This weekend I had the pleasure of going on retreat with the Metropolitan United Methodist Church UMW group. Less than two hours out of DC near Charlestown, West Virginia, yet a world away, the PriestField Pastoral Center provided a beautiful and comfortable setting for thirty six city women to leave it all behind. The first thing I noticed upon arriving was that everyone there had already traded their shoes for fuzzy slippers–clearly a sign of some serious kicking back. We had two days of eating wonderful food, sleeping in, worship, study, theological reflection and sharing during the program sessions–in addition to singing, dancing, quilt making, snow watching, (through the beautiful floor to ceiling windows throughout the center), walking, (for those wanting to brave the elements), or for doing nothing at all if that’s what you chose–all makings of a wonderful time.
Theology and extra curriculars aside, however, perhaps the centerpiece of community building at this chick get-away was Saturday night, when all was said and done and everyone gathered around for a junk food, game and gab fest, incorporating all the best elements of a slumber party –without the adolescent angst, of course. No one tried to sneak out, and instead of boyfriend talk there was conversation about careers, family, books, politics, the economy and the state of the world or who was winning the card game in front of them–all those things that women are good at. But the ritual was as real and meaningful as any holy rite– the gathering of women in playful community that we all so enjoy, no matter if we’re age twelve, twenty, sixty or eighty, goes way,way back as an essential and sustaining aspect of human society.
I was a newcomer to the group, but never for a minute felt like one. And on Saturday night I participated as heartily in the communion of salted nuts, Doritoes, Girl Scout thin mints and dark chocolate as I did the next morning with the passing of the bread and wine in our parting worship. My new circle of sisters demonstrate another sustaining truth to be embraced by a world in need– that in a community of open hearts, there’s always room for another.