Laity Lodge opened the Great Hall for the first retreat in the summer of 1961.
For my father-in-law Howard Butt, Jr., it was not merely a retreat center, but a place for the intersection of ideas and experiences.
In fact, the Lodge was controversial in the ’60s and ’70s because of its ideas: an emphasis on small groups, an admission that the Christian experience includes failure and missteps, and Howard’s focus on both theology and psychology.
The powerful experiences people have at the Lodge, though, often open them to consider new ideas, fresh approaches in their faith journeys. Often, these experiences are transformative.
Like when I shared for the first time what it was like to grow up in a racially divided Mississippi at a Men’s Retreat. My public sharing was an important moment in my life, and it is the moment I began my slow process—still ongoing—of thinking about inequities in our country.
Like when I met Jack Willome and the late Bob Ayers. These two men became significant mentors and friends in my life, and I would never have met them outside of Laity Lodge.
Like when J. I. Packer prayed for Deborah and me as it was becoming obvious that we were taking on more responsibility in our work.
Like when Carol Hovde helped my daughter Katherine take her first steps on a dining room table at Laity Lodge.
Like when I learned from Dale Bruner that “the inclusivity of Christ” is wider and reaches further than I had understood before. Like when I was able to be up close and personal with a variety of musicians like folk singer Andy Gullahorn or Stephen Clapp, the dean of Juilliard. Like learning from Marcus Rogers while carving a wooden bird during Creativity Week that I have creativity too.
Because I work for the Foundation, I have been to many retreats at Laity Lodge, yet each one touches me deeply. How humbling and beautiful to imagine the vast host of Laity Lodge guests who have visited over the years and to look forward to the many more guests that God will bring there in years to come. May those who visit the Lodge always find challenging and invigorating ideas, deep and authentic relationships, and most of all, the peace of God that passes all understanding.