With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Basilios, St. Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Woolloongabba Brisbane held their first family retreat last weekend (14-16 Feb 2020). With the recent rain and flooding, there were concerns that the retreat may have to be put off, but in the end the Lord blessed us with a fine, sunny weekend.

The family retreat was held at North Star Holiday Resort, Hastings Point with our guest speaker being Fr. James Savage from St. Mary Magdalene Mission Sunshine Coast, Qld. We had 28 adults, 16 children and 9 infants in attendance which was a great start for the very first family retreat in Queensland.

The retreat commenced on the Friday afternoon and after registration and opening prayers, we listened to a talk on “Family Love Languages” presented by one of the parents. This was followed by a BBQ dinner and some fun get-to-know-you games.

The theme of the Retreat was “Grow Together In Christ”. To facilitate this, Fr. James used the book, “Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Principles of Child-Rearing” by Philip Mamalakis as a resource.

On Saturday morning, Fr. James and Fr. Dcn. Athanasios led the Matins service. The parents then attended sessions led by Fr. James. The first session covered a variety of topics which included: The symbolic way in which we use language; What we mean by Marriage being a Sacrament; The Relationship between Husband and Wife; The Relationship of Parents to Children; An Orthodox approach to rearing children. After a break for morning tea, everyone gathered for the second session of the day resuming where the first session ended.

The children attending the retreat were not forgotten. North Star Holiday Resort provides Child Care facilities and activities. Taking advantage of this, the children attended spiritual lessons and craft activities run by volunteers from St. Paul’s Sunday School and Youth Societies. This allowed for a fun and spiritually beneficial weekend for the children.

The afternoon was free time, and many took advantage of the Water Park at Resort. Late in the afternoon, Fr. James and Fr. Dcn. Athanasios led the celebration of the Vesperal Liturgy. After dinner, everyone enjoyed some family centred activities.

Sunday began with Matins followed by the final session titled “Orthodox Perspectives On Technology and Other Family Issues”. After morning tea, everyone gathered for a Q&A session and prepared for departure.

Feedback from participants was very positive with expressions of interest in future retreats.

We thank God for a soul enriching weekend.