management skills. Nowadays, it’s harder to get women active in circle because they all work during the day and are bone-tired at night when they get home and manage the family. My congregation doesn’t have a very active circle culture. Instead, we put all our energy into this one weekend a year.

Our men have come to Camp Gilmont for their own retreat for a few years now but, as you might expect, their retreat is nothing like ours. I’m don’t know what all they do because my man doesn’t tell me. I probably don’t want to know. Certainly they don’t award gift bags of coasters and chocolates to each other. The men go to Gilmont to work on the camp facilities. They use the time for work. Only because I’m married to one of these bubbas do I know the weekend exists but not much more. Bubbas, at least my bubba, don’t run off at the mouth about their feelings and experiences the way women do. And that’s why you are reading a blog written by a woman and not by a man.

I didn't get many really good snaps of the weekend, mostly because I was busy retreating myself. But also because it was hard to get this group to be still even for a minute. Scroll down to the two video clips and you'll get a taste of the chaos. I hope your computer will do videos. You might have to wait for it to buffer or whatever. The second video will show how hard it was for Jamye to control us.

Signing off, your faithful reporter, Jane


Kaitlyn said...

Hey Jane,
Remember me, the case worker with PDA in Pearlington last year? I just stumbled across your blog and thought I'd say hi. I'm actually living in Dallas now so we are probably almost neighbors. I hope you are doing well!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,
This makes me sorry I wasn't able to make it this year from NOVA. Perhaps next year? Thanks for the memories, "Sister"!