“National Parks for the Soul ”
For decades across North America, small Christian retreat centers have provided supportive environments for emerging theological conversations, broadened spiritual understanding, and served as incubators for courageous movements of social change in the wider church. These hidden gems, often located off the beaten path, have gone unrecognized for their contribution to the larger church. Yet, these “national parks for the soul” are the places where radical hospitality has been offered to pilgrims searching for personal spiritual restoration, community and challenging theological conversation. Such retreat centers have traditionally offered the invitation to those on their spiritual journeys to hold both the call for inner spiritual work with the call for social justice work in our churches, communities and all of God’s creation.
This project will explore the historic values of such retreat centers, many of which have challenged the institutional church toward growth, and lift up actual stories of their influence in the church. Equally important, this project will consider the growing edges of theological, spiritual and justice conversations that are appearing in retreat centers and offer a look at how these unrecognized assets might intentionally serve today’s church.