Last month, I managed to navigate through Penn Station on a Friday afternoon—suitcase, 10-month-old baby, diaper bag, car seat, stroller, and husband (last but not least) in tow. Perhaps an inauspicious start to a life-changing weekend.
Each new class of Redeemer’s Gotham Fellowship begins the year with a fall retreat on the Princeton campus, and although I was eager for the program to begin, I also didn’t quite know what to expect.
I assumed that the program itself would be primarily “heady,” given the kinds of summer reading we had been assigned (600+ pages of theology, plus Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour and extensive lecture notes on Cultural Renewal).
I assumed that the weekend would be like most retreats; a good dose of warm and fuzzy mixed with appropriate amounts of learning. It’s not that the retreat wasn’t those things, but it was so much more.
The word that comes to mind is intentional. Every aspect was designed to draw us out, help us know each other and ourselves better, and ultimately lead towards a richer personal relationship with the Lord. The overall experience was both “heady” and also unexpectedly “heavy,” seamlessly and easily woven together in a manner that encouraged authenticity and candid sharing.
Each activity and exercise was revelatory, whether an ice-breaker that exposed the fellow with the longest second toe (myself), or a group discussion identifying the strengths and weaknesses of our varied spiritual influences and backgrounds. We spread out our entire lives on post-it notes and then shared it in ten-minute sketches that proved more powerful than any lengthy testimony I’ve given or witnessed.
The power and place of experiencing God in a sensory way was neither neglected nor over-emphasized, and on Sunday morning we studied Psalm 23 and shared the Lord’s Supper in a way that I’m fairly certain moved everyone in the room.
Requisite time was taken for “orientation” to the program, the nuts and bolts of its logistics, but also the philosophy behind the program. The Gotham Fellowship is not just a study of theology or a yearlong devotional, but exists to promote a deeper understanding of God through intense study of the way He works in scripture; through His son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. It’s certainly an intense yearlong program, but that weekend I realized that Gotham is so much more—it’s about a new life, a changed heart, and cultivating a deeper relationship with the Lord through a deeper understanding of Him.