11/16/09

Michiana Youth Ministry's "Love of God" retreat

Most of you know very little about the retreat program that I involved myself with this weekend (my amateur photos are available), so I thought I would share a bit about it with you. Ron & Emily Collins are heavily committed to the Love of God (LOG) retreat that Michiana Youth Ministries cultivates multiple times per year, and I decided to squeeze it into my schedule this fall. They've spoken highly of it, and I was curious about what the Lord is up to in that neck of the woods, so when it appeared that their planning schedule could cooperate with my schedule, I decided to commit to help with one of the retreats. It is a student-run retreat in many ways, with a small team of adults, mostly volunteers, that guides the students in building & running it.

LOG is loosely based on the cursillo retreat weekend, adapted to a high school-age and largely protestant audience. Represented on the weekend were teens from 8-10 different churches, including non-denoms, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Catholics. The director of the program is a Presbyterian minister named Terry McBride and he brought the program over from California and has since formed it into a self-sufficient program, drawing new retreatants from the friendships of previous retreatants, as they work to put on a retreat often within the same year that they themselves attended one. The retreat is designed to overwhelm the retreatants with a very visible tangible love that the team offers, and points to God as the source of that love. This consists of a variety of games, activities, exercises, meals, discussions, testimonials, talks, songs, and methods of personal and communal prayer and encouragement.

The basic structure was familiar to me after having been involved with the kairos retreat program in college, and participated in Christ Renews His Parish a couple years ago. These retreats all have the same basic goal but with different audiences. It was inspiring to see the successes of this method this weekend. I'm not sure how strong the followup is, but in many ways that is the ongoing responsibility of the respective teams to nurture healthy relationships with their retreatants in response to the new friendships that have been formed. Elitism on various levels needs to be avoided.

On a personal level, I got to share some perspective on ecumenism that I've gained through my life in the People of Praise. When I discovered that protestant communion was a core part of the retreat, I was a little bit concerned. Both of the other retreat programs I've been involved with, being Catholic programs, integrated mass & the Eucharist into the weekend, so I should not have been surprised to discover a protestant interpretation in a primarily protestant retreat. But LOG practices ecumenism, and so I expressed my concern that such a specific form of "remembering" the Last Supper was introducing a conflicting message which is not the unity that genuine ecumenism pursues. I didn't particularly expect any change because of the emotional attachment so many young Christians were experiencing to the program in it's current form, but was happy to hear that they did indeed make some adjustments! It will be an ongoing conversation, but I am excited for the increased unity and faith maturity this can mean for so many youth in the region.

I don't know yet whether I will commit to this program in the future due to the finite capacity of my calendar. It's very apparent that God is working in the hearts of many youth through the efforts of Terry McBride and the adults and teens involved in LOG. I'm really happy I went through this instance of it and I look forward to growing in friendship with those I met through this.