Vulnerability on Vashon

This past weekend I spent four days at a men’s retreat at the All-Merciful Savior Monastery in Washington State partly in preparation for the youth trip I have planned for June 6th. Driving down I had no idea what to expect. I had only met Abbot Tryphon twice previously, and although he was a cordial and friendly fellow, I didn’t really know him. 

As I boarded the ferry from Seattle to Vashon Island I thought about the young people who I’d be taking with me in a few short weeks. Would they find it strange? Interesting? Would they encounter God?

As I arrived and drove up the long gravel road through the woods toward the monastery grounds it was as if I had entered another world. The church with its blue onion dome, the vegetable gardens, the chicken coop, the stone fountain, the tall cedars encircling it all. It was beautiful and pristinely quiet. The kind of quiet that gets inside of you.

I was greeted warmly by Abbot Tryphon, who has the other worldliness of Gandalf and the jolliness of Santa Clause. Other guys began to arrive and we unpacked and set up our tents as we got to know each other. We spent our mornings and evenings in the church, praying by candlelight, and our nights by the campfire, discussing theology over bad jokes. There was much silence, but even more laughter. And there was something else I didn’t expect. Vulnerability and affection.

By the end there were many hugs and ‘I love you guys.’ Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I don’t generally give or receive a lot of affection from men. I’m a strong believer in relationship and community - it’s what I try to create for the youth I work with - and here I was, needing to take my own advice. I have to learn to be vulnerable. Because that’s the only way to be real.

- Chris Hawthorne


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