The fall spiritual retreat for next semester will be held at Epworth Forest, a conference center in northern Indiana, on October 5 and 6.
Campus Pastor Tamara Shelton said that they haven’t picked a theme for the retreat yet, but it is likely to connect with next year’s chapel theme, which will be announced at both freshman orientation and opening chapel.
“Retreats in the last several years have focused on taking time away from campus for personal reflection, rest, prayer and worship,” Shelton said. “These elements will be present at the fall retreat as well. We will likely include spiritual practices that can be implemented into daily life when students return to campus.”
Shelton said that the retreat will be a lot like the past ones, but the accommodations will slightly change.
“Everyone who attends will be staying in the same giant lodge, and our worship times will be held in a common space in the lodge,” Shelton said. “I think this will increase the sense of community and opportunity for building meaningful relationships.”
She also hopes that since the retreat is earlier in the semester, the weather will ensure moments in nature.
“The retreat will provide time for personal moments of solitude that will give students the opportunity to hike or sit by the lake and seek solace in God’s presence,” Shelton said. “I am getting super excited thinking about next year’s retreat and am already praying that God will do what only God can do as we get away and seek him together.”
“There is always a lot of “game playing, laughing, eating a ton of snacks and general craziness and shenanigans,” she added.
Shelton said that previous retreats have revealed some needs of college students in the midst of busyness and pressure.
“Previous retreats have revealed that many students are hungry for extended opportunity for personal time with the Lord as well as corporate worship and prayer without the pressure of the next event or item on the to-do list,” Shelton said. “During previous retreats, our evening worship and prayer has often spontaneously lasted for several hours as students simply enjoy being in the presence of God together.”
She believes it is very important for students to take time to attend retreats.
“Many times, our souls are famished in ways that we don’t even recognize unless we take the time to rest and reflect,” she said. “Given the fast-paced nature of the lives we live, sometimes it takes getting away in a new environment, free from the normal pressures of everyday life, to reset our souls and find healing and renewal.”
Shelton highly encourages students to attend the retreat and hopes they will grow in a variety of ways.
“I hope that students will develop a deeper hunger and desire for God and also learn simple tools that help them continue to grow in their intimacy with the Lord,” she said. “I also hope that students build memories and are able to completely let loose and laugh together.”
Shelton said that students should get signed up as soon as classes start in the fall. They like to keep the cost really low, and that if cost is an issue for any student, they will always work something out.
“We really want any student that desires to attend to be able to be there,” she said. “Retreat is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the opportunity to get to know students on a more personal level and let loose myself.”
Sophomore Christian ministry and Christian spiritual formation major Jake Jordan has attended two spiritual retreats, and enjoyed the community aspect.
“I remember a bunch of us guys went swimming in the lake in our underwear,” Jordan said. “The silly, fun community aspect of the retreat stands out the most to me.”
He also said that the worship sessions where he was able to sit and relax were very memorable. Jordan hopes people attend retreats to experience the things that he did.
“I’d encourage others to go because it’s a good break from school, and it’s a way to get away with similar-aged people,” Jordan said. “It’s really nice to get out of the academic environment that we always feel like we’re in. It’s also a good spiritual reset in some ways to get our of your routine for a little bit.”
Junior international relations and Spanish major Michaela McCurdy has attended and helped with several spiritual retreats. She said that her experience at each one is always different than the other.
“One night on my first retreat was gorgeous, and we just sat out for hours and looked at the stars,” McCurdy said. “Being with people, being able to hit the pause button on life and taking a moment to remember what’s important has always been really memorable.”
She said that because college is so hectic, taking moments away like these retreats are so important.
“College can become so busy, and the schedule is always going to be full,” McCurdy said. “I think it’s really important to be able to take time and reset that perspective.”
“It’s really fun, and I feel like I’ve met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met that I now have friendships with,” McCurdy said. “There’s always little things you learn. For most people, it’s not life-changing right off the bat, but it’s like the actual process of life where it’s a slow transformation and you’re picking up little bits of truth throughout it.”