Re-establishing Place: A Personal Reflection on Renovation

At the beginning of the summer, one of my colleagues was in San Antonio when he ran into one of Laity Lodge’s faithful guests, a woman who has come to a retreat every year since the mid-1960s. Before he could offer a proper hello, she declared: “I just don’t know what I’m going to do without Laity Lodge this summer. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”

We’re hearing a lot of that these days. And we’re feeling much the same: Not having Laity Lodge is weird, and it’s hard. The absence has been felt most acutely over the summer season, when we are traditionally welcoming a new crop of guests every weekend.

I still get to make regular trips to the Lodge for renovation meetings, and it’s exciting to see the new spaces begin to take shape. Yet, I confess that there’s a weightiness to this process too—a sense of responsibility to care for what the place has been while fully envisioning what it could become.

The Lodge was built for the people, the laity, so we all share a sense of ownership of the place and what it means. And I know we all feel, in our own way, something of the risk involved in this endeavor. In altering the Lodge, are we somehow going to mess it up? Could changing the environment accidentally compromise the spirit of the place?
We anticipate that retreats will resume in late spring of next year. (I’ll let you know about registration dates as soon as they open.) When you return, things are going to look a little different. For a while, at least, they are even going to smell very new. In other words, the renovated Lodge will need to be lived in and broken in before it can be fully realized.
But over time, this realization will occur. It will occur not just by what’s built, but by what we make of it together. For as special as the Lodge is on its own, it is—and has always been—most deeply defined and consecrated by our sharing it, living into it, “people-ing” it with each other.

I look forward to continuing this work with you in 2017. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to drop me a line with questions, comments, or updates of your own.

Steven Purcell