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November 7-9, 2021
Featuring Dr. Ryan Bonfiglio

Stoney Creek Hotel  (3060 S Kinney Coulee Rd., Onalaska, WI 54650)
Registration is closed.

This conference will explore the purpose, place, and practice of Sabbath in faith formation and pastoral leadership. We will come to understand the ancient practice of Sabbath-keeping as more than just a good idea for managing busyness or catching up on sleep. Rather, we will explore Sabbath as a divine gift—a disruptive and daring invitation to experiment with meaningful play, restorative rest, sensual holiness, communal feasting, and social justice.

Topics addressed in this series include popular misconceptions about the Sabbath; the historical and theological context of the Sabbath commandment in the Old Testament; the subsequent interpretation of the Sabbath in the New Testament and Christian theology; the relationship between Sabbath-keeping and social justice; the role of Sabbath in our spiritual formation; and principles for being a 24/6 pastor. Special emphasis will be placed on practical ways in which we can cultivate Sabbath-keeping in our everyday lives and spiritual disciplines.

Offering: Neighbors in Need

The Theological Retreat offering will support Neighbors in Need: Afghan Allies, a fund created by our partners at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Your giving will help to provide essential support for newly-arrived individuals and families, including emergency medical care, temporary housing, financial support for basic necessities, long-term support, and more.

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Event Schedule

Sunday, November 7
4 pm  Registration/Icebreaker Begins
5 pm  Bishop’s Reception
5:45 pm  Welcome, Dinner, Recognition of Ordinations and Anniversaries
7:30 pm  Bishop's Forum
7:50 pm  Brief Prayer Service

Monday, November 8
6:30-8:30 am  Breakfast, hotel provided
8:30 am  Centering Prayer
9 am  Session One
10:30  am Break
10:45  am Session Two
Noon  Boxed lunches in Discussion Groups
1 pm  Worship
2-5:30 pm  Practicing Sabbath Workshops (times vary)
Dinner on your own

Tuesday, November 9
6:30-8:30 am  Breakfast, hotel provided
8:30 am  Session Three
9:45 am  Break, check out of hotel rooms
10:15 am  Session Four
11 am  Worship w/Communion
Noon  Homeward Bound


Sabbath Walk: Meditations in Nature
with Rev. Matt Larson
In Judaism, nature and the outdoors play a significant role in one’s practice of Sabbath. We will gather a group to go on a slow, contemplative walk outdoors (weather and grounds permitting). We ask participants to deliberately walk slow and in silence for about 45 minutes while listening and observing the natural world around us, paying attention to our bodies. Together, the group will process the experience afterward.

Sabbath as Play: Improv and Ministry
with Angela Craig Donovan of Matchbox Children’s Theater (Austin, MN)

Christians can sometimes do a good job of ruining the Sabbath with rules about not playing or having fun. But the Sabbath was intended to cultivate joy, delight, and community! Drawing on improv games, we will create space for creativity, laughter, and play.

Writing the Sabbath: The Prayers and Poems of Wendell Berry
with Rev. Elizabeth Hermeier
We will immerse ourselves in Sabbath poetry and prayers of Wendell Berry. After reading and meditating on selections, there will be a guided space for you to write your own sabbath prayer or poem. (Sharing: optional.)

Practicing Sabbath While Raising Kids: Can it really work?
with Dr. Ryan Bonfiglio

Hear from Dr. Bonfiglio as he shares about his life as a father of a 7-year old and a pastor’s spouse (yes, his wife is a minister). It will be a conversation shaped by the questions and thoughts of those attending. We will think about what it means to put Sabbath into practice while surrounded by the complexities of family life.

Art as Sabbath Practice
with Rev. Lisa Janke and Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (Limited attendance, sign-up will be available Monday morning)
Throughout the pandemic, Olive Branch (a ministry of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Rochester) has been creating art in community as a way to quiet our minds and make space for emotions to be both felt and set free. Art is a wonderful way to practice accepting things as they are without judgment. Lisa Janke and Richard Bruxvoort Colligan will lead us in creating abstract designs with alcohol inks that can be made into greeting cards or framed art. No experience is required to walk away with something unique and beautiful.

Creative Open Space
There will be a space available that is full of creative supplies, prompts, and possibilities. Feel free to drop in and explore, grab some supplies, stay and play, or take them to a comfy spot. Be creative together or solo. This is a space of infinite possibilities to explore and practice creative sabbath.

Event Details

  • Expectations: Our expectation is that all event participants will be vaccinated and masked. If you are unable to be vaccinated, then you are expected to receive a negative COVID test no more than 72 hours before it begins.
  • COVID Preparedness: The planning team is monitoring the pandemic situation in La Crosse and southeastern Minnesota. We will follow the most current requirements and expectations and adjust plans accordingly.
  • Active pastors and deacons are expected to attend. If you are an active rostered leader in this synod and cannot attend, please contact Bishop Hassanally to have a conversation. Other synod ministry leaders* and retired rostered leaders are welcome to attend. (*Ministry leaders can include SAMs, TEEMs, and worship and faith formation professionals.)
  • Lodging: You are responsible for lodging which is not included in event registration. There are rooms reserved for this event at a special rate of $92/night. Mention this event when making your reservation. The rooms will only be held until October 7. Stoney Creek Reservations: 800-659-2220
  • Please book your hotel room ASAP. Due to other events happening in the area, the hotel has requested that reservations be made as soon as possible. It is very likely there will be no rooms available after October 7. We have been told that the cancellation policy for Stoney Creek Hotel is that a full refund will be offered if a cancellation is made up until 24 hours prior.
  • Registration cost: $165 by Oct. 20; $190 on Oct. 21-29. Register by clicking here.
  • Event registration cancellation policy: If you cancel for any reason by Thursday, November 5, at 11:59 PM CST, you will receive a full refund. If the event is canceled or significantly altered at any time before it begins, you will have the option to receive a full refund.
  • Child care or a play area will not be provided this year. This decision was made intentionally in light of the fluctuating pandemic situation.

What is the Fall Theological Retreat?

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were awestruck. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:19-22 (The Message)

The mission of the Fall Theological Retreat is to offer Church leaders a dedicated and unique time and space designed to strengthen relationships, reinforce identity, inspire theology, and extend sabbath, all with peers and colleagues, near and not-so-near, of the Southeast Minnesota Synod.

The goals of The Fall Theological Retreat are to provide time and space for pastors, deacons, and other church leaders to:
1. See the Master. Learn through compelling, timely, relevant content.
2. Receive the Holy Spirit. Attend vibrant community worship services.
3. Gather together. Connect and enjoy fellowship with peers and colleagues.
4. Find some peace. Take time for the kind of rest that meets our unique needs.