Recently, I attended an intensive two-day retreat for men to examine their personal spiritual relationship. I was an invited guest and this intensive experience was a first for me. I tell you, it was uplifting. A wonderful therapeutic experience that still resonates within me today.
At issue for me was the question, “Can a spiritual brotherhood retreat be therapeutic?” If the experience causes the individual to improve their thoughts, feelings and actions in their daily lives, then the answer is an absolute yes.
The Peace Apostolic Church in Carson hosted the event at the Hyatt Indian Well Hotel. Approximately 100 men were asked to examine their spiritual life, to get intimately closer to Christ and to grow in understanding and His knowledge by totally immersing in truth.
The theme was “Developing Maturity in Christ.” Participants were asked to be transparent and honest as they reflected on their personal relationship with the Lord and to examine the individual “gift of the Spirit” within each of us. This process is enhanced when we gain wisdom and knowledge.
The entire retreat was fueled by a number of speakers uplifting God’s goodness and reflecting on an array of scriptures, promoting brotherhood, life strategies and daily living skills to enrich spiritual maturity.
The first session was instructive, promoting a therapeutic mindset for the men to spiritually grow in their journey. At the onset, the speaker outlined that each person should give some thought as to their expectations. Again and again, it was preached and echoed time and time again to be open, candid, honest, transparent and prayerful.
Acknowledging and letting go of sinful ways was an early focus. Everything we did began with prayer. We, as a group, explored an array of sinful wrongs and each participant was instructed to privately write down those immoral ways and discard it into a trash bin. Let it go.
This symbolic act was powerful and I think it pointed out that sin is powerful and can give a false belief, it is a type of delusional belief and it is fulfilling a personal need.
It has been said that men, particularly African-American men, are reluctant to engage in self-disclosure and the therapeutic process. Culturally speaking, airing our “dirty laundry” is unsettling for many. However, this was not evident at this retreat.
I observed men sharing about their past street activities, intimacy, relationships, parenting, financial difficulty, employment seeking efforts, etc. The holding hands and praying promoted a strong sense of brotherhood among the young and old men alike.
On the second day, we had small breakout groups consisting of six-to-eight individuals, which allowed more confidential engagement and personal disclosures.
The group I attended reflected men from diverse life experiences who were surprisingly open and candid about their past wrongs as well as looking at their blessings. I particularly enjoyed the group discussion examining the types of barriers that get in the way of our Christian walk.
Behavioral strategies were explored by the participants, which actually offered direction and a type of customized emotional road map for the brothers to follow.
Each day there were wonderful songs with powerful lyrics of prayer. Song such as “Worship Him Christ the Lord,” “The Lord is Blessing Me,” “Thank you, Lord,” and “I Need Thee.”
All these songs had specific meanings to many of us as we called on Christ to come into our hearts. The brothers shouted and lifted up their voices with enthusiasm and it was truly contagious for me.
In retrospect, this spiritual retreat was indeed therapeutic for me. The setting was comfortable, promoting safety and well-being.
Participants embraced feelings of brotherhood, individuals personalized their expectations with specific behavioral activities they could incorporate into their daily lives, and they acknowledged the necessary changes they need to make to move closer to Christ.
This was all promoted via honesty, prayer, self-examination, asking for forgiveness, expressing gratitude, and in the end, taking a serious look at how they are maturing in Christ. I benefited much and I felt truly blessed.
Dr. Harry Taylor is a semi-retired Adjunct Instructor at Antelope Valley College. Dr. Taylor can be reached at Drtaylorpsych@yahoo.com.