"Christ Born Anew in our Hearts" was the theme of an Orthodox women's retreat held at St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Lexington, Kentucky, November 15 and 16, 1997. Over seventy women from a seven state region attended the event which was modeled after the conference, "A Journey in Faith: A Conference for Orthodox Women," held in Milwaukee in February 1997. [Click here for a summary of the Milwaukee conference.] Cathleen Callen of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, co-chair of the conference, shared materials and offered helpful advice in the planning of the retreat.
The featured speaker was Frederica Matthewes-Green, convert and wife of an Orthodox priest. She is an author, a nationally syndicated columnist, and a National Public Radio commentator. She shared her own experience of Christ being born in her heart. It was a witness to the reality that Christ awaits us at any point in our journey to receive us when our eyes are finally opened to him. The converts at the retreat especially related to Frederica's account and a lively question and answer period followed her presentation.
Mother Gabriella of Holy Dormition Monastery was the second speaker. She spoke about the role of women in the faith from biblical times to the present, including the role of the feminine in the Church from an Orthodox perspective. She emphasized the need for discernment when addressing issues regarding women.
Four breakout/discussion groups were offered to the participants. The topics included: "Tools of the Faith," led by the Very Reverend Thomas Gallaway, priest of St. Andrews; "Faith Matters," led by Jeanette Gallaway; "Faith and Ethnicity," led by Harriet Pepps; and "Spirituality for Women in the Nineties," led by Dr. Nancy Holloway, Campus Minister at Berea College and a member of the St. Nina Quarterly editorial board.
Some of the topics discussed in the respective groups included: understanding how prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are reflections of the unity of the spiritual and the physical; how to involve children in the life of the Church- - church attendance, use of icons in the home, the importance of family meals; how to balance a respect for our ethnic roots while being sensitive to the need for unity in Christ; and the concerns women have in balancing career and family while trying to include time for prayer and spirituality.
Following the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, Mother Gabriella concluded the retreat with a presentation on monasticism, in which she presented a lively and rich description of life in the monastery, including a description of some of the responsibilities and activities of monastics.
The St. Andrews members who were responsible for planning and conducting the retreat included: Barbara Farha, chair; Nancy Holloway, co-chair, with assistance by Fr. Tom Gallaway. Others responsible included: Karen Mann, Dr. Karen Skaff, Rose Haddad, Nariman Elias, Fay Aweimrin, Jeanette Gallaway, Carolyn Lengel and Nuha Mashni.
The response by the participants to the retreat was exceptionally positive and many voiced the desire to make this an annual event.