In late August, Nativity’s Director of Public Ministry, Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy, visited Holden Village for a 5-day journey, an experience she shares here along with questions and prayers for our own spiritual travels.
Essay 1: Arrival at Holden Village
After a four-hour boat journey, my son and I stepped into the tranquility of Holden Village. A bus ride through the lush greenery brought us to the heart of the village, where we were greeted with warm smiles and open arms. Our home for the week was a charming chalet, its windows adorned with colorful flower boxes and the grounds were filled with sage and lavender’s soothing scent. The panoramic view of the majestic mountains was captivating. The first day was a whirlwind of emotions – the awe-inspiring beauty of our surroundings, the strange disconnection from technology, and the anticipation of the days ahead. As the day ended with ice cream from the village snack shop and a serene walk along the river bend, I felt a sense of peace wash over me.
Reflection: Stepping out of our comfort zones can be daunting, but it often leads to the most profound experiences. How has stepping out of your comfort zone enriched your life?
Prayer: Heavenly Creator, we thank You for the awe-inspiring beauty of Your creation and the peace that it brings to our hearts. We are grateful for the journey that has brought us to this tranquil village, for the warm smiles and open arms that have welcomed us, and for the charming chalet that we now call home.
As we navigate away from the familiar and disconnected from technology, we ask for Your guidance. Help us to embrace the anticipation of the unknown, the whirlwind of emotions, and the opportunities for growth that lie ahead.
We lift up to You the reflection of today: stepping out of our comfort zones can lead to profound experiences. As we step into this new chapter, we pray for courage, resilience, and an open heart to fully embrace this experience.
As we end each day with peaceful walks along the river and sweet treats from the village shop, may we always remember to find joy in the simple things and peace in Your magnificent creation.
In Your name, we pray. Amen
Essay 2: Embracing Simplicity
Day two began on a leisurely note with a hearty breakfast in the communal food hall. The day unfolded with casual strolls around the village, meeting the dedicated staff and friendly residents, swinging in hammocks by the river, and learning the art of weaving in the village’s art studio. The day was filled with heartwarming interactions, each conversation a thread weaving the fabric of our budding community. One villager, shared her struggle with the constant pressure of societal expectations. Her words echoed in my heart, reminding me of our collective need for self-care and acceptance. The simplicity of life at Holden was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of our regular lives.
Reflection: True peace often lies in the simplest moments. How can you incorporate more simplicity into your daily life?
Prayer: Gracious God, we give thanks for the simple yet profound moments that enrich our lives. We are grateful for the peace found in shared meals, leisurely strolls, and the art of learning, all of which have woven us into a vibrant community tapestry.
We carry in our hearts the stories shared by those around us, especially the visitor who opened up about her struggles with societal expectations. Her words serve as a reminder of our shared need for self-care, acceptance, and simplicity in our lives.
As we reflect on the serenity found in our lives, we ask for Your guidance in carrying this simplicity into our everyday lives. Help us to pause amidst our busy routines, to embrace the peace found in simple moments, and to extend compassion to ourselves and others as we navigate life’s complexities.
In the simplicity of this prayer, we seek Your wisdom and grace, and pray for the courage to weave these lessons into the fabric of our daily lives. In Your name, we pray. Amen
Essay 3: Preparation for Learning and Teaching
On day three, I met with the faculty and the village pastor. The week promised a plethora of learning opportunities, from climate change discussions, mindfulness practices and art, and drumming, to Lakota spiritual sovereignty and healing practices. In these shared educational experiences, the importance of empathetic communities became clear. As I prepared to lead vespers, I realized that this experience was not just about teaching others, but also about personal growth and healing.
A conversation with a young woman struck a chord. She spoke of feeling judged due to her cultural norms she brings to her worklife. Her words were a stark reminder of the biases we carry and the bridges we need to build and the personal and communal growth it takes to bring healing.
Reflection: Every new experience, even those that challenge us, offers an opportunity for personal growth and healing. What recent experiences have contributed to your personal growth?
Prayer: Almighty God, we give You thanks for the rich tapestry of experiences that shape our lives. We are grateful for the community we find ourselves in, where learning, growth, and healing are celebrated.
We thank You for the diversity of experiences and knowledge we share with each other. As we learn together, help us to not only impart knowledge but also cultivate empathy and understanding.
We lift up to You the young woman who expressed her struggles with judgment. Her story reminds us of our own biases and the bridges we still need to build. Help us to be a community that celebrates cultural differences, fosters understanding, and promotes healing.
As we reflect on our experiences, we ask You to guide us. Help us to see every challenge as an opportunity for personal growth and healing. Bless us with Your wisdom and grace as we continue on this journey of learning and self-discovery.
In Your name, we pray. Amen.
Essay 4: Days of Teaching and Learning
Days four through six were a harmonious blend of teaching, learning, and self-discovery. Mornings began with yoga on the lawn, followed by welcoming the village children to their new school year. Each day was with with joy and mindfulness, punctuated by lively discussions about climate change, self-care, and our connection to the world, I began to understand the importance of self-care in tackling life’s challenges. A fellow traveler taking my class, opened up about his journey to sobriety. His story was a testament to the healing power of time, patience, and a supportive community.
Reflection: Sharing experiences and knowledge with people from diverse backgrounds enriches our understanding of life and strengthens our collective resilience. How has diversity enriched your life?
Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank You for the days filled with teaching, learning, and self-discovery. Thank You for the tranquil mornings, the joy of welcoming children to a new school year, and the richness of our conversations about our world and our place within it.
We are grateful for the understanding we’ve gained about the importance of self-care in meeting life’s challenges, and for the powerful testimony of resilience and healing shared by our fellow traveler.
As we reflect on these experiences, we ask that You continue to guide us in embracing diversity, recognizing the strength it brings, and the profound way it enriches our lives.
Help us to carry forward the lessons learned here, to be open to sharing and receiving stories, to practice patience and kindness, and to always seek to understand and appreciate the beauty of our diverse world.
In Your name, we pray. Amen.
Essay 5: Reflection and Departure
The final days at Holden Village were filled with anticipation and reflection. As I prepared for the faculty-led vespers and learned copper clay art, I had deep conversations about navigating life’s intersections. I gained insights into my intersections with the world. Praying with visiting villagers, hearing their life stories, and simply enjoying life day by day. Leaving Holden Village was bittersweet. As the boat pulled away, and our time in Holden Village came to an end, I felt a sense of deep gratitude. The village, with its pristine beauty and warm community, had offered valuable lessons in self-care, healing, and acceptance.
Reflection: Being part of a truly accepting community requires ongoing work, including confronting our biases and continuously striving for empathy and understanding. What steps can you take towards building a more accepting community?
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the lessons learned, the bonds formed, and the healing experienced. We are grateful for the beauty that surrounded us, the warmth of the community that welcomed us, and the tranquility that allowed us to reflect and grow.
As we return to our daily lives, may we carry with us the peace of this place, the wisdom gained from deep conversations, and the joy found in simple moments. Guide us as we navigate life’s intersections, help us to practice self-care, and inspire us to extend the same acceptance and love we received here to others in our lives.
Open our hearts to the new beginnings that await us. Help us to remember that while places and chapters change, your love and guidance remain constant. Amen.
To learn more about Holden Village, visit their website HERE. To connect with Dr. Kelly Sherman-Conroy about her experience at Holden Village, email her at Kelly@NativityChurch.org.