|2012 saw two great RECHARGE weekends.
Hear what it was like…
It had been two years since my last men’s retreat, so I was approaching the Auckland Recharge weekend with a bit of a blank slate. The retreat was sponsored by Joshua Catholic Men’s fellowship but had been given a new name: RECHARGE. I wondered what in effect this would mean. I must admit the name spoke to me, as a recharge of my spiritual life was what I was looking for.
A few things hadn’t changed. The drive from Hamilton up to the familiar Willow Park venue at Eastern Beach still involved getting lost once off the Southern Motorway. This didn’t matter as the time was well spent talking with my good friend who was giving me the ride (thanks Paul). The first blessing of these retreats is the brotherhood that seems to spontaneously happen immediately on backing out of the driveway from home.
Willow Park has become an institution for Auckland Joshua men’s retreats. Founded in 1935 by the well-known Christian philanthropist Robert Laidlaw, Willow Park is now surrounded by million-dollar real estate. Parts of the camp reflect its longevity, with gaps in the walls of the hall showing daylight. Somehow this doesn’t seem to matter as the camp works well, the managers, Chris and Sue Barrow, continuing to offer a warm welcome to us all.
Friday night was a settle-down time and the magic (or I should say spirit) of a Catholic Men’s retreat kicked in. It’s hard to nail down what this spirit is, being an amalgam of fraternity, Praise and Worship, good teaching, Praise and Worship, expectation …oh, and did I mention Praise and Worship? Gerard Trip from Christchurch was worship leader and boy, did he do a great job! The band behind him were a team of well-known Joshua rockers including Mike Conroy (base), David Jones (keyboard) and Bill Meehan, the little man who makes a big noise on the drums. Those air-gapped walls of the hall vibrated with the matchless roar of Catholic men praising their Lord and Saviour.
The Key-note speaker, Bishop Colin Campbell from Dunedin, was still on-route Friday night so our teaching was given by Father Gilbert Ramos from Papatoetoe parish. Father Gilbert shared transparently on the importance of connectedness. When a priest shares what it is like to feel lonely on a Saturday night, I sit up and listen. It got me thinking, “What does my parish priest do on a Saturday night?”
Sleep for me on Friday night consisted of about four hours, not bad for a first night on a men’s retreat. Let’s face it, who goes on a camp to get a good night sleep? The up-side of dormitory accommodation is the fantastic unplanned discussions I had with other blokes talking about God, faith and life while sitting on the edge of a bunk. Where else could this priceless conversation happen between men?
The theme of the camp was “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn.15:5). An effective theme focus was created out of a large wooden cross entangled with bare vines. The vines sprouted “leaves” over Saturday night with our intentions of what we were going to take home from the camp. Bishop Colin developed outstanding teaching on this theme over the Saturday and Sunday. This was one of my highlights of the weekend. Bishop Colin’s delivery was both authoritative and engaging. For example;
- “Is God’s forgiveness unconditional? Of course, on one condition…”
- “Love in dreams is easy. Love in reality is a harsh and terrible thing.”
- “A disciple travels lightly. What is slowing me down from moving along the Alleluia Road?”
I would encourage everyone to get DVD copies of Bishop Colin’s teaching on this camp from Peter Cornwall, Myriam Media (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Speaking of Peter Cornwall, it was mentioned that Peter had attended every Auckland Joshua camp since the first one in 1986, most of the time providing sound and recording service. That’s a pretty amazing record brother!
Another highlight for me was a VALIANT MAN promotion introduced by Wayne from Focus on the Family NZ. This is a programme to support men in regaining sexual integrity in a sex crazy world. As a bloke with two fully charged “D Cell Batteries”, I found this riveting. I have vowed to follow up the programme, with my wife’s whole-hearted support I might add. This is essential stuff for any man of any age with even the tiniest bit of testosterone flowing in his veins.
I’ve heard it said that every Catholic retreat is just an excuse to go to Confession. True to form, Confession was available Saturday afternoon and men were lining up to go. The timing was perfect for me to meet Jesus in this Sacrament. I’d heard enough solid teaching to be convicted and had entered enough Praise and worship to be softened. Afterwards I went for a long walk along Eastern Beach to reflect. I remember thinking, “I just love being Catholic!”
Saturday night was time to submit to the Holy Spirit through small group sharing and prayer ministry. The small group feedback that I heard was amazing. In my group there was one lovely older brother who shared what it was like to survive a Nazi slave camp in WWII by holding on to the thought that his mother was praying for him back at home in Holland. I felt so privileged to be part of this faith-building witness.
The weekend included other gems of Adoration, testimony, encouragement to forge a faith relationship with another brother (thanks Bryan and Dave), Morning Prayer and Mass. The drive home was like re-entering planet earth, softened by the hour and a half drive with my brother-in-faith while sharing our weekend highlights.
– Mike Baird –