Anticipating a great weekend, nearly 40 Shechemites gathered at the House of the Open Door retreat centre at Childswickham in the Cotswolds. We were not to be disappointed. HoD’s welcome and care of us was as always
abundant, the weather was exceptionally good for an August Bank Holiday weekend, and God richly blessed our time together. Our speaker, Will Bissett, challenged us to look with fresh eyes at a familiar verse of scripture - Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14v6), some of the most powerful words in the Bible.
On Friday evening, Will asked us “Who are you?”. Lots of people were asking Jesus that question and he replied to his disciples quoting the response God gave to Moses of “I AM”. Jesus was clear of his divinity and gradually the
disciples grasped it too. If we grasp it, there are implications for how we live our lives. Will asked us “Who are you?, What is the bedrock of your identity?” and “Who do you allow to influence you?”.
On Saturday morning, Will guided our thinking on the maze that is life today and how there are different ways to negotiate the maze. There is the worldly way (“I did it my way” or “I think therefore I am”) or the pluralistic way (but do all roads in the maze lead to the exit?). Jesus answers that he is the Way and invites us to live life God’s Way – love God and love your neighbour. Will asked us “Are you focussed on Jesus or the maze? What way defines our life? What changes is Jesus inviting us to make?”.
Sunday afternoon found us looking at "What is truth? ” It was hard to define in an age of “post-truth” and “alternative truth”. There is a general distrust of truth often because of its manipulation. Similarly, society is tolerant except of the absolute truth, the Gospel, which can be both uncomfortable and transformational. However, Jesus cuts through the confusion by being the ultimate truth, the truth about God and God’s eternal love. Will challenged whether we believe Jesus is the truth about God’s love and how we can reflect God’s love more authentically.
On Monday, in his final session, Will looked at Life. People envy others and aspire to be like them, egged on by adverts and slogans – “One life, live it well”. Fitness instructors, gurus, mindfulness coaches all offer their recipe for life. But eventually we have to ask “What is life all about?”. Jesus invites us to look beyond ourselves, he embodies the indestructible life of the living God. But have we become too familiar with Jesus and his perfect sacrifice? Will asked us “What life are you living?” and “Who or what are you looking to for guidance to sustain life?”.
The rest of the weekend programme was led by members of Shechem - night prayer on Friday and Saturday evenings, breaking of bread and ministry to one another on Sunday evening and an update from Sally followed by a fiendish quiz from Matt on Saturday evening. Several went to local churches on Sunday morning and almost
everybody to the Childswickham fete on Saturday afternoon.
We all returned home on Monday refreshed and spiritually recharged, having had a great time together.
Graham and Kathie