Expand. Hold. Conversation.

I am writing to you from behind the front desk at the Retreat Center on the Saturday morning before Holy Trinity Sunday. To me this festival in the Church year is all about holding expansive conversations. This morning there are conversations buzzing in the Trillium Dining Room and in the twelve honey bee hives that serve the whole and sweeten our meals. I can get a little lost in the wonder that the honey in my tea was served up by a host of bees who visited thrice-petaled Trillium flowers on past Holy Trinity Sundays. The best conversations take time and require room to grow. The B.I.G. Enneagram retreat we are hosting this weekend has moved into their morning session. There’s laughter coming from the Showy Orchis…


Unlike the busy bees of the Retreat Center, almost all of our guests this weekend are first-timers. Some of them flew in from as far away as Maine. The work of expanding, of being expansive, is part of what this place is about. It’s why I wanted to work here. This summer I wanted to be around people who are being intentionally expansive. I am a pastor on leave from call (that’s the technical/institutional term) to be a support to my parents who live in Apple Valley. They might not think of themselves as intentionally expansive, but this is how I’ve come to experience them as we’ve walked together these past few months. So this summer of transitions, both for my family and for me, is about expanding into a new season while holding on to the best of what brought us here…


But just like expanding doesn’t necessitate dropping everything, holding doesn’t necessitate hoarding. It matters how we hold these expansive conversations. I am convinced that holding well and holding fast is most often about holding loosely. So then part of holding is letting go. This hold looks more like an open hand than a clenched fist. It feels more like an arm lifting you up than a punch to your gut… 


It’s been my experience that the open hand of expansive holding is what creates in us and our communities the time and space for conversation. There are a myriad of ways to engage these conversations at the Retreat Center. Take a look at our list of upcoming events; maybe consider a personal retreat. Bring a book or a journal; we’ll handle the cooking 

By the time you read this we’ll have already celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday 2024. And the day before this blog posts is the feast day for hymnwriter, Jiri Tranovsky, who died on May 29th in 1637. I’ve been in an expansive conversation with Jiri through my father this spring. Jiri is buried in an unmarked grave not far from where my grandfather came from in Slovakia. His best known hymn is an adaptation of the 12th century Bohemian carol, Čas Radosti. My father used to sing this tune in Slovak with his family each Christmas time. Here is one of my recent adaptations of this tune set to images from the Retreat Center.

Expand… Hold… Conversation…

There’s room for you when you come ‘round here, 

Joel Pakan
Guest Engagement  


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