Friday, March 24, 2006

Holden Village. "An ecumenical [wilderness] retreat center in the Lutheran tradition." Paradise? No. Beautiful people in a beautiful place surrounded by the unalderated wild and authentically living out their lives in this chaotic world? A most resounding yes.

I just got back to the "real world" after five days in this place, far beyond the reach of a normal gas-powered automobile. It takes a flight to Seattle, a four-hour drive to Chelan, a two-hour boat ride up Lake Chelan, and a 45-minute trek in an intrepid bus through the majestic Cascade Mountians before one can set foot in Holden Village. It was well worth the wait. In less than a week, I met phenomenal people who intentionally engage themselves and one another in a community rooted in a fantastic message: We are lucky to be alive.

Indeed, we are, but the community of Holden - which varies anywhere from about 60 people in the winter to over 450 in the summer - takes that idea to heart. Everything, from the way food is consumed to the way garbage is produced, takes on a whole new meaning in this remote area of the world. Electricity is limited, internet connection is virtually absent, and breathtaking views literally stop you in your tracks when you so much as look out your window.

But the views are just the beginning. Recognizing that they are simply one of the infinite number of communities in the world, the people of Holden minimize their impact on the environment, with a fully-functional 'garbology' team that painstakingly attempts to recycle, reuse, and renew as much of the generated waste as possible. They celebrate the act of eating together, while making specific choices about their food - where it comes from, what its impact is, and how much is really "necessary" - and act upon those choices in a very genuine way.

I would be the first to doubt the social relevance of a retreat center that has to wait for its up-to-date newspapers and contact with the outside world, but Holden Village's attraction lies in its simplicity. The world is not being forever altered in southeast Washington - but a number of dedicated people are truly attempting to understand what it means to live with, in, and as a part of this world.

It isn't a five-star hotel, and there aren't lowly staff workers to cater to your every need. But there is intense community; there are most definitely people who are more than willing to enter into beautiful and lively discussion about anything under the sun; and there is, without a doubt, a people who live out their own spirituality in such an astonishingly generous and gentle way that one can't help but find the holy in everyday activities.

I don't mean to romanticize the simple life, or say that Holden is some sort of utopia that has been hidden away from the rest of the world. But within their simplicity, Holden has become a community whose effect is anything but simple to those lucky people who get a chance to visit. I mean, I just came for a break from my job. But I left with so much more.

This is a shout-out to those who may never read this, but are deserving of praise nonetheless: Jack, Michael, Ben, Kelly, Emily, Jami, Tom, Jesse, Dan, Jill, April, and everyone else nestled up there in the mountains. Mine is a experience I won't soon forget, and the opportunity to be validated and affirmed - instead of merely tolerated - as a unique child of God who happens to have no idea what the hell to do with their life is something I will always carry with me.

The intentionality, the simplicity, the effort to connect ordinary life with the extraordinary problems of this world - Lutheran Volunteer Corps, take a look at Holden Village. There's a community far from perfect, but completely present in the world today - even with all its problems, frustrations, and grey areas. Not in spite of, but because of.

Thank you.


At 10:28 AM , Blogger HereISit said...

I went to Holden Village a couple of years ago in summer. I can't imagine what it might be like in winter. The community and worship services were wonderful. It is interesting that in a place that has freedom at its center, the worship services are mandatory. But they do define that community.


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