Loving Service Spiritual Retreat—The Power of Stories

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Alice Wood

By Alice Wood, Wisconsin, United States

Editor’s Note: The Loving Service online retreat was sponsored by the Urantia Foundation Education Committee, co-chairs Gard Jameson and Guy Perron.

Jesus taught through stories. People remember a good story. If I give a speech at a conference, people will only remember a small portion of it by the time they start heading home, and chances are, that portion will be a story. They are also a refreshing change from lectures which require charts and graphs in order to be engaging. Stories, on the other hand, are pleasant enough when told over coffee and between friends. The organizers of the Loving Service Retreat that took place on February 14, Valentine’s Day of 2021, counted on the power of stories to convey their message.

Many people in the Urantia community have benefited from the rise of online videoconferencing as a method for bringing us together. The online conferences and study groups have provided a social outlet while opening the eyes of many to the growing international representation of Urantia Book students. But while we gained the fantastic ability to interact frequently with each other, we lost the ability to “shoot the breeze.” The cancellation of in-person conferences meant that there were no chats at breakfast in the cafeteria, and no one was late for a plenary because of a great conversation in the hall. There were no stories told during the “in-between” times.

The Loving Service Retreat was still a structured discussion—we’ve all learned that structure is necessary for a large group on Zoom—but it came close to satisfying the “getting coffee with friends” vibe. By instructing the speakers to share their thoughts through the telling of stories, the organizers of the retreat acknowledged the role that stories play in our lives, which is itself a loving service. I was so happy to be a part of a captivated audience.

The stories centered around service, with each presenter handling a different realm of service: service to self, family, community, world, and universe. With each round, the presenter would tell his or her story, after which the entire community was welcomed to chime in with their own contribution, beautifully orchestrated by the dedicated hosting team of Guy Perron and Agnès Lazar.

My husband, Chris, and I shared a time slot. Between our banter, we managed to tell two stories. Chris talked about the birth of our first son. The experience expanded his understanding of Melchizedek and Abraham, and the promise that people need only have faith; God will do the rest. In those moments of early infancy, our son needed only to accept what Chris had to offer him; Chris would do the rest. His sharing of that experience was a very sweet and poignant moment.

On the other hand, I brought forth a story about Chris, who once smashed into the back of a parked car while riding his bicycle. He has been made fun of repeatedly for that incident. During his recovery, his helplessness reminded us of the fact that we are reliant on each other. When we are children, our human model for God is our parents. When we are adults, God is no longer just a parent figure but also a partner. One way in which marriage partners grow in their relationship with God is through interaction with each other. We practice partnering with each other, becoming comfortable with our joint reliance, and hopefully, translating that into our relationship with God.

We were each enriched by hearing the stories of others and contributing our own, and this retreat was a release for a year’s worth of untold tales. This event was a beautiful gift for all those who attended!

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