In the midst of tragedy on AU’s campus and the country, the faculty and staff looked ahead to plan a meaningful Spiritual Emphasis week. To cap off Spiritual Emphasis week this year, AU faculty, staff and students are invited to participate in a spiritual retreat centered on prayer.
“Because there is so much heartache going on, it is so important to make intentional space for God,” said Director of Spiritual Formation Becca Palmer.
“We all need to quiet ourselves and listen for His voice that speaks truth and life,” she said. “He brings peace and comfort like no other. Having a retreat like this helps all of us continue to practice ways to better connect with Jesus. It’s like training for a race or a sport; we all have to continually keep at it, regardless of our place in life.”
Spiritual Emphasis week is a long-standing tradition at AU that focuses on inward transformation and renewal.
The retreat is being led by campus pastor Tamara Shelton and the Spiritual Life team. The goal is to give members of the AU community the opportunity to step outside of the stress and tragedy going on in their lives and soley focus on growing in their relationship with Christ.
“I believe that prayer is the most beautiful tool that we have in terms of developing intimacy with God,” said Shelton.
“Our hope is that students will discover prayer in a way that goes beyond the clichéd ways that we normally talk about prayer,” she said. “We want to shift the prayer paradigm a bit where we really experience prayer as a way to speak things into existence—to pray bold prayers. Finally, we want to talk about the listening aspect of prayer, because that easily gets lost.”
The guest speaker for spiritual Emphasis week is author Nathan Foster, who wrote “The Making of an Ordinary Saint.” The book talks about Foster’s journey with the spiritual disciplines.
These spiritual disciplines are tools used to develop intimacy with God and one of the goals of this retreat is to look specifically at the tool of prayer.
This retreat was planned with Foster’s themes in mind and looks to build upon what students and staff take away from his talks throughout the week.
This is an opportunity for staff and students to explore some new ways to experience prayer and have fellowship with one another while taking a step away from the “AU bubble.”
A couple of the activities will work on intercessory prayers using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide and making a spiritual life map which will be a hands-on way to reflect on how your relationship with God has developed.
“I am most looking forward to a time to just find rest, both physically and spiritually,” said Michaela McCurdy, the student coordinator of AU’s prayer ministry.
“Way too often I find myself getting caught up in the business of everyday life, trying to pack it full of things,” she said. “What I always come back to is that life truly lived to its fullest potential is found in Christ alone—simply being in the presence of God as I go about my doing.”
One concern of putting on a retreat can be “retreat high.”
This often comes immediately following a spiritual retreat where one feels they have reached their peak spiritually.
The downside is that instead of continuing to grow, most tend to fall back into a rut.
“What I am really interested in is the long-term, steady faithfulness of continuing to seek the Lord in our daily lives,” said Shelton.
“We aren’t trying to force a lot of hype at the retreat,” she said. “What is going to bring the energy are the people there and their passion for the Lord. I don’t feel like we need to overcompensate. I think that by keeping things simple and focused, we can help transfer what we experience into our everyday lives.”
The retreat will take place Oct. 20-22 and is being held at Yellow Creek Lake Camp.
The cost of the retreat is $10 for those attending because of a grant provided by the Network of Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). These funds also allowed the spiritual life team to offer a retreat scholarship if students were interested but would be unable to afford the $10.
If AU community members are interested in being involved throughout Spiritual Emphasis Week but are unable to go to the retreat, there are plenty of other opportunities to grow in your spiritual journey.
From last night at 7 p.m. until tonight at 7 p.m., students are taking turns praying for the campus and community in the prayer room in the basement of the Morrison House. Students signed up for hour-long intervals to pray.
This is the second time this semester that a 24-hours of prayer event has occurred on campus. On Aug. 28 and into Aug. 29, students gathered together to pray over AU’s students by name, eventually writing every name on a banner that was later displayed at chapel.