Laity retreat offers connection and inspiration


In almost every conversation and survey with churches in the Columbia District and across the Oregon-Idaho Conference over the last two years it has become clear to district leaders that there needs to be more opportunities for spiritual growth of lay leaders in churches.

After two years of dreaming and visioning, the “Light up the World” retreat is happening April 27-29 at the Canby Grove Christian Center. Laity from across the Conference – not just the Columbia District – are encouraged to attend.

“It just seemed like this was the right time,” said Lydia Henry, lay leader for the Columbia District. “People kept saying they wanted to get together to worship and connect.”

Will they ever have that opportunity at this retreat featuring guest speakers from around the Conference, interactive worship and prayer opportunities, and built-in moments of retreat and solitude.

Taking a note from Matthew 5:14, “you are the light of the world,” lay leaders and pastors from around the Conference will focus on three areas throughout the weekend, Henry said: explore, experience and engage.

“We want to have a conversation around what it means to empower laity,” Henry said. “Vitality in churches is going to be done by the laity.”

The retreat is also open to families, with Kim Gorman, Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries at Christ United Methodist in Cedar Mills, offering an iWannaBe curriculum for children ages 2 through 11. Youth 12 to 18 will be welcomed as leaders. Henry said families will remain together for meals and some worship, but the children will get to experience the same topics as the adults, just on their own level through Gorman’s well-developed curriculum.

Henry said retreats like these are important to provide people with a different atmosphere to experience their faith.

“They put us in a special spiritual place – those ‘thin spaces’ are where the spirit comes closer,” she said.

The retreat will start with a big community dinner on Friday night, followed by a Taize prayer service with Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett. Saturday will be filled with large and small group discussions from various speakers around the topics of laity, looking at scripture through different lenses and then taking these lessons back into local communities.

A conversational, interactive worship service will be lead Saturday night by Columbia District Superintendent Erin Martin and pastor Christy Dirren.

The retreat wraps up Sunday morning.

Henry said the focus at first was on laity from the Columbia District, but organizers decided this is too important an event to limit participation to just one geographical area.

“We’re doing something innovative,” Henry said. “We don’t want to close the door on anyone.”

Learn more about the guest speakers on the Conference website and register for the retreat on the Light Up the World web page.