for the young people of the Seattle and Tacoma districts.
Saving Grace in God’s Creation:
Our Retreat at Fort Flagler
By Carrie Bland
Every year the youth and adults of the Tacoma and Seattle Districts gather together at Fort Flagler during the first weekend in November. It’s a tradition that’s been around for decades and youth look forward to attending this retreat all year long. The Tacoma District Youth Leadership Team (Also known as TUMY) began planning this retreat as soon as last year’s retreat was over. Through a long discussion process, they narrowed the theme down to “To Be Continued…” because they wanted to have a conversation around taking what we’ve learned at the retreat back into our lives at home.
This year was like many in the past, cool weather, lots of youth, great food, but it was also different. We had two guest speakers: Ruth Marston of Olympia First UMC, and Stephen Palermini of Vancouver First UMC. They approached the topic in a different way, instead of preaching to the youth, they had a discussion, and invited us into that dialogue. They talked about their mountain top experiences and how we have to come back down from the mountain and continue to take what we’ve learned out into the world with us. Along with the guest speakers, we heard from three youth about their faith journeys. Liz, a freshman from Mason UMC; Becca a sophomore from Mason UMC; and Jacob a senior from Gig Harbor UMC shared their faith, and how they’ve become closer to God over the past few years. Their stories reminded us of our own walks and how we can find God in many different places.
I mentioned the cool weather; most years, it’s cold and rainy. This year, it was cold and sunny. It gave us the chance to play outside, and move between activities without being soaked through. What a blessing it was to see the world as God created it, and to play in that creation. The TUMY team knew it would be cool weather, so in preparation for it, they asked Churches from the District to make scarves for all the participants. During communion on the first night, after each person received their bread and juice, they also got to pick out the scarf that best fit their personality. These scarves not only kept us warm all weekend, but serve as a constant reminder we are not alone, we are connected to one another, and from one church to another.
While Ruth and Stephen fed our souls with stories of God’s saving Grace, and our scarves warmed our bodies and souls with love from our home churches, our bellies were fed by a loving team of cooks from the Gig Harbor UMC. We experienced God’s creative inspiration in the meals this group prepared for us. They took cooking to a whole new level, as they played around with the theme. Each meal brought a new surprise, which all started with a pickle.
At the end of the weekend, 115 people walked away from this retreat with their heart and soul fed with God’s love.