Nestled among hills and farms is a beautifully interspiritual and inter-religious city in southwest Michigan. Home to fewer than 10,000 people, Three Rivers hosts an intersection of three waterways: the St. Joseph River, the Rocky River, and Portage River. Since First Nations people first lived on the land, there has been noticeably significant spiritual energy. It is a gentle and peaceful energy that invites you in to silence, solitude, and connection.
In the area, there are five spiritual retreat centers, all neighbors and within walking distance of each other. These include St. Gregory’s Abbey, the Hermitage, Gilchrist, EarthSong Peace Chamber, and Apple Farm Community. One of only a few Episcopal monasteries in the US, St. Gregory’s Abbey is the oldest center in the vicinity, founded in 1946. The Hermitage is a Mennonite retreat center specializing in silent retreats, Gilchrist is an inter-religious retreat center operated by Fetzer Institute, EarthSong Peace Chamber is a First Nations retreat center where Nature and the inner world intersect, and Apple Farm Community is committed to psychological exploration in the vein of Carl Jung. Each center offers a unique contribution and retreatants may spend anywhere from a few hours to a month or more there.
Legend holds that “ley lines”, which are spiritual and mystical alignments of landforms, cross through the area. Each of the five non-profit organizations encourages seekers to wander through each other’s land and participate in open services or ceremonies. At St. Gregory’s you could attend one of seven daily liturgical services; at the Hermitage you could join retreatants in a silent sit or communal prayer time; Gilchrist has group meditation; at EarthSong you could participate in a drumming circle or fire ceremony; and at Apple Farm you could join a discussion around a topic about humanity and consciousness.
Most recently, while I was staying at the Hermitage, I took a walk through the property and made my way to the beautiful grounds of Gilchrist. On its land, Gilchrist has several sacred outdoor spaces with different religious and spiritual sanctuaries. These pictures reflect the diverse, yet unified spirit present in the in/visible world surrounding the five retreat centers.
Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD.
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual companionship across traditions.
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