Editor's note:

This spring there have been not one but two alumni gatherings of Renovaré Institute graduates. We were pleased to post a report from the UK gathering in April, and today we’d like to offer you a glimpse into the Colorado Springs retreat that took place in May. I was able to join the latter group for an afternoon, and I can report firsthand that the bond that is forged among students who share two years together in spiritual formation is as intense as it is beautiful. I think you’ll get an inspiring sense of the goings on by reading this report from one of the retreat’s organizers, Theressa McMorris. Enjoy!

—Carolyn Arends
Director of Education, Renovaré

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

Near the closing of the Santa Barbara cohort of the Renovaré Institute (RI), a few students plotted, planned and aimed for hope. We were unable to conceive of our RI Community coming to an end, for we belong one to another. After two years of circuitous twists, roadblocks and a deluge of emails, we gathered together at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Colorado Springs for an alumni retreat.

During our time together, we had scheduled visitors, as well as a delightful pop-in. Chris Hall, Renovaré President, and Carolyn Arends, Renovaré Director of Education, joined us to share about the growing Renovaré community and to listen to the thoughts of Institute Graduates. Richard Foster unexpectedly stopped by to share about his exciting happenings and future plans. He and Chris even joined us for an exercise in the practice of submission that appeared closer to a jitterbug! (Reports remain unclear).

Guided by Jan Johnson, we delved into community with a gathering of strangers and friends from four different cohorts. Together we entered a very familiar circle with a table in the middle to take part in an RI liturgy called “laying the altar.” A culture shared, we held silent, sacred space as each person, one by one, shared their personal story of God’s active presence, and surrendered to the altar an item that symbolized their journey. Strangers began to look more like friends and fellow disciples of Christ.  

Sharing dinner, a brilliant decision was made to pile in our cars and meander to the Garden of the Gods at sunset. It is uncertain whether a new practice of driving the labyrinth was initiated, or whether one of our drivers was simply talking more than steering. Old traditions continued and new ones were begun, and the day closed with friends old and new gathering to share memories, stories and laughter.

The next morning began with praying The Breastplate of St. Patrick. We bound unto ourselves “the strong Name of the Trinity,” which prepared us to spend time—together and alone—reflecting and meditating upon the reality of being personally loved by God. Venturing into this love, Ignatian meditation transported us to an experience of Peter stepping out of the boat as he ventured towards Jesus.

Practicing this love in community, we entered the discipline of confession. Together we unburdened our hearts and bound them one to another, which allowed us to venture even deeper into life together. We asked how our lives might be dramatically different if there were no fear and we could trust God for everything. Trusting this Jesus in and among us—for Christian Community is only this—an afternoon was carved out for intentional prayer, thinning the veil as we sought the Lord in unity of belief. We became one, now no longer strangers but friends, sharing the body and blood of Christ.  No longer four cohorts but one community, through Christ and in Christ. We closed our time at Glen Eyrie Castle, where Dallas Willard had taught the Denver cohort. Sharing communion and a lectio of the weekend, we reflected on our growing community and our experience of the Kingdom in and among us us:  Jesus.

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