Thursday, August 21, 2014

Center for Spiritual Formation celebrates 20 years

Marjorie House (center) and her husband Rev. Jay House (left) talk with Bishop Jeremiah Park (right) about the history of the Center for Spiritual Formation at the Center’s twentieth anniversary celebration in August.
By Jerry Wolgemuth

The beautiful summer evening of August 17 brought 74 persons to the Orchard Hill Retreat Center near Millerstown to celebrate the first 20 years of the life of the Center for Spirtual Formation. The affair had the essence of a family gathering with hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill and tasty dishes brought by those with close ties to the program of the Center.

It was an evening of music, singing, reminiscing and a message from Bishop Jeremiah Park. “All I need to say is ‘wow!” he said. “This is simply a fantastic place that we are so proviledged to share as God’s people. The story of the transfiguration comes alive in this place. I want to build tents here and stay here. Thanks be to God for this awesome gift.”

Marjorie House has been a member of the Center’s Board of Directors since it began in 1994. “Russell Hart came to me in 1994 and said that Bishop May was very interested in a retreat center in the Conference. He asked me to serve on the Board. I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time but I agreed.

The 200 acres of land was a gift to the Center by Gary Miller. “There used to orchards up here and that is why we called it Orchard Hill,” Marjorie says, “but you won’t see any sign of the orchards anymore. When we first came up here it was overgrown with weeds and trees. We had to do a lot of clearing.”

The vision for the Center for Spiritual Formation was for a place to come for retreats, not only retreats that the Center would set up but local churches would be encouraged to use for retreats.

“The intention was to keep the Center as natural as possible,” Marjorie says. The first structure to be built was a pavilion followed by a labarynth, a lodge with kitchen, living room and bedrooms for ten. Several walking trails have been opened,.

The labarynth is perhaps the most imposing feature of the Center. “It was developed by a couple of board members. who did a lot of hard work,” Marjorie says. “It’s so large it had to be layed out with ropes. It’s beautiful! People walk it slowly as they pray to the center and then they weave their way back out. Now it’s lit by solar lights.”

Rev. Russell Hart explained in his Susquehanna Xpress interview that the Center in a typical year schedules about 46 events. A sampling of several ongoing programs are: (1) training in the Ministry of Spiritual Direction which yields a certificate as a Spiritual Director, (2) the Lay Seminary which gives students a taste of what a seminary would be like if they were able to go to seminary. (Some from the Lay Seminary go on to become Certified Lay Ministers. Others go back to their local churches and become more effective laity.) and (3) the School of Prayer, four Saturday sessions in a year to explore Richard Foster’s book on prayer. There is a long list of shorter programs on topical themes.

You can find out more about these programs of the Center for Spiritual Formation through the following contacts: Phone: 717-240-0678; FAX: 717-243-2356; E-mail: formation1@embarqmail.com; Mail: 45 South West Street, Carlisle, PA 17013. Their website will be especially helpful in learning about the programs of the Center at centerformation.org.

The interview with Brittany Howell on Susquehanna Xpress will be webcast soon and can be found on the Susquehanna Conference website video archive at susumc.org/videos.

Randy Heisley-Cato and Hank Imhof offer some spirited Appalachian old-time and bluegrass music at the twentieth anniversary celebration of the Center for Spiritual Formation.

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