Create, Choose Peace, Find Joy, Deepen Faith: Gals' Gathering Reflection

Gals 2024
January 22, 2024  |  Written by Christina Croteau.

Winter Garden was the theme of our Gals’ Gathering women’s retreat this year. It seems a bit of an oxymoron to think of the snow we have on the ground as a stark contrast to the fresh, vibrant green and beautiful flowers of a garden. Our focus, however, was on the roots that might be hidden and quiet. Roots that are gathering strength in that darkness for the growth that is to come.

As we were asked to consider why we had joined in retreat, the answers were clear and unanimous—connection, friendship, to be refreshed, filled up, renewed. Next, we were asked who we are—mom, sister, grandmother, gardener, mediator, dog lover, scheduler. The Rev. Rachel Vogado, our fantastic speaker, guided us through listening and conversing about the quiet times in our lives, strengthening our roots, defining our roots, and the importance of ordinary time in our church calendar.

The scripture for our day together was Colossians 2:6-7. Paul is writing to the Colossians at a time in their church when they were tying themselves in knots to be perfect Christians. Here is The Message translation:

“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master: now live in him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out: quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.”

Upon contemplation at our tables and during a walking meditation of looking for the verbs in the scripture, we were asked, “What stands out as a message to you?” The messages came—receiving/as a newborn in a receiving blanket, abounding/spilling over with thanksgiving, roots/taught/history/fortified foundation, we have all that we need. Rachel reminded us that our muscles get stronger when challenged and stretched. So, too, must our faith be in action, our roots deepened in study/contemplation. If we are filled with thankfulness, not running on empty, then the overflowing abundance of that joy is how we serve and listen to others. In sharing that gratitude, we nurture intimacy with others and invite deeper connections.

Fellowship, crafting, and food are the traditions of our time together as women of the church here at Second Presbyterian, and this year did not disappoint. The traditional food such as cinnamon rolls, cookies, and whisky sticks were joined with healthier gluten free options to balance out our New Year’s resolutions. The spaces in our church were lovingly transformed with beautiful decorations to make our time more special and celebratory. Crafts abounded as well as a Pilates session from Ashley Beamer to stretch our bodies. There was truly something for everyone to connect and enjoy fellowship together.

To close our day, we again came together for worship and communion. Rachel again spoke on Colossians, this time using 3:12-17 NIV:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the piece of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

The message to us is to create, choose the peace of Christ over anxiety, find joy in the midst of sorrow and deepen our faith rather than giving in to fear. Rachel encouraged us to strengthen our roots to prepare for the coming growing season with rest, prayer, contemplation of scripture and abundant thanksgiving that might overflow to all around us and open more connection. We as Christians are given HOPE through Christ which leads to a life of faith in that hope. This is a hope that cannot be contained and leads to living in overflowing thanksgiving. Christians live in abundance, not scarcity. Hallelujah!

Many thanks to all who worked to prepare our retreat; your love and care were felt and appreciated by all. If you missed our retreat this year, I invite you to join in this special time next year. For me, it is a treasured time for renewal that is not to be missed.