Nov 13, 2016

by Gary Rickel, pastor The Community of St. Dysmas, Jessup and Hagarstown, MD - a 5 point parish in Maryland Correctional Institution for women and Maryland Correctional Institution for men, and Patuxent Institution, all in Jessup, the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, and the Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville.

This Epiphany Hymn summed up the meaning of the First, Annual PCA Retreat for me;

“Bright and glorious is the sky,
Radiant are the heavens high
Where the golden stars are shining.
All their rays to earth inclining
Beckon on us to heaven above,
Beckon on us to heaven above.
(LBW #75)

On a September, Saturday evening we gathered outside of a former monastery in the hills of Northeast South Dakota. The light from the full moon was so radiant, no other light was necessary. We surrounded a campfire whose flickering flames only brought further brightness to the evening. As temperatures began to cool, the warmth of the fire took the chill away. Thanks to a guitar picker we sang camp songs, a few cowboy songs and some of Ed’s favorites. Some of us remarked that we had not enjoyed “S’MORES” for years. Once the fire died down and the chill set in, light from the moon beckoned us back to our rooms for a restful night’s sleep.

The purpose of a “retreat” is to withdraw from one’s busy, everyday activities to a quiet place of peace. Those of us gathered around the campfire in the moon light underneath the upper Midwest sky, had a peace which could only could come from heaven.
The world we came from was characterized by penitentiaries designed to keep the lost and forgotten away from normal society. While we all gladly want to bring the Gospel to those often sullen places, it was good to retreat with colleagues who spoke the same language and had the same needs.

Together around the campfire, singing, eating sticky S’mores, underneath the golden stars came peace.

The next morning we headed back to our various barb wire ringed fortresses more at peace than when we came. While we can never completely transfer our Northeast South Dakota monastic experience to the penitential culture, perhaps we can now better “Beckon…to heaven above” the men and women whom our Creator God entrusted to us.

Category: Peace

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