Dear friends,

This week Canon Bob Elkin, much loved priest who regularly wrote for the Algoma Anglican, sent me an article “Forward to the Retreat” that he had written for a local community newspaper, The Sentinel.

Clearly attending the retreat was not high on the list of things Canon Bob really wanted to do that week.

However, all of that changed when he actually went to Laurentian Lodge. Bob’s preconceived ideas about what it was going to be like were wrong and that he had an awesome time at Laurentian Lodge with colleagues in ministry.

I wrote back and suggested to Canon Bob that he might like to write a second article, “Viewed in the rear view mirror” OR “What really happened on retreat” and here it is! Enjoy reading quick-witted Canon Bob again – we sure miss his regular doses of good humour.

Along with Bob’s words are some pictures of our special time together on retreat.



By Bob Elkin

A cross country passenger train was chugging across Canada late one evening when a man went through the sleeping cars calling:  “Is there a Roman Catholic priest on the train?  Is there a Roman Catholic priest on the train?”  Ten minutes later he came back the other way calling:  “Is there an Anglican priest on the train?  Is there an Anglican priest on the train?”  Suddenly a man in a dark suit, wearing a clergy collar stepped into the corridor and said:  “I’m a Baptist minister my son.  Can I help you?” and the  man  replied:  “I doubt it.   I’m trying to borrow a corkscrew.”

Retreat leader Br. James Koester

Over the last umpteen years I’d come to feel that joke had lost its relevance and fewer and fewer Anglican clergy would even understand it and I thought that was a great loss.  I wasn’t  mourning the alcohol but I was mourning the ability we used to have to make fun of ourselves and revel in society’s preconceived notions of who we were and to just plain have a good time when we got together away from our parishes and let down our hair and shared and  enjoyed each other.  I thought that had died out and when I got the invitation to attend our Diocesan retreat at Laurentian Lodge in early May  I knew I’d be going but I went with few expectations as noted  in the FORWARD TO THE RETREAT column that accompanies this.  I like spiritual events  and can experience them and feel my soul revive which it needs to do but how often they seemed  to be things to endure rather than enjoy.  That’s what I expected when I went to the retreat and I’m thrilled to say that I was wrong!

It was awesome.  Right from the get-go I knew this might be OK  because they had me bunked in with Bruce McLeish who’s  a great conversationalist, doesn’t snore and  not only drinks what I drink but is more than willing to share.  Laurentian Lodge is a beautiful place, the food is fabulous and the staff just can’t do enough for you.  Brother James the retreat leader was knowledgeable, interesting and thought provoking and had us discussing various topics together which I always find keeps me alert and involved.   We shared a variety of joyful worship services which I found helpful in keeping  me centered in what we were doing.  Periods of silence occurred during the day but they weren’t overdone or painful and we were given a lot of freedom to choose what we did with them.   I’ve got nothing but good  to say about all the retreat stuff that happened and willingly  give the organizers a Grade A for what they did.

The after hours stuff gets a Grade A+ though because it was the best!  People congregated in each other’s rooms, wine glass in hand and shared stories, opinions, thoughts and what have you for as long as they felt like doing so.  We solved the problems of the world or talked about them anyway and I learned once again that it is at the informal times like we were sharing where bonds are formed and people get to know each other and are drawn closer together. At the end of our first full day  Archbishop Anne decided it was a fine night for a campfire, did some organizing to make it happen and then got down and dirty (literally) on her hands and knees to blow on the coals and fire it up.  It was comedy central around the campfire and we enjoyed once again learning that we are well led by someone as fun loving  (dare I say  wacky?)  as we are.  It was a good time and a great retreat and I look forward to future events  in the not too distant future.

Bagpiper Bruce McLeish


By  Bob Elkin

I’m writing this the day before I go on a four day retreat with a bunch of other clergy  and I have to admit that on my hierarchy of needs  retreats come somewhere between worming the dog and  having  a root canal.  This event however is  a command performance and the Archbishop has been quite specific in letting us know that if we’re not there we’d better be on life support someplace and since I’ve never felt better in my life  I will be there.

I’ve always had trouble with things that I view as “engineered” or carefully arranged to achieve a desired result.  Bus tours of England, cruises to see the whales, organized motorcycle vacations  and pub crawls on a timetable remove the spontaneity and mystery out of a thing I find. If I’m on some distant sea trying to spot a whale I want him to suddenly breach right beside me, tower overhead and then splash back into the water, soaking me, leaving me glad to be alive and giving me an adrenalin rush that won’t let me sleep for the next four days. When I regain consciousness  on some  pub floor at closing time as they gather us  up to throw us  out I don’t want to know that the last place on the tour was The Drunken Friar and my hotel is two blocks to the north.  I want to be wondering where I am, where my  buddies  went and who could possibly have thrown up all down the front of my shirt?  Now that’s a vacation to remember!  Me and a couple of others made a trip  to Tuktoyaktuk last summer  and had it been an organized tour we would have missed so much fun.  When it sleeted  rain the organizers  would have had shelters arranged to get our motorbikes off the road and keep the riders from freezing  half to death.  When I smelt something funny while driving the supply truck I would have missed the thrill of climbing out of the cab  and finding the front wheel on fire!  They would have had mechanics on standby to carry out the repairs while we knew the joy of limping into Dawson with no front brakes and then driving over the mountains to Whitehorse to get the thing fixed.  I will never forget that vacation but had it been organized the newness of the experience would have worn off in the first ten minutes  because when  you’ve seen one kilometer of bad road you’ve seen all thirteen hundred kilometers of bad road.  I digress however so back to the coming retreat.

This ain’t my first rodeo and I’ve been on a few retreats before (which I also couldn’t get out of) and found the most painful to be a silent retreat which I  attended while working in the Windward Islands.   I know it is hard to believe but I’m a bit of a talker and usually don’t do too well with silence.  Luckily the instructions we received  before being sent to our private solitudes were pretty loosey-goosey…we weren’t to be near anybody, we weren’t to speak and we were to ponder  some question  that made us reflect on  the wider creation.    I found a deserted beach and spent several hours pondering  how a stone of a certain thickness and shape sent at a perfect speed and  angle into the sea could skip up to sixteen times before running out of steam and sinking.  That was  an afternoon I’ll never get back.  They did try to throw us a curve when we were together once again by asking for a brief synopsis of what we had reflected on and I told them that I had reflected on the myriad purposes of common objects  in  creation which seemed to satisfy them and certainly was more honest than some of the hogwash I heard from the other participant’s  summaries.  And so it goes.

Anyway, the gist of the whole thing is I’m off to a four day retreat tomorrow which luckily isn’t a silent retreat as far as I know so with luck I’ll spend time with several friends that I haven’t seen in ages which will be nice.  They have a retreat leader who sounds like this isn’t his first rodeo either so that should be good.  It’s at Laurentian Lodge by Elliott Lake which is a beautiful place and  the food will probably be great so all in all it could be worse.  And who knows, maybe I’ll have some sort of religious experience?  Anything is possible.