Founded by Howard Butt, Jr., in 1961, Laity Lodge has been welcoming guests to retreats designed to reawaken a sense of the sacred—the nearness and goodness of God in all of life—ever since. The Lodge is located deep in the Texas Hill Country, on the banks of the Frio River. We hope you will find our Canyon to be a place of extraordinary beauty. We also hope that you’ll find that the things we do together are really quite ordinary: conversing, singing, walking, praying, eating, and resting. Those few things that we believe contribute to a truly good life—a life of steady stewardship and love, lived among friends and before God.
The Great Hall, our main meeting space, was built to be the “the most comfortable living room in the Hill Country.” That’s an important distinction to us. It means you are a guest in our home … a place we love deeply and have prepared just for you.
“On my first visit to Laity Lodge, I knew it was a holy place. The high hills spoke of it. The river spoke of it. ... I don't believe I have ever known a place as full of human kindness and openness and grace as I have found in virtually everyone I met there.”Frederick Buechner
For decades we’ve opened every retreat with these words: “We have an agenda, but we don’t have an agenda for you.” This is your retreat. And though we craft retreats to serve you well at every turn, we trust you to engage with the program as you see fit.
“Laity” comes from the Greek λαϊκός (laikos), and means “of the people.” Laity Lodge is built on the conviction that all people, in all places and occupations, are called to be witnesses—steadfast, caring visionaries of hope in a world of shadows.
Originally designed in 1978 by Richard L. Casey with oversight from Howard E. Butt, Jr., the Symbol of the Congress of the Laity was reworked in 2013 and is used today exclusively as the program symbol for Laity Lodge. The symbol was originally described thusly—“…it is made up of four adjoining circles: the top circle stands unadorned, representing God; the right circle holds a square, symbol for earth; the bottom circle contains the triangle which stands for the spiritual world, triunity, and creativity; the left circle embraces the cross, reminder of God’s reaching to man in the person of Jesus Christ. Bordering the four circles is the architectural shape of the early Roman Senate where representatives discussed major issues face to face. The Congress of the Laity, too, was a gathering of important people discussing major issues within a Christian context of leadership through servanthood.”
Steven Purcell came to Laity Lodge in 2006 by way of Seattle. From 1997-2002, he was the Director of Conferences and Retreats at Schloss Mittersill, in Mittersill, Austria. Prior to that he attended Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., where he studied Spiritual Theology with an emphasis on its integration with the arts. Steven lives with his family in Boerne.
Gate Davis works behind-the-scenes to develop retreat concepts and ensure that every detail of the retreat experience supports the mission and vision of Laity Lodge. He is also responsible for a wide variety of communication efforts. Before Laity Lodge, Gate worked at a church in Austin. Gate and his family live in Boerne.
Ryan Hernandez maintains the Lodge’s commitment to great meals. He has worked in some great kitchens and brings an experienced passion to the job. Ryan came to the Lodge from just down the river at Laity Lodge Youth Camp where he oversaw kitchens for five summers. Next time you are at a retreat, please feel free to step into the kitchen to say hello. Ryan and his family live in Kerrville.
Grant Shellhouse manages the myriad programmatic details that bring retreat concepts to life. Part registrar, part group liaison, part keeper-of-the-calendar, Grant attends to the minutia while maintaining a concern for the broader “theological hospitality” aspirations that inspire our work. Grant attended Baylor University and Duke Divinity School, and he resides in Kerrville with his family.
Hannah Smith provides frontline hospitality and service to all guests of the Lodge. There is a very good chance that Hannah will be the first person you meet when you arrive here—she’ll be the smiling face behind the desk in Reception. Forgot what time dinner is served? Just ask Hannah. Forgot your toothbrush? Again, Hannah. Originally from Kansas, Hannah comes to the Lodge after recent stints in Washington, D.C., and at English L’Abri.
Amy Crouch wants to make you feel welcome at the Lodge. You’ll typically find her in Reception where she ensures that a sense of warmth and enthusiasm prevails. Amy can remind you what time the next session starts, advise you on the best hikes, and point you in the direction of your next great snack. Originally from the East Coast, Amy joined the team after completing her degree in Linguistics and English at Cornell University.