On Thursday, November 14, 2019, the Diocese of the Eastern United States (DEUS) hosted its 20th annual spiritual retreat for women at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. This year brought 21 women from 11 different churches for the three-day retreat. The ladies arrived on Thursday afternoon to check-in at the monastery’s Abbey House, and their first group session started that evening. The Abbey House is open to guests year-round and hosts both group and personal spiritual retreats. Tucked in the outskirts of Metro Atlanta, the monastery building and grounds are quiet, sacred spaces that gives the soul a feeling of stillness and solitude, allowing one to rest physically and rejuvenate spiritually while seeking God in the beauty of the surroundings. In fact, it is the monastery’s picturesque grounds and holy spaces that creates the perfect atmosphere for the DEUS women to come together for prayer, meditation, group discussions, and fellowship. During the three-day, retreat attendants will spend a certain portion of their time in silence as they go about their schedule which includes participation in the monastic Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. The major goal when organizing the retreat twenty years ago was to “encourage women to serve the Lord and grow closer to Him,” Deaconess Tina Jenkins, the senior deaconess in the DEUS, said when asked what inspired her to initiate a retreat for women early in her formal ministry as a deaconess. She went on to state that women who attend the retreat should expect to “experience time for spiritual growth and time for physical rest,” as they “come away from the world to spend time thinking about and worshipping the Lord.”
Since the beginning, different diocesan priests have served alongside Dss. Tina Jenkins as retreat master, however, since 2007, the Right Reverend Chandler Jones, SSC, DEUS Bishop Co-adjutor, has given graciously of his time to lead the women in prayer, worship, and the daily group discussions, which have varied greatly throughout the last twenty years but are always centered around biblical and theological reflection. “The aspect of the retreat that most uplifts me is the joy of seeing the ladies interact with each other and engage in profound theological and spiritual topics around the table,” Bishop Jones said of the group discussion time. “Through those conversations, and conversations that take place outside the appointed times of study, we see people learn from one another and develop a strong sense of the orthodox Christian Faith and what is means to be an Anglican Christian. The spiritual discourse can be a time of tremendous learning, growth, and development of a greater appreciation for what we believe and why.” Bishop Jones also commented on the importance of such retreats saying, “The silence and quiet space allow the retreatant to cultivate a sense of the Presence of God through personal prayer, participation in the liturgical offices of the Church, and solitude. The busy world is hushed and the fever of life is put to the side, so that one may have personal time with Our Lord.”
Several women have been faithfully making the pilgrimage to Georgia for the three-day retreat since its beginning. However, every year brings new faces and fresh opportunities to create a faith community of women beyond the local parish. Deaconess Cynthia Hensley of All Saints Church, Mills River, North Carolina, writes, “I have personally attended three of the retreats since joining the diocese six years ago. And it is meeting women from other churches and collaborating on everything from Sunday school ideas to tips on Altar Guild that has been especially rewarding for me.” If you would like more information about the annual DEUS Women’s Retreat, please contact Dss. Tina Jenkins via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.