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Spiritual retreats designed with extroverts in mind

Spiritual retreats designed with extroverts in mind

Spiritual retreats designed with extroverts in mind

20 September 2017

Major Julia Metcher speaks about the Woman at the Well at Millie Bore, 40km from Moree, during the Moree retreat.

By Simone Worthing

“As an extrovert, silent and semi silent retreats were a challenge and even confronting for me, so initially, ‘Streams in the Desert’ began as an experiment,” says Captain BJ Moulder, team member, Capricorn Region Corps (Rockhampton).

Captain Moulder leads “Streams in the Desert” retreats with Major Julia Metcher, then corps officer at Coffs Harbour and now Divisional Salvos Women Coordinator in North Queensland.

“The retreat in Moree this year focused on ‘seasons’ in the lives of women, exploring in particular the season of winter and the need to work through the difficult experiences in our lives,” Major Metcher said.

“Streams in the Desert in Warrembui, Canberra, explored the ‘desert experience’ – starting with the dry times and desert experiences and our search for living water.”

“The retreat format we use gives women the opportunity and space to be vulnerable, to share our journeys, learn to trust and to grow.”

Captain Moulder had studied Spiritual Formation and from this had a desire to teach women some of the spiritual disciplines and tools of spiritual formation and spiritual creativity that could impact their spiritual lives and journeys – just not in the usual way.

“This included using them, interacting with them, using them individually and in groups – even with our families and children.”

Captain Moulder, then serving in Moree, teamed up with Major Metcher, to offer a spiritual retreat with a difference at Moree – a retreat that was developed with extroverts in mind.

“‘Streams in the Desert’ was the perfect name for a retreat in Moree,” said Captain Moulder. “We began with a group of 20 women, and explored topics including contemplative photography, praying in colour, and the story of the woman at the well (John 4).

“I wanted to help the women, as I have been helped, to break out of the box and revolutionise their prayer life.

“While still making time to be silent and time to listen which can be difficult for extroverts, we provided spaces that aren’t regular retreat spaces and encouraged the women to paint, draw, take photos and write poetry. Teaching was part of these activities.

“We visited a borehole 40km out of town, and had church around the water in the middle of nowhere.

“The women’s responses were amazing – they had never done anything like this before and they just grabbed hold of it.”

As a young person growing up in The Salvation Army, Captain Moulder was encouraged to read her Bible and talk to God in prayer. “I knew I needed to learn about the bible, Jesus and the importance of talking with God, I just wanted to be outside running around, with people, not inside, sitting still, reading and praying,” she said.

“Now, the more I talk to women of all ages, the more I hear how they have struggled to connect with God through prayer and reading alone.

“As I got older, for me, the spiritual disciplines helped keep me on task and helped me encounter God. These retreats allow people to participate in spiritual disciplines and exercises and so connect with God according to their personality and how they were made.”

Teina Gough, from Coffs Harbour, makes her mark on the group mural - praying Scripture.

Captain Moulder explained that people have different pathways to God, including through service, in nature, with people, through music, academically or otherwise. “We often expect people to connect to God through prayer and reading alone, which doesn’t always happen,” she said. “This can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and isolation.

“Through ‘Streams in the Desert’, women are engaging, opening up in a new way and encountering God. It’s a humbling experience to lead women to a space where God transforms them.”

Major Metcher is also passionate about intentionally giving women the tools to come close to God in a way they’re not used to doing – but which fit with who they are.

“I love to help people open up their hearts, experience God in a different way, and grow,” she said.

“BJ and I started this together, support each other in it, and will continue to use our different gifts to it develop and expand.”

The retreats initially took place in Moree in 2014 and have continued to be a yearly event. This year it was offered for the first time in Warrembui, Canberra. Next year the retreats will be introduced in Orange and will also continue on in Moree under the banner of Salvos Women.

In 2018, “Streams in the Desert” will also be offered in Queensland, as both Captain Moulder and Major Metcher are now serving in this division.

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