The year 1961 proved to be a pivotal one for me. That year, we completed the basic construction of Laity Lodge. The time rolled around for our first retreat, which also served as a time to dedicate it all to God. While in the planning stages, we had visited many well-known retreat sites, gathering as much information as possible. Long hours had gone into planning the design of the retreat center, the design of the buildings, the building locations, the interior design—even the location of the parking lot.

However, we really didn’t have a program laid out. We had a retreat center, but no real plans on how to move forward. While it must have seemed well organized to those first attendees, I felt anxious not knowing exactly the direction God wanted us to go. At that time, I knew little or nothing about how to run a retreat center.

It was a transitional time in my public ministry. I was moving away from my comfort zone in large crusades and moving toward the spiritual awakening of the laity. Our limited vision at the time centered on the idea of wanting to inspire everyday working people that all life is sacred—including the workplace. That we are all called by Christ to be his wherever we are. We wanted Laity Lodge to be an intersection of ideas and life experiences. But we were on a journey into the unknown.

— Howard Butt, Jr.

A 60-Year Journey

Six decades is a milestone—a threshold that deserves to be observed and celebrated. Join us as we take a look back at the history of the Lodge in the latest issue of Echoes Magazine.

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First retreat at Laity Lodge, with Elton Trueblood, Keith Miller, and Howard Butt, Jr. Howard Butt remembers: “Elton Trueblood … was the great apostle of the ministry of common life. The fact that all of us are called to be ministers to each other in our daily secular work just as surely as any pastor or missionary is called to that profession. Keith Miller, an oilman from Oklahoma City, came to give his witness. And the impact of that week was so powerful in the lives of people.”


Keith Miller becomes the director of Laity Lodge. During his time as director, he writes Taste of New Wine (1965) while at the Lodge and has Elton Trueblood write the foreword. The book is a personal exploration of faith and the possibilities for renewal of the church through small groups.


Bill Cody is named director of Laity Lodge. Under Cody’s leadership, the Lodge leans into contemplative practices and inspires the creation of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, initially created in 1967 to serve parents who were attending summer retreats.


J. I. Packer, author of Knowing God (1973) attends Laity Lodge for the first time. He continues to speak every summer until 2015.

“What attracted me to Laity Lodge was the opportunity to be more directly involved in prayer and worship. What I learned was that Laity Lodge is indeed a place of prayer and worship, and that any honorable vocation can be “haunted by God’s presence,” as George MacDonald said.”

— Howard Hovde


The Quiet House opens, bringing to life Bill Cody’s vision for a space of quiet solitary contemplation. The first guest entry from May 30, 1978, reads, “Let be what will be and let grace come upon you. Whether in the heat of the sun or cool of the breeze, receive the divine visitor into your heart. He speaks with love.”


Howard Hovde is named director of Laity Lodge. He stays on for 17 years until 1997, providing the longest sustained leadership in the Lodge’s history, focusing on psychology, theology, and family systems.


Eddie Sears joins the leadership of Laity Lodge as the first associate director. He establishes a pattern of morning Bible studies and prayer time that become a Lodge tradition, and guests enjoy his Texas-style line dances in the Great Hall.

“It’s amazing to me to remember that when my life at Laity Lodge began, I could not speak comfortably to a group. I’d get sweaty palms, and my heart would race. I found a public voice at Laity Lodge. It’s been a blessing to me. My family has seen the transformation. And it’s all His doing. He used me as a tool and gave me as a gift.”

— Eddie Sears


Author Madeleine L’Engle starts spending about a month each year at the Lodge through the early 1990s, writing in her room each morning. She also speaks at the weekend retreats—sometimes delivering formal talks on a given theme and other times sharing personal reflections and stories.


For over two decades, author and poet Luci Shaw leads retreats and writing workshops on reflective journal writing, imaginative vision, and the intersection of art and faith. She is also a charter member of the Chrysostom Society of Writers which met at Laity Lodge for many years.


Don Murdoch is named director of Laity Lodge. During his tenure, visual and performing arts receive a special emphasis.

For Laity Lodge… hospitality has some very specific applications. Being sensitive to the nature, magnitude, and weight of burdens guests are bearing, we plan well in advance for their nurturing and feeding. We do what we can to make it a safe place in which people can breathe deeply and give themselves permission to be nurtured in a variety of ways.

— Don Murdock


The Cody Center opens and Howard Butt, Jr. says, “We are called to be co-creators with God: to create beauty, to enjoy beauty, affirm and present beauty. This unique and beautiful space expands our horizons as co-creators and gives us deeper roots.” The space continues to showcase the highest quality visual and performing arts.


The High Calling of Our Daily Work begins airing 60-second inspirational messages to encourage people on their daily commute, each one ending with “This is Howard Butt, Jr. of Laity Lodge…”

The “lay witness” at Laity Lodge given by one of the guests is often the ingredient in a retreat that is the most energizing… The simple act of paying attention to someone—active, focused listening—is a powerful encouragement.

— Dave Williamson


Dave Williamson becomes director of Laity Lodge after serving on the leadership team for six years. Under Dave’s leadership, the Lodge leans into its connection with Howard Butt, Jr.’s efforts on The High Calling, exploring the intersection of faith and work as an ongoing theme.


Mark Roberts is named senior director of Laity Lodge and theologian-in-residence, deepening the connection between Laity Lodge and The High Calling by taking on the Daily Reflections for several years. He later transitions to other roles in the Foundation before moving to the Max DePree Center at Fuller Seminary.


Steven Purcell is named executive director of Laity Lodge after serving in leadership since 2006. He brings new relationships with speakers, artists, and musicians from around the United States and beyond. From 2015 to 2017, he leads a substantive renovation project, and reimagines Cedar Brake as a micro retreat center.