What a Retreat! Camp Lu Wix E
This phrase comes to mine in reflecting (and writing this morning) on what was one of the most satisfying experiences of my ministry. While pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church a group of church members would invest quality time during Lent sharing in a special retreat experience. We did this for ten years in a row. An important part of our Lenten journey, this was always a pivotal experience for me as a pastor in finding some “sacred time and space” in order nurture a closer relationship with God in the context of our being a community of faith.
As many as 20 to 25 adults, youth and children would attend this retreat. This was a great number given the size of our congregation. We traveled about 45 minutes to Wixom Lake and Camp Lu Wix E (owned and operated by St. John’s Lutheran Church in Saginaw). Volunteers would work on preparing meals, crafts, games, various recreational activities—while I would focus as pastor on the program. 
We would gather on Friday evening for an orientation, opening program, worship and snacks. Saturday would be a full day of study and play – private walks along the shore of the lake, photography, crafts – a host of activities for young and old. While some of the program time was designed to be intergenerational, we also provided special time for the children in a different building. During free-time in the afternoon, many enjoyed taking a nap! Sunday would be a time to conclude our program and sharing in worship with communion.
Some will remember the little RED DOT. As a game for children and adults, I would hide a small little red dot someplace in one of the public spaces we used for this retreat. This dot was the size of pencil eraser. The first person to find the DOT would get a free trip to a treasure chest. We always brought along a chest full of small toys and gifts for the children and adults….many of these items in the box could be used as gifts to be given to secret pals (see below).
The ten themes we enjoyed:
1. 1995 Angels 2. 1996 Seasons on the Christian Calendar
3. 1997 Heroes and Heroines in the Bible
4. 1998 Bible Concepts
5. 1999 World Religions
6. 2000 Bible Covenants
7. 2001 Journeys of Paul
8. 2002 I Corinthians Study (Bill Kehrer Leader)
9. 2003 The New Catechism
10.2004 Biblical Prophets
In looking back at this list of retreats, I am amazed that we actually held these retreats for ten years in a row. I think the only reason we discontinued these retreats was my personal inability to physically handle working in this retreat environment.
Why highlight this particular experience? I truly believe these retreats were among the most important of all Lenten events that could be planned for members of the congregation to grow and mature in their personal relationship with God. This was also a significant bonding experience for member of the church. This was also one of those rare opportunities for the congregation to see me outside the context of Sunday worship. Having served my first years of ministry with a focus on Christian Education, I knew that building a significant retreat experience away from the every day hustle and bustle of life could be as meaningful way to help members of the congregation grow spiritually!
The closing worship service was the most meaningful. We would always gather in a circle. In addition to singing and my sharing s short sermon, the most memorable part of these worship experiences was sharing gifts. How did this work?
Prior to the beginning of each retreat, we would draw the name of someone on this retreat who would become our “secret pal”! As a secret pal we would try to do special things for this person. Also, each camper would have a gift to give his or her secret pal during this closing worship. This often became an emotional
Needless to say, the sharing we did in this circle during closing worship was for many an emotional experience.
We would then close the retreat experience with communion, a noon meal – cleaning and sweeping the camp space.
In thinking about this, I was always aware that taking this many members away from weekly worship back in Saginaw could create a bit of a “hole” that would need to be filled when we returned. For this reason, it was always important for me to make sure we shared some of our retreat stories and singing some of our camp songs so the rest of the congregation could capture a glimpse of what we did while away.
 Always a bit frustrating that I would be leaving behind a small congregation that would gather on Sunday with a guest preacher. I was always lamented the fact that more members of our unified church community could not be part of this wonderful retreat experience.