Ninety-one years ago a Unitarian minister named John Wilson founded a religious order for Protestant clergy called Brothers of the Way. In creating the order Wilson laid out certain obligations which served as the basis for the vows members would take as they were brought into the order. And one of those obligations was to take an annual retreat with the order. A retreat which incorporated (and still incorporates) prolonged periods of silence, spiritual reading, prayer, singing, shared work around meals and a daily celebration of Holy Communion.
Wilson built a retreat house on an island off Boothbay Harbor which he called Greystones. While a beautiful place, it had no electricity and while there was running water it was (and is) limited by the overall water level on the island.
After Brother John's death, the house and the island remained in his family, who were gracious enough to allow the Order to still hold retreats every year.
In the eighties the Order finally recognized that women also serve as clergy, and began admitting women into the Order, changing the name to Brothers and Sisters of the Way.
In time, however, Greystones was sold--and so the Order found other places for annual retreats, including locations in Maine, Rhode Island, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Last year in honor of the ninetieth anniversary of the Order the current owners generously offered to host a celebratory retreat. Unfortunately, due to Covid, that event had to be cancelled, and eventually rescheduled for this year. This week, in fact.
My Dad was a member of the Order, and I went on my first retreat at Greystones while I was still in seminary in the late seventies. Upon graduation and ordination, I was consecrated as a full member: Brother John. That was forty-one years ago--I was still in my twenties!
The Order has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Every year as I was growing up
Dad would head off for retreat. And then later, we shared time together on retreats. Going on retreat is always special, but going back to Greystones, for the first time in almost forty years, is more than special. It is a time for me to reflect on my relationship with God, my relationship with my father, and my relationship with the profession and the religious order that we shared for many years.
(Photo: Greystones, Fisherman's Island, Maine)