As First Presbyterian Church officially opened the PERC (Presbyterian Event and Retreat Center) this past week, I was thinking about how the ribbon cutting event truly followed the session’s mission for the retreat center and our desires for the future. We were able to welcome those who attended into community fellowship with hospitality.
Preparing for the ribbon cutting was a bit like the preparations for other significant days for the church, for example, Easter and Christmas. Each day requires planning and people’s contributions of time, skills, talents, rehearsals, food preparation, and last-minute cleaning. Each day during the week before the ribbon cutting, the excitement grew, much like our feelings and emotions preceding Easter and Christmas as we readied the PERC and prepared to welcome the community.
Churches throughout history have provided sanctuary, literally and figuratively. The FPC hopes to do the same with the PERC. It is and will remain a safe place for those who are seeking comfort, quiet, and solitude—or for others, it can be fellowship with the calm, quiet presence of Jesus Christ. Still others may find it a location for small group fellowship or retreats. Sanctuary has many expressions; I hope the PERC provides that to our community.
Maybe it is a moment with the Blessed Mother at the grotto or a moment in the garden. For others, it might be a memory that is recalled during a gathering that reminds one of a time when they most needed or felt God’s presence. Each guest’s needs will be different: hospitality, faith, and generosity will greet them all.
The definition of hospitality is “friendly and generous reception to guests, visitors, or strangers.” As hosts at the PERC, we intend to continue the rule of the Benedictines that “all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.” In keeping with the contemplative tradition of the Whitefriar Carmelite Order, recognizing their use and presence of the mansion from 1931 until 1975, we will offer “an oasis of prayerful silence in the midst of the bustling city.”
The plan for a retreat center over a year ago seemed at times like the impossible. Without numerous volunteers, and God’s favor it would not have come together as quickly as it has. The expectancy and energy that has remained present and delivered us to our official opening leaves me in awe. I believe the PERC has just begun a continuing history that will evolve and include many in our midst and be a blessing for many.
Elder Darlene Podolak