BY STUART GILLY

For many, the lyrics of this timeless song say it all… “summertime and the livin’ is easy”. That is the case at the Gilly house anyway! With kids out of school, all the structure and routine of the school year goes out the window. Long days turn into late nights, day camps turn into sleepovers, and weekends become 4 days long. But for me, “easy” might be the last word I would use to describe my summers lately. Unfortunately, I don’t get a “summer break” and still have to go to work. My stress level is higher, as I find myself being torn between work obligations and wanting to spend time with my family. In the summer we are also out of town more on Sundays. Between the challenge of losing my normal schedule, and missing the weekly worship experience more often than usual, I feel I am furthest from my faith life during the summer months. So, when someone suggested that I attend the men’s retreat last July, I jumped at the opportunity to get spiritually re–centered.

Two weeks before the retreat in August of 2016, the floodgates opened in Baton Rouge…literally. Our community witnessed one of the most devastating natural disasters since Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of people, including many members of our congregation, lost their homes and their possessions.

FUMC was a crucial part of recovery efforts: creating a donation station for clothing and necessities, sending out work teams to help with the demolition process, and cooking for teams of volunteers. The leadership team considered cancelling the retreat, wondering if it was appropriate to leave our community in this time of need. Personally, having never attended a retreat, I was leaning towards not going because I felt like my time could be better spent helping those affected. After much prayerful consideration, it was decided that the retreat should happen. And I ultimately decided to go as planned, and I am so glad that I did!

I can only speak for myself, but would imagine that many of the other men in attendance would agree that the retreat couldn’t have come at a better time. It was at the tail end of a naturally crazy summer for me and our community was in crisis mode; most of us were leaving work at the end of the day to cook meals at the church or tear out sheetrock at someone’s home. I was running on fumes. Exhaustion was an understatement. A physical, mental and especially a spiritual recharge was exactly what I needed. The fellowship and worship offered by the retreat did just that. I got to know other men that I hadn’t ever met before, whom I now call friends. It also helped me to take a step back and remind myself that if I put God first, all the rest would fall into place, even when things seemed to be falling apart.

The theme of the Retreat couldn’t have been more fitting. It was about the Desert Fathers and Mothers and what they mean to the landscape of our religion and religious practices today. The Mothers and Fathers were able to retreat from the world and find their own spiritual centers during the times of their own personal “floods”.

My experience at the Men’s Retreat did not disappoint. I knew that God intended for me to be there. I felt His presence and saw firsthand the movement of the Holy Spirit among this group of men. If you are looking for a way to recharge and find your spiritual center I would definitely recommend this retreat.

You can check out all of our fall retreat offerings at: http://firstmethodist.org/ministries/adults/retreats/.