Retreat offers 18 hours of silence

Photo by Ryan Struyk
Photo by Ryan Struyk

Sometimes students can find it hard to focus on God on a busy, loud college campus. Between classes, friends and work, it is difficult to find rest and repose. At times, students may need silence to listen for God’s voice in the midst of their lives.

While conversation, debate and community are great and valuable ways to worship God, at times Christians need to get away and spend time in silence. One opportunity gives students the chance to experience a break from noise: the silent retreat.

Those attending will speak only during the beginning and ending worship services. That leaves 18 hours of the weekend completely silent, giving people time to pray and listen.

Those who attend will spend that time at Camp Geneva in Holland, Mich., which is on the shore of Lake Michigan. While attending, students will also have the chance to use Camp Geneva’s numerous outdoor trails, the fire pit, and the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Throughout its history, the silent retreat has helped Calvin students to strengthen their faith. One past participant said after the retreat, “Time went so fast, I was surprised.” Others have called the experience “refreshing” and “much needed.” Overall, the students who have gone on the retreat in the past concur that their time at the camp was well spent.

Some may ask, “How can I go a weekend without checking my phone or email?”

“The freedom from the urgency of phones, pads and computers is a relief to most,” said Sharon Bytwerk, the coordinator of spiritual direction and prayer for campus ministries. “Some students are surprised how much they appreciate the ‘no technology’ rule.”

Some students may not miss direct conversation nearly as much as they would assume. Bytwerk says that one previous attendee made her smile when he said that he realized that much conversation is of little value.

For many students, the point of the retreat should be to focus on their relationship with God. According to Bytwerk, the retreat has been very successful in this.

“Seldom do any of us have the luxury of time completely unstructured; to rest, reflect and renew ourselves in our Lord. Past retreat people have overwhelmingly said their faith grew in the retreat,” she said.

This retreat gives students the opportunity to get away from busy schedules and do just as Bytwerk says: rest, reflect and renew. Available activities include walking the scenic trails or enjoying an evening fire without being distracted by texting or Facebook. Students may also learn to interact with new people in a non-verbal way.

The group going on the silent retreat will be leaving at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday and returning by 5 p.m. on Sunday. Students can register at the campus ministries office in the commons annex for $15. For more information, contact Bytwerk at sbytwerk@calvin.edu.

About the Author

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is a Chimes staff writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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