This article was originally shared December 2019.
As in years past, the blessed haven that is Saint Christopher welcomed sisters in Christ from throughout the diocese to an inspiring weekend, October 25 to 27, 2019. The Anglican Women’s Retreat, with the theme “Gift and Giver: Life by The Spirit,” offered rich, encouraging, and challenging teaching by the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina, as well as worship, music, workshops, fellowship, rest, and refreshment.
Planned and carried out by Diocesan Women’s President, Patricia Smith, and board members Sunny Walker, Mary Kauser, Anne Walton, Lynn Allen, Tracy Sutphin, Cathy Jacobs, Cynthia, Hiott, Janet Stoda, and Joyce Grabovski, it was a time full of blessings. The Rev. Rich Giersch led music and worship each day as old and new friends joined in praising God. Leaders and staff at St. Christopher with many volunteers helped to create a time of spiritual renewal and joyful fellowship.
Powerful teaching came right away. Bishop Lawrence presented a vivid introduction to the third person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. Who is He? How is He known? What is His role? Pointing to Old and New Testament scripture, especially Christ’s life, teachings, promise, and the fulfillment at Pentecost, questions were answered.
The Bishop highlighted examples of the Spirit’s work in the book of Acts, in the epistles, and today. Then he presented his own “credentials”—personal experiences as the Spirit of Truth changed his life and the lives of others—miracles from yesterday and today! He shared recommended readings and unforgettable quotes such as Charles Spurgeon’s “I looked to Jesus and in flew the Holy Spirit.”
Bishop Lawrence detailed the gifts of the Spirit that the Lord wants to give to all believers, how each is seen and applied. He referred to Christ’s words in the gospels, especially John chapter 14 and in Luke’s Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s letters in Romans (chapters 8 and 12) and in First Corinthians (chapter 12.) He noted that joy is found in discovering and using what is one’s true gift. There may be combinations of gifts, too—literally thousands of possibilities! “All gifts,” said the Bishop, “are to point to the Lord, the giver, and are for the building up of the body—the Church.”
All sessions, being undergirded with the prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit,” the Bishop continued with teachings on the fruit of the spirit and how fruit must be cultivated—removing bad influences and replacing them with good. He spoke of the importance of forming holy habits of life, referring to Paul’s letter to the Philippians and to Peter’s “Letter of Love.” He urged everyone to ask for God’s help in discerning gifts, nurturing fruit and for these to be seen in the Church—her clergy, the diocese, each parish, and each Christian. All teachings were sprinkled with delightful humor, memorable stories, and the caring of a true shepherd. The Bishop was gracious in always highlighting the gifts of many women from yesterday and today, including those this group knows and loves, such as his dear wife, Allison, and daughter, Chelsea. As listeners looked around the large group, each recognized many who demonstrate the Spirit’s gifts in their daily lives. Suzy McCall was there. How many lives have been and are being saved through her missions of mercy! Bishop Lawrence praised clergy and laypeople who demonstrate gifts for the glory of God and His Church. His listeners nodded, smiled, and laughed as his words brought familiar faces and scenes to mind.
There was much happy sharing, too, in the opening “Getting to Know You” game and the diverse, artistic, and helpful workshops. There was peace and comfort in the prayers and worship, joy in the music and fellowship, education in nature and everywhere, refreshment in walks on the beach, and nourishment for body, mind and spirit. As hoped for by Patricia Smith, the retreat was indeed helpful, healing, holy, and (at times) hilarious. It was a blessed time. Thanks be to God!
By Catherine O. Jones, St. Philip’s Anglican Church, Charleston
There was a keen sense of excitement and joy throughout our recent Women’s Conference weekend. God touched and healed women in personal ways, and holy moments happened in small groups and in walks along the beach. A key focus of the weekend was instruction on the gifts and fruit of the spirit, and the Titus 2 command. Here are comments from some of the women in attendance:
“Through the Bishop’s testimonies, we learned the ways the Holy Spirit works through the gifts, as we release them, how He can clearly direct us to our place of service in the body, and unmistakably reprove us, when needed. These all magnified the bigness and creativity of our God.”
“During the opening prayer, in my small group, I experienced a definite warming in my chest and recognized it as a touch of the Holy Spirit.”
“During Soaking Prayer—although no one was praying over me or laying hands on me, at the time—I felt a heat pour down over my head.”
“The weekend was life changing. I have been suffering silently with depression, and the Holy Spirit impressed on me my desperate need for fellowship. I also came to recognize my spiritual gift.”
“I am struggling to have victory over an addiction. The insights on developing ‘holy habits’ really encouraged me in my journey.”
“I felt so blessed and honored that the Bishop would share personal stories about how the Holy Spirit has demonstrated His love and direction over the years. His stories had wonderful illustrations and
always had a point.”
“I went on a walk along the beach, pleading for God to give me some sign of His presence. As I walked, my eyes fell upon two random pieces of wood in the shape of the cross. That really spoke to me of His love. He heard my prayer.”
(Image by Lisa Greenslit)