Our age range—from 18 to 92—was as diverse as our faith backgrounds: Presbyterians, Baptists (including one self-proclaimed “walking Baptist hymnal”); nondenominational Evangelicals; folks who identify more with the term “ex-vangelical” than with a particular Christian tradition; Anglicans; Episcopalians; a Mennonite.
We’re also students, clergy, artists, psychiatrists, spiritual directors, architects, physical therapists, customer service representatives, filmmakers, writers, musicians, and missionaries. We gathered at this retreat for as many reasons as there were people. But while here, we were asked to reflect together on a challenging question:
“How does one go on being a Christian in America today?”
Purcell, standing in front of the Great Hall, read aloud a few headlines from the last six months of the magazine Christianity Today:
He also reminded us of the description of the retreat that was sent out to the Lodge’s email list a few months before: “as challenges multiply, as the church perfects the art of discrediting itself, as friends leave the faith, many Christians are feeling exhausted, disoriented, and discouraged. Some wonder how much longer they can stick with Christianity—or if they even want to.”
Purcell said the title of this retreat, “Faith in the Ruins,” inspired an unusual response. He shared a sampling of the mix of emails the staff received: “Wow, I’m so glad you guys are doing that.” “That’s where I’m living; I need to be there.” “I don’t get this at all. What are you talking about?” “I’m going to pass, thank you.”
As a colleague of the Lodge team—I’m the H. E. Butt Foundation’s graphic designer—I know how intentionally they prepare for each individual retreat. I can only imagine how much extra care went into this one.