Opportunities for Silence


Many of us long for an escape from the noise and stress of our daily lives. If you've ever wished you could escape the ringing phone, the demands of work and family life, the bad news that can seem to surround us—here's good news. The North Alabama Conference Adult Discipleship Team supports Silent Retreats throughout the year. At a silent retreat, you can leave the world behind and find rest.

Silent retreats were brought to the North Alabama Conference by the late Rev. Claude Whitehead in 1988. Rev. Whitehead had already been instrumental in bringing the Walk to Emmaus and the Academy for Spiritual Formation to North Alabama, and he also formed the Community of the Mantle, a dispersed monastic community which still meets monthly at Canterbury UMC. Rev. Whitehead recognized the need to be apart from the world from time to time, as modeled by Jesus, to just "be" and listen for God.

The retreat format he created was fashioned on the Benedictine rhythm of prayer. These Benedictine-style Silent Retreats are held at the Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman twice yearly, and are currently led by Rev. Susie Knedlik and Deanna Shotts. Participants at these retreats experience silence interspersed with optional Lauds and Vespers with the Benedictine Sisters, as well as other worship opportunities.

In addition, several Silent Retreats are offered at Camp Sumatanga each year. These retreats are led by Rev. Judy Shepherd. Several formats, from a 24-hour "Taste of Silence" to retreats of up to five days, immerse participants in total silence.

If you're not sure silence is your thing, hear some thoughts from leaders and participants. "On a whim—or was it a nudging of the Spirit?—I attended a Silent Retreat at Sacred Heart," said Deanna Shotts. "There I found the missing elements I needed. The silence and solitude enabled me to rest and be nourished by God without the distractions of everyday life. It was like taking a long drink from a well of cold water after walking through the desert. I've been returning to that well at least once a year ever since."

"Silence is not something that an extrovert like me enjoys," said Rev. Judy Shepherd. "So you can imagine what I thought when I was drawn to this spiritual practice. Once I got a taste for silence, it became a quest, so to speak, to offer others this amazing opportunity to experience time with God. Even though I lead these retreats, it is with joy that I experience yet again this amazing spiritual practice. Each time I'm drawn closer and closer to the Holy Living God!"

Rev. Susie Knedlik said, "When I was serving churches, my time was not my own. I was on call 24-7 and it was hard to find time for silence and prayer. Even if I went to the church early, someone would see my car. Then I heard about Silent Retreats, and that they counted as continuing education. I am an introvert, so the rhythms and silence suited me perfectly. No one else around, no phone calls or emails, no tasks to get done. It gave God and me time to focus on myself and my work, and it made me a better minister."

Participants have been heard to say such things as...

"The return of the rhythms of prayer and silence is like coming home. I experienced a warm welcome."

"I need to do this more often."

"I have been enlightened, revived and uplifted. I can now go home and continue my walk with God."

Now are you interested? Well, get out your calendar and see which of the following days fits into it:

  • April 27-29 (Sacred Heart)
  • May 17-19 (Sumatanga)
  • May 19-20 (Sumatanga—24-Hour Taste of Silence)
  • August 14-17 (Sumatanga)
  • August 17-18 (Sumatanga)
  • September 13-15 (Sacred Heart)
  • October 10-13 (Sumatanga)
  • November 8-10 (Sumatanga)
  • November 10-11 (Sumatanga)
Laity and clergy are welcome at all retreats, but several dates allows pastors to attend without missing a Sunday at church. All Silent Retreats offer continuing education credit for clergy in the North Alabama Conference. Partial scholarships are available from the Adult Discipleship Team. For further information or to register, contact Deanna Shotts (Sacred Heart) at marydshotts@gmail.com or Rev. Judy Shepherd (Sumatanga) at pastorjudy4u@gmail.com.

Pictured below are retreat leaders Judy Shepherd, Susie Knedlik and Deanna Shotts.

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