This past weekend, Mahina and I spent time with my good friend Brad. He’s the newly appointed director of St. Francis of the Woods. It’s an ecumenical spiritual renewal center in Coyle, Oklahoma.
On a wall in one of the several buildings on the grounds, I found a plaque that contained their mission statement:
This is a place where persons from every background are welcomed. The Chapel and the service of the Divine Liturgy signify our roots with earliest Christian traditions, and the center is named from Francis of Assisi, the most universal figure in Christian tradition other than Jesus Christ. But sincere seekers upon any of the countless spiritual paths are to share the grounds and facilities for worship, study, rest, work, service to one another, to God, and to the center.
John R. C. Adair, Sr., founder
Sept. 2, 1988
I really like this quote. It not only captures my own heart about Grace Gardens, but it’s encouraging to know that there have been others, are others, and will be others who see the world in similar ways.
Mahina and I arrived Saturday afternoon just after a torrential down-pour. It was still sprinkling when we pulled into the drive of St Francis of the Woods. Brad met us a gave us a tour of the south grounds — the small cabins, the Learning Center, the Chapel, the Library, and his home. All of it very inviting.
The Chapel was just beautiful as one comes to expect from Orthodox houses of worship.
The Learning Center has a large L shaped room with a small stage. It has a quiet little space for more intimate conversations. It also has a full kitchen. Saturday night, we met with a group who comes there every other Saturday for a potluck, watch a video, and have a discussion.
The small cabins have just the right amount of space, if you ask me, that sleeps about 4 or 5 people comfortably (you could squeeze some more on the floor in sleeping bags). It’s a great getaway spot. There are a couple of bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen. I told Mahina when we got to our cabin, “The Claire,” that I think it’s just about the perfect size for us. I could see ourselves living is such a space.
The Library was fantastic! So many old books and undiscovered resources that one could easily get lost there. There were section on Orthodoxy (of course), liturgy from various different sources, Jewish mysticism, Jung, Native American spirituality, etc. I could easily see myself spending quite a lot of time there.
That evening, a small group of us met at Brad’s place for an intimate Eucharist service. Along with Mahina and Brad, we were graced with the presence of Helen, Mary Kate, Andre, and Uncle Joe. We then joined the potlock/video discussion at the Learning Center.
The next morning, Mahina and I took a walk through the trail that leads around part of the property. It was a great little walk. We saw signs of wildlife everywhere — diggings in the soft ground because of the rain, deer tracks, a multitude of birds, and even a little turtle leading us down the trail at one point!
We got back and went up the the Chapel for morning prayer, which Brad led. It was a great little service. If one’s never been to an Orthodox service before, well, it’s quite different from a Catholic or Anglican/Episcopal service and yet, much the same. I was asked if I wanted to lead the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. As I’ve never led an Orthodox service before, I deferred until a time when I’m more comfortable with the liturgy.
We then had lunch in the Learning Center with more great conversations.
After lunch, we packed up and went back to Brad’s house. We brainstormed some ideas about retreats at St. Francis of the Woods. Here’s a short list:
- Yoga Retreat
- Gong Retreat
- Introduction into Orthodoxy
- Buddhist Dharma Talk
- Celtic Christianity Retreat
- Centering Prayer Retreat
- Samhain Celebration (this would be in a Christian context)
Now, none of these are finalized and are just thoughts for now. But Brad’s hope is that many of these will flesh out and become real retreats with many more on the way.
So, if you’re needing a place to retreat from daily life, to relax and get back to nature; or, if you’re looking for a place to have your next retreat, get in touch with Brad and Saint Francis of the Woods. It’s a great place.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC