A Time to Pause: The Power of Spiritual and Silent Retreats
Three members of the Christos community ponder the importance of retreats in their relationship with God, and share their ideas for how to find a retreat that’s right for you.
What is a retreat? What does it mean to you?
- Peg Ruetten: A retreat is an intentional setting aside of time and space in my heart, my body and my mind to tend my relationship with God and my soul. I have trouble staying present and I can get scattered. A retreat is a centering touchstone. It’s an oasis as well, a place of refreshment. It might be as simple as sitting in my prayer chair and taking a couple hours of retreat in a corner of my home.
- Linda Richardson: I’ve learned that a retreat is not a weekend full of activities and informative sessions and a lot of talk with a lot of people. I have done these in the past and have come home exhausted. Maybe God said something to me during those weekends, but probably not. I was introduced to the contemplative life by the writings of Richard Foster, and remember reading about silence and solitude as important aspects of retreat. I began leading those kinds of retreats, with opportunities to be still. Early on, it was difficult to tolerate silence for more than about 30 minutes! We are addicted to noise and activity.
- Cecilia Whitacre: Retreats are my favorite topic! They have been instrumental in my own journey and relationship with the Lord. I’ve been leading and facilitating retreats for over a decade. What I find is that people don’t need more information or teaching, but some space to process, to just be. They come to a retreat wanting to grow closer to God.
Is a retreat a place or a time?
- Peg: It can be either, or both. The key is uninterrupted time and quiet. It can be a time of learning for me if one of my spiritual directees is interested in something that I need to dig into.
- Linda: Foster describes mini-retreats as “little solitudes” – something as simple as when I go out my back door late at night to let the dog out. Hold space for God in those few minutes. Or when you’re in the wrong line in the grocery store. Rather than allowing the impatience and anger to take over, it’s an invitation to slow down and experience a little solitude. It can even be in the car! Turn the radio off. Hold space for God on a road trip or on an errand.
- Cecilia: A retreat can be a bit of everything – from an hour to a span of five days, with a few people or alone, guided by a leader, or with just a Scripture verse or two to guide you. I love hermitages – tiny houses where you spend time alone, bringing your own meals and your own questions for God.
What kind of retreats are people looking for?
- Peg: A good introductory retreat for people is something with a combination of silence, activity, maybe being outdoors in nature, some sharing. Some retreats coincide with life changes, or the rhythms of the year, the seasons of the church. Consider what might be happening in the next year, and how you want to invite God into it. For people who have a lot of issues spinning in their head, going to a retreat that’s guided can help them. Engage in the material and break the cycle of the spin. Allow for rest and new insights and an ability to hear the Holy Spirit.
- Cecilia: I love to lead and participate in long retreats – five days or more – but that’s not practical for many people. Some people want fellowship because they live alone and feel isolated – this is especially true as we navigate the pandemic. Some are fearful of silence, yet others are thankful for the permission not to talk. Most people are disconnected and distracted and welcome the chance to get away, to come to a sacred place and set time apart. Being in nature is definitely important, even in winter. Walk a labyrinth, look at a lake, sit in nature to restore your soul.
- Linda: The fact that people are even thinking about a retreat tells me they are longing for something. Ask yourself what you are longing for. What does the word “retreat” call you to do? To even have that desire means God is drawing you to God’s self. As a Spiritual Director, I often hear from my directees that they want to do an individual retreat, maybe a silent one, but they’re not sure how to do it. I put together a few pages of thoughts, Scripture, poetry, possibilities on how they might connect with God and leave space for God at the retreat. Even though you’re on a silent retreat you’re not completely alone because you have resources from your Spiritual Director.
What can you share about your own retreat experiences?
- Peg: Scripture is really meaningful in retreat. Have a passage picked out ahead of time and meditate on it multiple times. It’s a good primer to a meaningful experience. Also, pay attention to what’s happening in the seasons of your own life and let that guide you.
- Linda: I’m an extrovert, so it’s difficult for me to choose silence because of my personality particularly if I’m doing this on my own. I need to make an appointment with myself and with God, even written it on the calendar, have committed to a retreat center and paid the fee! And I won’t let something else encroach. Sometimes if I go with a small group or another person – and we reconnect a time or two, it’s helpful to have someone else there.
- Cecilia: Jesus is our great example of retreating. He did. He went to a solitary place often. If he needed to do it, so do I! It can be an hour or two – just go for a day. You’re surrounded by nature and beauty, statues and artwork – things that support your connecting with God. Start small. Just an hour. Step out of your ordinary life. Retreat is a battlefield term that means going back. But it also means getting out of your routine. If you’re feeling a nudge, just do it. The Lord draws us to retreats. Pay attention to that yearning.
Upcoming Tending The Soul Christos Retreats
Christos offers multiple retreats every year. There are three unique formats for the Tending The Soul retreats offered during September and October 2022. You are welcome to attend one, two or all three retreats. Click on the retreat title for more details. Check our Events page for a full schedule.
Coming Home to Love – Lisa Harrell, Presenter
Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 – 9 am – 3 pm – In-person at Christos, Lino Lakes MN, also online
A day for rest, renewal and re-connection with the one who loves us. Join others in a day of silent retreat with brief times of group reflection, Scripture, readings and personal quiet. Format: This retreat will include three short talks interspersed with silent reflection times.
Longing for More: An Introduction to the Contemplative Life – Susan Stuart, Presenter
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 – 10 am – 6 pm – In person only at Christos, Lino Lakes, MN
This day-long retreat features a sampling of spiritual practices, to live more attentively toward God, to rest in God’s presence and let go of “doing.” Guided experience with prayer, scripture, time to walk, be with others and be on your own. Format: This retreat will introduce several spiritual practices and offer time for personal reflection. Silence during the day to be broken for shared supper and conversation.
Silence Please – Carl Nordgren, Presenter
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 – 9 am – 3 pm – In-person at Christos in Lino Lakes, MN and on Zoom
Extended times of silence can help balance the noise in a healthy way. Come for a lightly structured day of silence and a few guided thoughts. No previous experience with silence is necessary. Format: This retreat will be lightly structured with some periodic guidance given, but the vast majority of the time will be silent.
How to find the right retreat for you:
Check with your local faith community for a referral list of retreat centers.
Do a web search on “retreat centers in my area” or “spiritual retreat.” Most metropolitan areas have a wide range of options, from dedicated retreat centers with accommodation to more unstructured space.
Consider a retreat center outside your traditional faith community, for a change of perspective and a different kind of invitation from God.
Find a beautiful place to linger in prayer: a labyrinth, a chapel, a place in nature or a space filled with artwork.
Retreat in the ordinary by setting space and time in your daily routine: “Have coffee with Jesus in the morning” (thanks to Christos Founder Joann Nesser for this idea), pray while you’re doing laundry, letting go of the noise and asking yourself, “what am I hoping for?”
Our blog authors
Peg Ruetten is a longtime member of the Christos community and a graduate of the Spiritual Guidance Program at Shalem Institute. She is a former Christos Board member and active volunteer at Christos. She is a teacher, Group facilitator and Spiritual Director in the Twin Cities.
Linda Richardson is a Spiritual Director in the Chicago area, former coordinator of the Christos Tending the Holy Program in Chicago, and current Christos Board member. She is also an Anglican priest.
Cecilia Whitacre is Chicago Coordinator of Christos’s Tending the Holy Program, active Spiritual Director, trained Immanuel Prayer Facilitator and retreat facilitator. More information about Cecilia at https://www.anordinarychristianwoman.com.