This past weekend our church leadership took a trip to Valle Crucis, NC for a spiritual retreat. If you have never been to Valle Crucis, it is up in the mountains a few miles short of Boone, its name comes from the creek/river crossing in the vale/valley which the conference center surmises from its mountainside setting. As a conference center, it is one of my favorites. The food is always rich and homemade (Thanks Temple), and as we left Hendersonville on Friday afternoon, I was inwardly longing for fried chicken. We arrived (7 of us) on time for dinner and from the moment we sat down at the table, I could tell that our group was going to have a unique experience. We decided to hold off on any business until Saturday when three other members and Jill would be joining us. That left us free to enjoy the Farmhouse where we were staying to the fullest extent. Larry Strickland, our junior warden, got a fire going and we sat around it to warm up from the 28 degree open air walk we made from the kitchen to the house. Frost was settling down and so were we. After we were warmed up, we moved to the dining room and started playing games. Lucero (Larry’s wife and Carlos’ sister) taught us a dice game where you can keep rolling until you get a one, or stop and take your accumulated points. It was really hilarious because people would get on a roll and then finally roll a one and lose it all. We also kept joking about the name of the game. In Spanish Lucero called it “Ambiciones que matan” which is translated as ambitions that kill. But as the night went on and we made a dent in the beer and wine supply, Carlos changed it to ambiciones que meten and then pasiones que meten which is basically like passions you put in. So funny and so nice to see folks 100% relaxed and on retreat. We ended the night with Monopoly and due to a timely trade, Larry beat us all. We didn’t go to bed until 2:00, but it really felt right.The next morning after breakfast, we prayed morning prayer together, and then the others joined us and we began talking about next steps for La Capilla. With Carlos leaving in less than three weeks, we discussed who might be able to function as Senior warden, but the majority of energy went to our discussion about involving the vestry more in church operations and in planning liturgical events. We talked about Las Posadas, Dia de Guadalupe, Adviento, and la Navidad. To the vestry’s credit, they also heard some hard words about Mayordomia or stewardship and seemed very ready to respond. Though I am new to being a rector, I am continually impressed by how faithful Episcopalians will respond to requests for more participation, energy, or funds if they know a need exists. So often those of us asked and charged with leadership shy away from asking because we don’t want to put too much pressure on a person, but my experience has showed that most people want to help, but are unsure how to do so. That is certainly the case with our members. So many facets of church/being Episcopalian that I take for granted are just not a part of their historical relationship with church. Coming from a predominant Roman Catholic background, many are just now getting to know the differences in polity and that new understanding has been truly liberating for some. One of our best conversations came around how we claim our Episcopalian Catholic identity sin despreciar (or without degrading) the Roman church. I will be teaching our first Christian Education session on the topic in two weeks and folks are pretty excited. During the middle of the day, we made a visit to the Mast General Store and had some laughs trying on warm winter hats and rocking in the chairs upstairs. We took a walk to the waterfall and ended the day by playing our games again. All in all it was a fabulous experience, and we even got back in time for church on Sunday. In fact, we were early enough that everyone pitched in to prepare for church. Candles were lit, flowers were exchanged, the table got set. For the first time since I’ve been at La Capilla, we started at 11:00 and it was amazing. I am so proud of our vestry and thankful to be with them in this Christian journey.