When and Where Women Retreat
Where is the next women’s retreat? I’d like to know. The one I went to last weekend was wonderful. About 100 of us met Saturday morning at the University Park Church of Christ in Hyattsville for their Annual “Ladies Day.” By late afternoon I felt nourished – mind, body, and soul.
After a light breakfast of fruit and pastries, Carolyn Muscar, the minister’s very modest wife, offered the first sermon. She spoke on the need to shift perspective and priorities in the midst of a storm. She used a personal story of getting caught in a snowstorm while driving a van full of church youth to a youth conference. When they began their journey, her priorities were playing the right music and making sure the young people had a good time. When the snow got so heavy she could barely see, her priorities quickly shifted. She clutched the steering wheel and focused on the road. Delivering the young people safely to their destination became her only priority.
“Isn’t that just like us? When we go through storms we have to slow down and re-evaluate our priorities,” Muscar said. She referenced Luke 7:32 (in the Bible) and we read along. “What if I spent my time looking at how God is working in my troubles rather than spending all my time trying to run away from these troubles?”
We nodded and mumbled “amens” around the room. The women had arrived from several churches throughout the D.C. area. I focused on the banner bearing the event theme: “The Invisible Woman: Revealed,” then thumbed through the folder I had received at the welcome desk. Inside the folder was the agenda for the day, paper and an ink pen for taking notes, a short story, a couple of poems, and a clever ABC list of Biblical passages for dilemma.
“Anxious? Take Vitamin A,” I read quietly with a smile. “All things work together for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. Blue? Take Vitamin B. Bless the Lord…Psalms 103:1.” There
The next speaker, Cynthia M. Turner, a recent graduate of the Harding School of Theology in Memphis, engaged us further, guiding us through listing our invisible and visible characteristics. “We spend countless hours on our clothes and our hair. We spend countless hours working out to stay in shape. But do we spend equal time on our inner self?” she said. “Outwardly, we’re wasting away, decaying, stripped of our vigor. Inwardly, we’re being renewed.”
I glanced over at my grandmother who was falling to sleep and laughed. Nothing being said was new to her, I realized. When it was time to sing songs from the church hymnals, Grandma knew the words she could no longer see on the page.
After the initial sermons, we all split into assigned groups for workshops in classrooms. I was delighted with other stories and insights from the women in my group. Our group leader facilitated our discussion by posing questions. “What are some of the temporary things we focus too much of our attention on?” she asked. “What are some of the things we worry about?” Without thinking, I blurted out “Unemployment! Finding a job!” Immediately, I wished I’d kept my personal business to myself. But after some of the older women chimed in, I felt encouraged.
A woman whose nametag said “Rosa Lee” told of how she no longer worries about little things. At 77, she said, she trusts that she will always have what she needs. She’s retired, but continues to work at odd occupations she has taken up in recent years. Two years ago she secured a cosmetology license and she is currently in barbering school. She does hair in her home, she said, and plans to use her new skills as part of her church’s ministry. She will take her services to individuals who are homebound. She reached for my grandmother’s hand and asked her to speak. “You know the Scriptures say the older women in the church are to teach the younger ones,” she said. Grandma smiled but didn’t open her mouth. “You know, we keep growing into our 90s,” Rosa Lee added. “What you hear or experience will either put a stamp on what you already know or give you a new perspective on things. I bet you have a lot of wisdom to share.”
I was reminded of what I have long loved about women’s retreats. It’s where we can discuss matters that are unmentionable in mixed company. It’s where a woman minister might address menopause symptoms or a mate’s midlife crisis. It’s where older women tell younger ones to just hold on.
By the time we streamed into the fellowship hall for a hearty lunch, I was full in other ways. The grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and thick servings of assorted desserts were just icing on the cake. If your church has a women’s retreat coming up, please post the information in the comments below.
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is a Washington Post blogger. She is also author of Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam (Harper) and Do Me Twice: My Life After Islam (Simon and Schuster). Follow her on Twitter @Sonsyrea.