We do it every year. For a decade now, Sojourners Community has gone on retreat together over the Thanksgiving weekend. After the traditional Thursday holiday dinner at our neighborhood center (this year about 400 people were fed), we all head out of the city on Friday morning and don't come back until late Sunday afternoon.
Every year the annual retreat is a long-anticipated event. The kids especially enjoy it, and there is no other occasion during the year when we have so much uninterrupted leisure time just to spend with one another.
This year, we were led by Gordon Cosby, the pastor of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C., and a good friend of the community. With wisdom and grace, Gordon led us through many of the pressures and temptations of community into silence to search, each of us, for the "still point" where God breaks through.
For most of us, the silence was as unaccustomed as the quiet but arresting beauty of the Maryland fields and hills. The deprivations of beauty, space, and solitude that come as a consequence of a call to the inner city take more of a toll on us than we realize. Long periods of silent wandering over the pastoral landscape were as refreshing as the cool, fall air itself.
We have come back to this particular place--a former plantation turned into a school and eventually converted to an Episcopal retreat center--for several years now. When I started off walking on Saturday morning, through the farm fields and out toward the old barn, I knew where I would probably end up--the place where I always return.
It's a slave cemetery from the old plantation days. There is no marker or memorial. Nor are there any gravestones. This was a common burial ground bordered by a waist-high stone wall which is now crumbling in many places. A grove of trees, now barren in the late fall, surrounds the sacred resting place.