What does Laity Lodge do when it can no longer receive retreat guests … when the whole of the Frio River Canyon, our sacred place, is closed to visitors?
The honest answer is that we are not sure.
Like you, we’ve spent the last two weeks reckoning with this uncomfortable new reality rolling in upon us. At first that meant cancelling retreats. One. Then two. Then a season. As of this writing, our summer schedule is still on the calendar, but who can say what decisions will become necessary soon?
At the same time, we started talking about what the Lodge could offer to you, our scattered friends, during this moment.
Could we turn to our musician, speaker, and artist friends and commission small works? We could offer modest financial backing to such work, benefiting them and, in turn, all of us. Could Steven record a solitary morning prayer service from the Great Hall? Morning prayer is a defining feature of the life-of-the-Lodge, and certainly we could all benefit from this practice right now.
We are beginning real work along these lines. And yet, that more fundamental question about what is the Lodge at this moment nags.
The hard thing about this moment is that there is no stepping out of it.
Laity Lodge has always been a place where visitors—staff and guests alike—step out of reality for a few days. Sure, demands from “back home” don’t magically disappear once our tires hit the Frio River. But they do become a little less demanding thanks to the remove of this place.
A retreat offers a moment of rest. Perhaps instruction. It introduces new relationships. It guarantees we will be well fed! And it provides proximity with creation—this Canyon is a singular natural setting that plays its own very important part in nurturing our souls. All of this, working together, creates an opportunity for a refreshed perspective—a sort of spiritual recalibration.
But again, what happens when nobody can be here? What can Laity Lodge do?
In a weird way, we all find ourselves forced into postures of retreat. Maybe a small hope for these early days of isolation is to re-see our current, limited environs as places of ongoing retreat. Could the rhythms of the Lodge inform the rhythms of our social-distanced existence?
We have all stepped aside from our day-to-day realities. We are at home, gathered around hearths of one sort or another (even if a little less grand than the Great Hall!). We are preparing meals and eating together. We are reading, praying, singing. We can still walk outside. We can listen to the birds.
All of these things—and many more—are the basic ingredients of a Laity Lodge retreat. We often suggest that the things we do at the Lodge are nothing more than these ordinary and normal things that we believe God created for us to do and enjoy since the very beginning.
These are the very same things that can define our homebound lives right now.
We are not being glib. Current realities are grim. But we would do well to protect ourselves from allowing fearful news cycles and mounting uncertainties to define our existence. Instead, let’s commit to these few, simple things that we believe contribute to a truly good life—a life of steady stewardship and love, lived before God.