Story and photo submitted by Barbara Blanchard-Mahoney
Stephen Minister and Family Promise Volunteer, First United Church of Missoula, Montana
How many opportunities come up for seniors and those with disabilities in our churches to enjoy a “retreat-like” program designed especially for them? No camp environment, no sleeping bags, no overnights, no extended travel, but plenty of spiritual food for thought, plenty of singing and laughter, plenty of group discussions on important topics for the Christian life, and of course, plenty of food!
The Face-to-Face Encounter, developed by The Upper Room’s Walk to Emmaus Community, is such an opportunity. It is open to members of any Christian denomination who wish to rediscover Christ's presence in their lives and want to strengthen their spiritual lives. The First United Church of Missoula welcomed participants from Missoula, Montana and surrounding communities on various dates in October. Faiths that were represented with participants included United Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and non-denominational Christians.
The goal of Face-to-Face is to meet the needs and requirements of retired or handicapped persons. The overarching theme is “Living in Grace.” Face-to-Face is designed for persons age 60 and older. Their health challenges and energy levels require shorter sessions than is typical of a retreat in a camp setting. This is an adaptation of the Cursillo/Journey/Emmaus retreat model, tailored to meet senior men and women on their own terms. The sessions offered exciting and hospitable opportunities for Christian learning.