"The ability to just get away and to listen and to observe and maybe think that it's God's thoughts that are going through my mind...it's just very profound."
"Once again, your trip helped me come back to my 'best self.' I again feel grounded, centered, healed. It’s wonderful the way I experience intensive therapy through RITW."
~ Reverend Julie Harley
"The [Renewal in the Wilderness trip I joined to the Boundary Waters of MN] accomplished exactly what I had hoped for—it was an opportunity to spend time with God away from the 24/7 pressures of parish ministry and to be renewed and refreshed so I could return inspired to minister with new energy and clarity of vision in my local congregation.
"A Renewal in the Wilderness trip is an experience that I will encourage my colleagues to partake of as I believe it will enrich not only their personal spiritual lives, but will benefit their congregation, Association and Conference as well."
"As I reflect back on the trip, I wouldn't have changed anything because the challenges of what we were doing leading up to the solo made the trip what it was. Had I not had [the physical] challenges I would not have begun to think about the boundaries that define me and define my life and the way I think and...approach things. I would have come for solitude, but I would have come with my old mindset. I couldn't imagine a better trip."
1. What kind of physical condition do I have to be in?
You do not need to be in great physical condition to thoroughly enjoy your time in the wilderness. Renewal in the Wilderness trips are meant for middle-aged people who are in middle-aged condition. However, if you have not been physically active in a while we strongly advise you to spend some consistent time (four weeks at least, and eight is better) in a doctor-approved exercise program. It will decrease the likelihood of injury and increase your enjoyment of the experience as you combine the spiritual with the physical.
2. Is prior camping experience necessary?
3. What equipment do I have to provide?
It depends on which trip you want to take. Warm weather trips require the least personal equipment; cross country skiing and dog sledding require the most. We'll provide you with a personal equipment list once you've registered for a trip. You must provide personal clothing and footwear, your own sleeping bag, sleeping pad and camp chair, and any toiletries and/or medications..
4. Is it dangerous?
Being in the wilderness always involves some degree of risk. The reality is that you're probably safer on a well-planned and conservatively executed wilderness trip than you are on a crowded highway. Wilderness trips just have different risks than the ones you may be used to. Renewal in the Wilderness personnel are extensively trained in risk management, safety procedures and wilderness first aid, as are all contracted instructors. The trips we take are appropriate to the age grouping and level of physical conditioning. You will not be asked to do something that you cannot do, or that involves unnecessary risk.
5. What about insurance?
6. Do you offer financial assistance if it's needed?
As of this writing, no, except for UCC clergy. Financial assistance is a major component of our fund raising efforts, however, and we hope to offer it at a later date. When that time comes, decisions will be made by a committee based on demonstrated need.
7. Is Renewal in the Wilderness open to all faith traditions?
Yes. Absolutely. That's always been our intent. And because of that it is vital that each participant respect the traditions of the other participants, and that we find ways of worshipping that both honor God and reflect a deep ecumenism. All participants will be asked to sign a covenant to formalize the bond of that agreement.
8. I'm not particularly religious, and I don't want to be preached to, or told what I should believe. Is that going to be an issue?
It is NOT going to be an issue. Renewal in the Wilderness is open to people of any faith, undetermined faith or questioning faith. The wilderness is a perfect place to renew, discover or confirm one's relationship with God. So you won't be preached to, or told what you should believe.
These trips are built for spiritual exploration and deep questioning in a setting that encourages both. We ask only that participants be open to other people's beliefs and ways of being with God. As mentioned above, you'll be asked to sign a covenant to that effect.
9. What is a normal day?
This answer describes the 7-8 day "agenda." Shorter trips have a similar, but shortened, agenda.
Before we head out, we'll get outfitted, then learn about the equipment, safety protocols, expedition behavior, etc. Each morning we'll fix breakfast and discuss what lies ahead for the day. We'll have a guided meditation, which is intended to keep us present to the presence of God. Then, after more wilderness skills lessons, we'll begin the day's travel. Your Renewal in the Wilderness facilitator will also ask a question each morning that you'll be asked to think about during the day.
At night we'll set up camp, cook, and relax. We'll talk about the highs and lows of the day, discuss the question that was posed that morning, talk about a vast array of other topics, then go to bed. And sometimes, frankly, an evening's "agenda" may simply go out the window because the discussions take us in such different, but equally wonderful directions.
Weather and travel conditions permitting, each day will have time for solitude and journaling. Toward the end of the trip, when your wilderness skills and comfort level are well developed, there will be an overnight solo experience. No one is far from everyone else, and you'll be checked on periodically, but you will be alone...but alone with God. Almost invariably, the solo is one of the most powerful, reconnecting and spiritual experiences you'll have during our week together.
10. May I bring a friend or a spouse?
Absolutely. But, having said yes, it's been our experience that friends or spouses sometimes stick together and therefore don't fully integrate with the group, which deprives everyone. If you want to bring a friend or spouse he or she is very welcome, but please come prepared to integrate fully with the others.
11. Do you offer custom trips for ready-made groups, such as a church's lay leaders or young adults? How about older adults?
Yes. If a group desires such an experience we'll gladly put it together. Please try to give us at least 70 days to work out dates and logistics. With regard to older adults (i.e., 50+), most trips are already built with them in mind.
12. Are all the trips a week long?
No. We also have three-day and one-day trips on the formal schedule; some are midwest canoe trips while others might be longer trips in other parts of the United States. Plus, you have the option of building your own "custom" group (that is, where you supply the group) for a one-, three- or seven-to-eight day outing. We've had several of these groups — including the staff of the Christian Century Magazine, church groups and men's groups — and all have been quite successful. All shorter trips occur in the Illinois/Wisconsin area. Longer custom trips can go farther afield, and might involve a third-party outfitter.
If you have any questions that are not answered here, click here to send us an email. We're happy to answer any questions you may have about Renewal in the Wilderness and our excursions.
13. What if something comes up and I can't make the trip?
Please read our Policies for information about transferring your registration fee to a different trip or cancellation guidelines.
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