Sixteen men took the opportunity to attend The University’s first ever Soul Men’s Retreat this past weekend. Here on campus there is an overwhelming difference between the number of males and females that attend retreats. The idea of a retreat would most likely lose the interest of most guys. That is no surprise because most guys aren’t adamant about talking in small group settings about their feelings — well at least the typical guy wouldn’t be.
That is why six leaders, including myself along with Fred Mercadante, decided to plan a retreat designed just for men.
The focus of the retreat was on the idea of men’s spirituality. Like any other retreat there were talks, small groups discussions and fellowship.
However, a difference was that most of our time was spent outside in nature. Unlike a typical retreat at Chapman Lake, this one was located at a cabin in Hancock, New York.
The space inside the cabin and the area surrounding it were ideal for the retreat. The leaders wanted to avoid spending too much time only talking because as men, we would rather act on those feelings. We began planning this retreat at the beginning of the semester and through hard-work and many meetings, the leaders and I were able to create a very successful Soul Men’s retreat.
Planning this retreat was definitely not easy. There were multiple date and location changes that occurred. It worried me as a leader that this retreat would not happen.
Aside from that I was also concerned that we would not have enough people to even sign up for the retreat. Especially because this was the first men’s retreat here on campus there was not much to compare to. We went into the retreat not knowing how well everyone would respond to the activities planned.
There were five talks given followed by symbolic activities. The five topics of those talks were male stereotypes, building bridges, male mentorship, finding our one thing/ liminal space and the sign of Jonah. Following the talk about building bridges, we gathered our own supplies to build an actual bridge. This involved everyone going out into nature and finding the wood necessary to make a bridge. Besides physically building a bridge, we wanted to show the retreatants the symbolic nature of why as men we must build those bridges in our lives.
There was a lake nearby where each person would take the time to be out on the lake on a boat for a time of reflection. This was one of my favorite parts of the retreat. The weather was perfect on Saturday afternoon and being out on a lake made me realize the peacefulness and serenity of the nature that surrounded me.
The purpose of this retreat was not to get in touch with our emotional sides; rather it was to show us what it meant to be a man of substance. Each of the men that attended may have entered as a man, but have come back as a soul man.