I did that this past weekend. Sort of. I went to the fall retreat for the Well, AU’s college ministry. I originally wasn’t going to go because I had a rugby game on Saturday, but I found out that one of the other rugby players was going on the retreat and would be doing both, so I figured heck, why not? He and I went to practice Friday, drove out to the retreat that night, got back to AU that morning in time to get killed in the rugby game (we both did pretty well, actually–he scored more points than the rest of the team combined) and then drove back to the retreat with more than enough time for Saturday night worship.
It was a great experience. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons I think every Christian at AU should attend Fall Retreat:
5. Relationship Building
When I first came here I had a bit of a leg up, so to speak, over most people. As part of the Ashbrook program I came here earlier, met a lot of generally like-minded people, and was able to make friends pretty fast.
Even so, it was pretty important to me that I make some other friends outside of Ashbrook. Don’t get me wrong, Ashbrook is great, but I’ve never done well as part of a clique. I need to diversify my friendships, so to speak. Getting to know a lot of different types of people is good.
Even though I did miss a decent chunk of Saturday, Fall Retreat helped with that. We split into small groups. I met people I might not have ever known otherwise. I strengthened my friendships with people I knew only slightly till then.
4. Sweet Bonfires
These next couple are a bit less serious. I’m not kidding when I say that our bonfire was lit (pun…yeah, sorry) on Saturday night. It might have been too wet to light one on Friday night, but we made up for it Saturday. There were s’mores. There was apple cider. It was awesome.
One of the guys told one of the longest and most in-depth jokes I think I’ve ever heard. The punchline had everyone groaning (but laughing, of course), and it was a good time.
There were also good conversations. Tying into the last point, I was able to talk to some pretty cool people around the bonfire and had a great time. Plus my clothes didn’t even end up smelling like smoke! It was all-around a good time.
3. Blazedale Ball
I should probably preface this one by explaining that, in the rugby game before last, I hurt my knee. It’s nothing major, but I’ve been wearing a brace during practices, and I wore it in the last game. It just hurts if I strain it too much or, you know, run.
So, that being said, it may seem unwise to play a game that requires a lot of physical exertion–running–right after a rugby game. But I did. Who needs knees anyway?
Blazedale Ball is a game that’s a sort of mix between flag football and capture the flag. It’s hard to explain, harder to get the hang of, and way more tiring than rugby–but it’s crazy fun. There are several teams, each have a football in their zone, and the goal is to get all of the footballs into your own zone. It sounds simple, but when you add on the other rules, it gets complicated very quickly. It’s tons of fun.
2. Getting Away
Ashland isn’t exactly a huge city; that being said, there are a lot of fun things to do here. Nonetheless, it’s good to have a change of scenery.
Not only that, I’m a pretty outdoors-oriented person. I like to hike, climb, run, et cetera. I get tired of the same scenery all the time. It was great to go just about thirty minutes away and yet still be able to feel like I was totally removed.
It helped, too, to not have to think about homework or other school-oriented things. Studying is life, y’all, but I would like to not really have to do it all of the time, yeah? Yeah. The Fall Retreat fell, timing-wise, just perfectly to give me a chance to detox. I like my classes, my dorm room, my Ashbrook friends, but it was great to have some time away from it all.
1. Uninhibited Worship
Everything else on this list is pretty cool. It’s also trivial compared to this one. Tied closely to my last point, the central reason for going to Fall Retreat was the ability to actually rid myself of distractions and just worship wholeheartedly. It’s so easy to be distracted by the mundane and everyday. Sometimes that all needs to be put aside. Time for just God is necessary to our faith.
It’s so hard to explain what happens when you’re able to immerse yourself in worship. I’m not just necessarily talking about singing a song and listening to a contemporary band. Corporate worship is incredible, and I’m by no means dissing it, but worship is more than that. Worship is the love you feel for God. It’s any expression of that love.
To non-Christians, it seems crazy, but if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about. You worship when you look up at the sky and thank God for your mere existence, when you sit on the forest floor and recognize the immense complexity of Creation, and when you put an arm around a fellow child of God and pray for them and with them.
It’s this kind of total worship without systemic distractions that stuff like Fall Retreat enables.
I’m so thankful I was able to attend Fall Retreat. If you’re on the fence next year, don’t be. It’s not expensive, and if you can’t even foot the super-low cost, there are people who will pay for you. I’ll be going back next year if it’s at all possible. I hope I see you there.
This article also appeared on the Odyssey.