RESCUE:Hope for Hard Times was the theme of a women's retreat at Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Detroit. Women from all over the Detroit area gathered to spend time in God's Word and to spend time in community with each other.
The day began with conversation around tables - getting to know one another and enjoying simple gifts of welcoming hospitality - some fruit, pastries, and beverages.
In the first session, we considered the fact that we ALL face hardships in many areas of life. Besides that, our world is changing - and change is hard! This group of ladies follows their retreat each year with a book study - so a special "shout out" was given to Jeremiah, whose whole life was hardship. (They will be offering in-person and zoom Bible study options for Overcoming Life's Sorrows: Learning from Jeremiah by Dr. Reed Lessing.)
Jeremiah's hope was in God's Word and faithfulness, so various visual faith® practices were shared - practices that involve a slowing down to focus and reflect on God's promises and His love for us, practices that help with remembering God's Words to bring hope and encouragement when life is difficult. Projects and examples on the resource table were labeled so they could find and examine what had been presented.
In the middle of struggle, our response is often to ask God why: "Why is this happening? Where are you, God? How long will this go on?" This prayer of lament is how Jeremiah often prayed, always coming back to remind God (and himself) of His faithfulness and promises.
So next we practiced the prayer of lament, each pouring out a concern to her Lord, writing across a page in every direction creating a jumbled mass of a "crying out conversation" to God. The prayer of lament was then folded to create spaces to tuck in some Visual Faith® Resources - Bible margins, prayer cards, Sally Beck images filled with scripture encouragement and hope.
After lunch and more conversation, we had some fun with lettering - learning simple ways to create an open font for adding emphasis to a name you are praying over or a word that stands out in a section of scripture you are scribing into a margin or journal. This church had a document camera which enabled everyone to watch as various lettering styles were demonstrated, as well as ways to add color and shading.
As always, time spent was a personal blessing, but we were also blessed by the time in conversation and doing this together. Marching orders were given for each to consider creating a similar collection of resources to pray over and "gift" - time well spent to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time.
Maybe it was the sunshine or maybe it was the chance to get out during a snowy season, or maybe it was the joy of being with friends and meeting new friends, or just maybe it was all this PLUS the result of spending a day focused in prayer and soaking up God's Word - but there were enough smiles in the room to shine even if the sun hadn't been out!
We also "toured" the website via the screen, finding out where to find all the resources and projects. It was made clear that Visual Faith® Ministry is not just about resources and practices - these practices create opportunities for gathering and much joy!
Fitting then, that we concluded by gathering for a very personal time of worship and praise, led by the pastor and musicians there.
If you are in the Detroit area, consider stopping at Historic Trinity. Every inch of this church is filled with art, carvings, and symbols - it is a church building overflowing with visual faith. You can even call ahead to request a tour!
Photo credits: Tammy Eberhard
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A short "P.S." to this blog for those who are interested in how faith
was incorporated visually in church architecture and
the rich symbolism that was used in historical churches.
Take a peek here at the history and architecture of Historic Trinity: https://www.historictrinity.org/our-history/architecture/ and select links to the right for details about stone carvings, wood carvings, stained glass, and more. This was the "visual faith" of the early Church, whose members often did not own a Bible or have the ability to read one! (You'll find a fascinating collection of Christian symbols with explanations in the Emblems and Icons link.)