One of my tasks as chaplain of our priory is to plan the priory's first-ever spiritual retreat. Have you ever tried to find a retreat location that includes the amenities you want AND is economical? I dare ya! At least here in middle Tennessee. It seems that if your group is small enough, places abound. Once you cross a certain threshold--in terms of numbers--look out. Most places that accommodate a group of more than 20 are prepared for youth groups. That translates as dormitory-style rooms and bedding, and minimalist comfort and decor because where young people go, damage seems to follow. Sigh. Places akin to hotel lodging get pricey very quickly, and understandably.
Once the lodging question is resolved as well as can be expected, there is the matter of food and facilities. We're an older group, and we have folks who use walkers. Second-floor bedrooms without elevator access (which describes most intimate environments that one might desire on a retreat) basically don't exist. Sigh. Grounds for recreation? Add that to the mix.
We wanted a location that was as centrally located as possible, since our members are from as far west as Memphis, south as Huntsville, southeast as Atlanta, east as Asheville, north as Ft. Campbell (KY), and northeast as Virginia Tech. Nashville fills that bill, but we also wanted to be far enough away from Nashville so that local folks wouldn't be tempted to go home at night. Continuity of experience counts for a lot on retreat.
I can't tell you what a frustrating search it was as I weeded through prospective sites that eliminated themselves almost immediately because of one of the criteria noted above. And then...
Though not perfect, I discovered the gem that is Five-Star Retreat. It is literally out in the boonies, an hour west-south-west of Nashville (central to all but the folks in the eastern parts of the priory). Tucked into 300 acres of mostly woods, this facility was built by a guy to house his extended family when they got together for family reunions. His plans started simply enough, but morphed into a project with a bit more sophistication. He built the lodge, pictured here, and there are also a few cabins for more intimate gatherings. Yes, it's got dormitory rooms, but they're exceedingly comfortable.
The lodge is a one-stop-shop of Great Room meeting space, den leisure space, to die for kitchen, a deck to enjoy the outdoors, bedrooms, and two sitting areas adjacent to a handful of suites with double beds that include a day-bed and trundle each. Forty-five people can lay their heads down at night on comfortable mattresses.
The Great Room.
You can't see it in this picture but there's a an elevated platform in front of the high windows.
Kitchen serving window is on the right.
Upstairs sitting room area visible at top of the stairs.
The den, with wet bar area in left foreground.
The dream kitchen.
Everything you need is included (yes, plates, bowls, coffee cups, etc!).
Lower level bunk room. Yes, that's carpet!
The fire pit area by the creek. Benches included. Shade seasonal.
The Prior and I made a field trip to check out this option back in March, and we were hooked. This past week we returned with spouses (who will be heading up the food committee) and they are likewise enamored. Just before heading out Thursday morning an email arrived from one of our members announcing his intention to attend the retreat, with the offer to bring equipment for 1) some instruction in fencing, and 2) a little Scottish country dancing (something many in our priory, which is filled with Scotophiles, know how to do, yours truly included). We noted upon our arrival at Five-Star that the floor of the lodge is perfect for dancing. I am praying fervently that my broken toe is healed fully by then (it should be).
Great Room Mantel decorated for a recent wedding.
I'm hoping this will inspire me for some ideas for the retreat.
If you have any thoughts, please share!
Enough oohing and ahhhing. I invite you to enjoy the photos and share my sense of bliss about the discovery that we made. I'm sure you'll hear more as the time approaches (mid-August). Ta!