Twenty-five members of Couples for Christ (CFC) and Singles for Christ (SFC) Bermuda took time off last 7th and 8th November 2009, at the Willowbank Hotel & Conference Facility in Sandys to take part in the 1-1/2-day Marriage Enrichment Retreat (MER) II and Singles Weekend Retreat (SWR) II. These were the second installments of the MER and SWR series. The first installments of which were held last November 2007. As part of the CFC Bermuda Christian Formation series, the MER II focused on strengthening married relationships and urged couples to be more loving, supportive and compromising towards each other. The SWR II sessions centered on the Christian way in cherishing, nurturing, and giving more value to personal relationships – not just within the CFC community but also with those beyond the CFC sphere including friends, neighbors, and even strangers encountered everyday. The talks and discussions were energized by three guest speakers from CFC Canada – the dynamic and profound husband-and-wife tandem of Gerry and Lilet Raffiñan (CFC Toronto) and the bubbly Debbie Resurreccion (SFC Montreal). SFC Bermuda’s self-motivated speaker, Line Inocencio, also imparted her thoughts on some of SWR II’s interesting topics. Brother Gerry and Sisters Lilet, Debbie and Line cited inspiring verses from the Bible, shared their provocative insights, and talked about not just personal challenges and light-hearted encounters but also most importantly about how their active service in CFC/SFC had helped them tremendously in understanding God more and in rediscovering their faith.
The first day of SWR II covered talks about Loving one another, Honor & Respect, Taming the tongue, Handling corrections/criticisms, and Healing & mending broken relationships. The second day focused on Working out obstacles within SFC and Relating with People Outside SFC. According to Sister Debbie, as the second greatest commandment, loving one another commences with loving oneself and then loving everybody equally but in different ways, which means that although love is to be expressed to others with the same intensity consistently, one’s love should be ‘custom-fit’ for the other which is also one of the greatest ways one could show honor and respect to another. Sister Lilet pointed out that when people tame their tongues, they show love, honor and respect to God and others by being truthful and by owning up the ability to inspire, comfort or build someone up. Sister Line explained that taming of the tongue also encompasses the ability to provide/handle corrections. One has to be grateful when correction is received and when every time a correction is given, one has to be simple and direct yet compassionate. Giving correction should also contain proposals regarding ways to resolve conflict (also known as constructive criticism), which is also the essence of healing and mending relationships according to Brother Gerry. And for healing to happen, one must confront the source of past hurt and surrender oneself to God’s saving grace. Working out obstacles and relating to others within and outside of SFC involves Peace as its basic and core foundation. Regardless of the type of relationships, everyone has to take initiative to resolve conflicts and do everything possible to live in peace with everybody (Rom. 12:18).
Some key MER I principles and points were briefly discussed in MER II. The talks in MER II included: What makes a Christian marriage work; Unity in marriage; Communication; Sex in marriage; Christian parenting; and Empowering marriage. Although some MER II topics may be of limited relevance for some couples at that moment (e.g., those who endeavour to have children), Brother Gerry and Sister Lilet did their talks as flexible and open as possible to apply to all participating couples. The retreat was also a great opportunity for the participating couples to take time off by themselves to reevaluate and strengthen their personal relationships, rejuvenate their marriage, and gain wisdom on parenting and family life. Brother Jay Autor, who attended as a participant explained, “It did rekindle our marriage. I felt like, I got married yesterday.”
MER II and SWR II had group activities in-between talks which helped keep the participants’ spirits alive throughout the sessions. Among them were some interesting special prayer techniques shared by the guest speakers. Led by Brother Gerry and Sister Lilet, participants performed an example of a ‘body prayer’ (a form of prayer expression through the use of body gestures/movements). Sister Lilet explained that prayer should involve the whole person which includes the body. In addition, Sister Debbie also explained that having a personal ‘prayer thing’ (such as a mat/blanket) helps one to be reminded to make time for and move into prayer. The weekend-long retreat was concluded by a Praise fest led by Brother Gerry.
(The CFC Bermuda community extends its gratitude to the organizers of the MER II and SWR II and to the accommodating staff and management of the Willowbanks Hotel.)