FCA retreat an environment for a spiritual journey

Members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes boarded school buses headed toward Lake Allatoona for a weekend of Bible studies and lounging in Enos on October 22nd. Christian Fellowship retreats are biannual events, and this year’s fall retreat at YMCA’s Camp High Harbour on Lake Allatoona continued a tradition that has existed for over 20 years.

The buses were loaded up and drove to the campsite early in the morning of October 22nd. After settling in, the group met and Reverend Stephen Maginas gave his first sermon. Music played in the background during the meetings, and while the speaker lectured, students took notes for the small group discussions that took place after each speech. In these small groups, students discussed the speech and any questions that the speaker raised during the talk. Afterwards, students dispersed, and spent their free time doing anything from playing football to swimming in the lake.

“Lake Allatoona’s YMCA Camp High Harbor is where we have been going for the past couple of years,” said senior Liz Bailey. “There are a bunch of different cabins and a brand new worship space that’s really neat with a stage and lighting and there’s a dining hall, volleyball courts, a rock wall, and soccer fields… all of that kind of good stuff.”

On Saturday afternoon, a late bus packed with cross country runners coming from a race and students who took the ACT that morning arrived.

“It’s hard to find weekends and everyone is really busy, but that is definitely what I think is a challenge with Christian Fellowship retreats,” said Bailey.

They broke up into small groups again, and then held a meeting with the entire groups. On Saturday night, there was a dance and students had the chance to roast s’mores over a bonfire. After waking up on Sunday, the group met for a morning meeting and a Bible study before heading back home.

“I think that I would want to make the retreat longer and so that everyone can come for the full time,” said Bailey. “The tough thing is that there is usually a morning bus and then a late bus and if you come late, then it’s definitely a bummer to have missed the morning talk, but if you come early, then you have a lot of free time where you’re not doing Bible studies because everyone hasn’t gotten there yet.”

Busy weekends for students have caused some changes in the overall attendance of the retreat as well.

“I wish more people would come because the group has kind of been dwindling a little bit,” said junior Alex Cann. “It is a lot more fun with more people.”

For the more than 80 students attending the retreat, there were many different types of Bible studies. There were Bible studies divided into grade, gender, and assigned small groups. In these small groups of about eight people, there was a boy and girl leader for each. These small groups discussed the main speaker’s sermons; over the course of the retreat, the speaker gave three sermons. After everyone listened to the speaker, students gathered their Bible passages and notes from the speech, which they used to respond to discussion prompts given to them by the speaker. Then, the whole group split into different kinds of Bible studies depending on which talk they just heard.

“We talked about some things that could be changed about the retreat in our CLC meeting,” said Reverend Charney. “There was some talk about having the groups be a little bit more cohesive where they stay together for a longer period of time than just the retreat. Also, we want to do some training with the Bible studies beforehand. That way the leaders are a little bit more prepared and ready to answer the questions that we asked about the speeches.”

After all, these Bible studies aren’t just beneficial for the retreats. They allow the students to create new relationships with one another and get to know people that they may not otherwise.

“One of my favorite parts of the retreat is always small groups,” said Bailey. “Last year, it was really neat because I had two senior small group leaders in the spring who were about to head off to college. They made a group text with all of us in our small group and it was really exciting. We would text each other all kinds of funny things.”

One of the retreat’s attractions is the free time afforded to students outside of Bible studies, in which students can participate in activities uniquely available at Lake Allatoona.

“I love spending time outside and looking at the lake,” said Cann. “It is just so beautiful and I enjoy having that time to reflect on everything around me.”

The personal reflection that the retreat encourages is a huge part of its significance to students. The retreat itself brings people together for one cause and allows them share unique experiences together. Many students attributed their return year after year to the sense of community created by the retreat.

“Having 83 Westminster students just being together and with one another is the highlight for me,” said Charney. “Having everybody there for a purpose: to be together.”