Finding a Church Family
This post comes from parishioner Cara Appleton, who participated in our annual Parish Retreat earlier this fall.
From the moment I heard Christ Church Anglican hosted a retreat, I was filled with excitement, having gone to church camp in northern Arizona in my growing up years, I had really fond memories of warm campfires, hikes, and heart-to-heart talks over bunk beds. These memories brought on a sense of community, the feeling of being loved and together as a family. I had longed for that feeling of family since my parents divorced. I desired family more than anything else, even begging my mom to never buy me a gift again as long as we could all be together like we were. So the idea of a retreat was a positive one, at first.
But the initial excitement over CCA’s retreat was almost immediately replaced by fear. I feared rejection, having only attended CCA for around a year. I’d recently gotten involved with things and started to meet others. I was afraid of placing myself in a situation where I would be an outsider. That Friday night driving up to the retreat, I was extremely apprehensive.
What if I sit alone at all the meals, what if I wander the camp grounds between sessions without direction? I thought to myself, I would rather be at home, where it’s safe, where no one can remind me that I’m alone. The devil was at work here but I didn’t recognize it until later. Another thought followed: I can just turn around, make some excuse later and go home, but the push of the Holy Spirit was stronger than my fear. In any event, what I found upon arrival was contrary to all the misgivings that played through my mind beforehand.
From the moment I stepped foot on the camp grounds, I was greeted with joy. Where I expected polite indifference I found genuine warmth and eager attention. And it just continued to be more and more interesting and enriching. There was the welcoming light from the stone fireplace in the A-frame building, friendly words over steaming cups of coffee in the crisp mountain air, followed by laughter and smiles around a campfire.
Everywhere I went people talked with me; trivial anecdotes from my life were listened to with full care. At meals, I never sat alone, my opinions were sought after just as others shared what hope they gained and reflection was had. On Sunday morning, the last day of the retreat, hope and gratitude were welling up inside of me, and I felt I just had to stand up and thank everyone for their love and kindness even with the brief time we had spent there together. It is a gift getting to know everyone there and continuing to grow relationships with the members of CCA. I am so happy that I attended and continually thank the Lord for this experience where I was loved as family.
Photos by Ryan Thurman