Roots and Branches

Sometimes a minister’s life is just a pleasure.  Going on and leading retreats is one of those times. Last weekend I was delighted to be with a group of women from the Kensington Congregational Church (UCC) to lead a retreat entitled “Roots and Branches.”

We stayed in the lovely Mercy Center in Madison CT.  Simply being in this lovely space looking out on the Long Island Sound was enough to relax the body and ease the spirit.

Mercy Center     Mercy Center 2

A retreat offers an invitation to slow down, step away from the computer, turn off the phone, and simply soak in the beauty of God’s creation. Jesus speaks to us with both wisdom and compassion when he says, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6: 31). This is an invitation to immerse ourselves in Sabbath rest, something that is all too rare in our 24/7 frantically-paced society.

Those precious hours away provided us the time to consider Jesus’ description of our relationship with him. He declared, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…” (John 15:5).

Roots and branches

We talked about these questions:

  • What are some of your roots?
  • Where do you come from?
  • Who were some of your early teachers?
  • How does our faith provide us with grounding and sustenance?
  • What roots do you treasure and which ones would you like to distance yourself from?

We considered the question of “healthy pruning” – how sometimes it necessary to cut ourselves off from people and situations that do not feed us or might even hinder our growth. Because we believe in the God of hope, we trust that even if one root is severed, another can develop in its place. We worship a God of new life and endless possibilities.

We discussed the experience of being uprooted. Sometimes life can change in sudden and dramatic ways, leaving us disoriented and lost. That is a time when we need to grow new roots and trust in our ability to begin again.

On the other hand, there are times when we choose to uproot or transplant ourselves – we might need a healthier environment in which to grow and a place where our spirits can be fed and nurtured. Sometimes it can be vital to leave the past behind and seek out a more nurturing environment.

Once we considered our roots, our group talked about our branches – those growing edges, those places and dreams in us that still need to grow. Just as many plants and trees experience a time of dormancy and rest, so also do we. This quiet stage of life does not mean that we have ceased to grow, but only that the potential is building and will yet be realized.

We mulled over these questions:

  • What are some of my hopes and dreams?
  • What new experiences would I like to have?
  • Where might God be inviting me to grow and change?

There are endless examples of plants and trees growing in unlikely and even seemingly impossible places. We can yearn for that same desire to flourish even when the odds seem stacked against us.

Flower growing through concrete

As a reminder of our time together, we created terrariums. These small vases contained beautiful plants as well as shells, stones, and driftwood collected from the beach.

Terrarium 2    Terrarium 3

Terrarium 4    Terrarium 5

Reluctantly we left that beautiful space – we cannot live on retreat. We are called to go back to our lives and our responsibilities. But we hope that the experience of soaking in the wonder of a “quiet place” will replenish our spirits so we can share God’s love and light wherever it is that are called to live and grow.


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