The first thing that was different is that I had to leave early because we were going to a wedding for Jeff's cousin in Georgia. I am so incredibly glad we did, but it changed the dynamic of the whole week because I know there were plenty of times that I wasn't fully present. It was different from my late arrival at session 3. Part of this that made it hard was that, in order to avoid the multiple vehicle issue, Jeff drove me up and dropped me off for the first day. This wasn't really a big deal except that I didn't have as much time to "settle in" as I normally have or like. I also had to hit the grown running as soon as I got there, which is not really something that seems to "fit" with my experiences there.
Day 1 - our theme was "hospitality"
The reason I stayed so busy during last session was that I had volunteered to do the altar design for the week! Although I attended a workshop on altar design a few years ago, this was my first chance to actually do it! I can honestly say it is probably the most fulfilling creative outlet I have ever had in my life. I loved my quiet time in the worship space at the end of each night after everyone had gone to bed and the great silence was being observed where I could allow the Holy Spirit to move with me and within me to create something meaningful. Although it's not exactly a secret who does the altars each time, it's not really broadcast either. I don't have much interest in preaching (although there are a few who keep trying to convince me I should) and I'm not clergy so I'm not able to lead communion. Maybe at some point I will take a more "active" role in worship but this opportunity was amazing. It meant so much to me to hear people talk about their experiences of interacting with the altars! The woman who had done them for the previous two sessions is a professional artist, so she was a hard act to follow, but I was pleased with what I had to offer. I have to be honest, it was a huge boost to my ego when someone made the passing comment "you obviously do this all the time" and I got to tell them that actually, no, I had never done this before.
In addition to my role there, I was also a convener/facilitator for my covenant group. The responsibilities of facilitating are passed around each group so that everyone gets to do it at least once. My group has been very cohesive almost from day one which has been a huge blessing so facilitation wasn't much of a chore. Still, it was something that was always in the back of my mind as I made my daily preparations so I was constantly trying to stay one step ahead of my "work" and pay attention to the things that had meaning and relevance to my entire group, not just me. Again, it was a great insight and experience, but it was different!
Although I didn't walk away with nearly as many epiphanies as I would have liked, I did have some wonderful experiences and conversations, as always.
I also walked away with a challenge - to begin thinking of my covenant for the second year. We are challenged to come up with a covenant that we can share as we shift our focus from our own inward journeys to more of the outward concern for/with others. I recently had an idea for mine, but I'm still working it all out in my head. No matter what I decide, it is something I will be sharing here as an extra layer of accountability.
It's hard to believe that it will be time to return before I know it. The thing I am looking forward to most about our next session is that one of our faculty members is also one of my former professors from Vanderbilt. I don't know if he'll remember me, but I'm thrilled to have the chance to learn from him again! The only downside to going back is that each time we get closer to the end. This community has already been so amazing and it's going to be very difficult when we are no longer gathering regularly!