Sabbath by the Sea! If you’ve been at Newberg Friends for a long time or even a short time, you have probably read or heard about these retreats at the Oregon Coast that happen every January. Many of us have journeyed there “to be alone with God together.”
It’s fun for us to know how this ministry began in the hearts and minds of Bob and Marcile Crandall. The two of them had always provided spiritual guidance and mentoring in their pastoral roles, but about ten years ago they both felt led to begin something new. That prompting of the Spirit coincided with an invitation by Ken Beebe, director of Twin Rocks Friends Camp, to develop The Center for Personal Growth in Christ (recently renamed Sabbath by the Sea) January retreats. For several years Bob and Marcile, along with Mauri Macy, were the only leaders. Now Steve Fawver guides a leadership team of 12 (three each week) who seek to follow in their footsteps.
This is the third year we have been able to co-lead Sabbath by the Sea (SBTS) during the second week of January with Nate Macy, our “Music Man.” Our group this year was bimodal in generational composition. You probably need to be math savvy to get that description, but the gist is we had quite a few folks in their 20s and several in their 70s, with just a few in between. Intergenerational conversations around the table covered quite a range as we learned from each other. The diversity of topics spilled over into a diversity of music, adding life to some evening hours. We blended and bonded together in meaningful ways as we both prayed and played together.
Clearly each one of the leaders and participants who ventured into this sacred space hoped to find God in the silence, scripture, singing, and joy of just being with others who had that same goal. Opportunities to meet together for morning and evening prayers, to explore some spiritual tools to help us draw near to God, and to meet with a leader for spiritual direction were provided. But the largest portion of every day was open and unstructured. Everyone had freedom to seek God in whatever ways were most helpful.
Our focus this year was Psalm 139 with an invitation to Rest, Receive, and Respond. Sometimes it was a verse from scripture or a phrase from a song or a chosen word that was helpful. One young woman heard the word trust and kept it as her focus throughout the week. We listened to the song “Oceans” during the stormiest part of our week and shared some of the words that spoke to us individually. Words like:
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fall
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves….
…My soul will rest in Your embrace…
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…
One night we were completing our shared evening prayers and had just sung the line “God of day and God of darkness.” Just like that we lost power! Only the center candle gave light to the room. The timing took our breath away. It might have been a highly spiritual moment except that most of us got the giggles as we quickly searched for flashlights and lit the many candles we had available. Still, the message lingers. We were there to receive Jesus, the light of the world, and as Chris Rice’s song says, “Carry your candle, run to the darkness.” That feels like an appropriate response to the whole experience of SBTS, which to us is an extension of our experience of worshiping with you at Newberg Friends every Sunday.
Hopefully those who have experienced SBTS can relate to what we’ve shared here, even if your time there wasn’t stormy. Those who haven’t will want to attend next January “to be alone with God together” in a very sacred space.
Bruce and Di Murphy began attending Newberg Friends Church four years ago. Work life prior to retirement revolved around college administration and teaching at colleges like Northwestern College of Iowa, Seattle Pacific U (Bruce) and Seattle U (Di) and Whitworth U, but now the biggest and very joyful focus is on grandparenting Diego, Julio, Cate, and Chiara. Di and Bruce still parent a yellow lab called Pax, which means peace.