Article by Kari C. Barlow
Fall has arrived and it’s time to usher in the new season with the annual church-wide retreat at beautiful Blue Lake Methodist Camp in Andalusia.
This year’s event, being held October 13 – 15, offers a little something for young, old and everyone in between. “We are focusing on the theme of worship and how it can be encouraged in our daily lives back in Pensacola,” said Mici Kuba, hospitality coordinator at First Church, adding that the retreat’s purpose is “to create a community with our church family through fellowship and study.”
The retreat will feature special guests Mark Miller, minister of music at Christ Church in Summit, New Jersey, and the Rev. Sam Persons Parkes, pastor at Cloverdale United Methodist Church
in Dothan. Miller will lead worship during the retreat and also breakout sessions for tweens and teenagers while Parkes will lead the adult sessions.
A lifelong Methodist, Miller has fond memories of worshipping in camp settings.
“My Dad was the program director of our annual conference and part of his responsibility was directing the summer camp program,” he said. “… The experience of God was most real to me in the woods with a community that cared about me and when we were singing together.”
Though he started taking piano lessons as a first-grader, it wasn’t until the age of 12 that Miller developed a real passion for music. “I had a revelation,” he said. “Making music began to make sense to me in a way that had previously been hidden. The music began to flow and I knew then that this was my calling.” Miller went on to earn music degrees from Yale and Julliard, and today he also serves as an assistant professor of church music at Drew Theological School and a lecturer on the practice of sacred music at Yale University. In addition to leading worship at the First Church retreat, he plans to teach some of the new choral anthems he has been commissioned to write.
“I hope the music we sing and the fun we have will bring us closer together and show the healing, restorative power of singing in community,” he said.
The retreat, which kicks off with check-in between 4:00pm and 7:00pm on October 13, offers a wide range of activities, from canoeing to hayrides, as well as free time to explore the campgrounds. The first night includes dinner and a time of worship, closing out with a slippers-and-PJs parade and a pajama dance party before quiet time kicks in at 10:30pm. Other activities throughout the weekend include morning runs, paddle boating, swimming, antique shopping, pumpkin carving, face painting and gathering around a bonfire to roast marshmallows. Kuba said her hope is that everyone who attends will meet someone they didn’t know before they arrived and be able to enjoy a break from everyday life.
“It is my family’s favorite weekend together,” she said. “It is a mix of being together and the kids having freedom to be with friends while being in community with our church family.”
To register for the retreat, go to the front office or download the registration form here.