This fall, as I entered my last season at Laurelville, a friend shared a book with me called An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. At a time when my hands, heart, and mind were actively preparing for the future, she provided a perspective that has shaped my experience since. Rather than letting the rich, yet sometimes subtle, experiences of each day pass me by, “I can set a little altar, in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is…I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to wherever I am due next.”
So as this six and a half year season draws to a close, I have tried to pay attention: tasting the final fruits of summer; seeing the leaves grandly yet gradually change and fall; receiving kind words and warm embraces; and reflecting on the rich experiences of these years.
Anyone who’s been a part of Laurelville–past or present–knows that the experience has the power to touch us deep within. It’s been a privilege to journey with so many who have come down the lane and rested here for a time–
- campers thrilled to be at camp for another year
- music and worship leaders sharing in music that transforms the song
- leaders ready to journey and grow together
- widows and widowers sharing in stories of lament and hope
- families journeying with disabilities
- farmers rooting their practice in deep-seeded faith
- youth seeking a faith that can ground their lives and also be lived and shared
- countless visitors embracing the beauty, peace, and renewal of God’s creation
- Laurelville family and friends returning to a place that feels like home
These interactions have significantly shaped me and nurtured what God is doing in my life, and I hope the same is true for those who shared the experiences. My hope and prayer is that Laurelville will continue to be a place where we are all invited to come and “to stop what we are doing long enough to see where we are, who we are there with, and how awesome the place is.” And in this attentiveness, to recognize that God is present right where we are—not just in the beauty and peace of Laurelville or in times of retreat, but in our relationships and even in the mundane tasks of our day.
Angela Dietzel finishes her work as Program Director this month. Laurelville’s program participants, staff, and friends have been blessed through her ministry here and we wish her many blessings for the future.