This past week, my family and I went on vacation to Hendersonville, North Carolina to the Kanuga Conference Center. This was the third year of being chaplain for Kanuga’s Summer Guest Period. Kanuga has a long-standing history of families going there for extended stays for the past 60-70 years. Many of the families we met had been going to Kanuga for generations. It is an annual gathering place for families who are spread all over the United States to reconnect and renew themselves.
Getting to be the chaplain was a real treat. It was a little bit of work, though. Families arrive on Saturday and leave on the following Saturday, and the week is full of activities for everyone. There are 2 worship services in the chapel on Sunday, evening prayers (Vespers) almost every night, and a Bible Study on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that I was responsible for overseeing. Also, I had to make sure there were blessings said before every meal.
In addition to the spiritual activities, there are organized activities including archery, arts and crafts, rock climbing, hiking, swimming in the lake, rafting trips, and much more during the day. Or, if you just want to sit quietly on your front porch and read a book, you can do that too. In the evening, there are intergenerational events like a traditional square dance, the annual carnival with a dunk tank and games for children, and even Bingo night! They even have a bluegrass band come and perform one night.
The children have morning and afternoon programs which include games, hikes, trips to the nature center, swimming times, and so much more that I can’t remember it all. Liam got first place in the 5-year-old fun run. Tai performed a piano piece during the last night’s Follies. Bronwyn made prayer beads and friendship bracelets. Grey got to touch a snake. They went to bed exhausted every night.
This was the first year that all four of our kids were in program, which allowed Molly and me a lot of time to ourselves. We went on numerous hikes, and went into Hendersonville for some shopping. We took long naps and read often. It was truly relaxing and a perfect way to reconnect ourselves. The weather was outstanding as well, with temperatures in the 60s so that we had to wear jackets! Molly enjoyed not having to cook or clean (although she did have to do laundry!). I spent a lot of time reading and playing guitar. I even performed one of my original songs at the Follies.
Typically, chaplains only serve three years in order to give many priests the opportunity to experience the week. Sadly, this was my third year. Next year we will be on sabbatical, but perhaps we will get to go back as participants the following year. It is well worth saving up for and making it an annual tradition ourselves. Seeing other families who have made Kanuga their touchstone makes me realize how important it is to have traditions like those in my own family and to start them now.
If you find yourself in western North Carolina, be sure to stop by Kanuga. Take a walk around the lake, say a prayer in the chapel, grab a cup of some of the best coffee you’ll ever taste, and enjoy the beauty of a remarkable place.
Thanks be to God!