The deer are grazing in an open field with fawns comforted in being at their mother’s side. As I arrived at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island for a one-week intensive course, I couldn’t help but marvel at the proximity of natural beauty. The Olympic mountain range descended in tiers over the narrowest part of the Puget Sound. There was a slight breeze floating from the sound through the valley. Neatly aligned at the far end of an open field were the officer’s quarters that would be the week-long home of the Christian Formation in Discipleship intensive course at Camp Casey Conference Center on Whidbey Island. It was a perfect setting. Dean Doug Strong sat on a bench socializing with the students who had arrived early. After introducing myself to Dr. Strong and my fellow students, I placed my possessions upstairs in the room I had been assigned and prepared for an unbelievable week of discipleship, community, and education.

We dove into Wesley’s “means of grace,” practicing prayer, worship, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the reading and hearing of Scripture, fasting, and mutual accountability and support in small groups. A typical day during this week involved awakening for breakfast around 8 a.m., the morning rite around 9, lectures from 9:30 to 11, quiet study time from 11 to 12, lunch from 12-12:30 p.m., another lecture from 1-2:30, free time from 2:30 to 5, spiritual practices from 5-6, dinner from 6-6:30, free time until 8, testimonies from 8-9, and compline from 9 to 9:30 p.m.

In a week’s time, a group of relative strangers became a tight knit community. Tear-jerking testimonies fostered encouraging communal prayer, compline services morphed into extended worship times, and Settlers of Catan became the new favorite board game. Day one communion, touring Fort Casey, and the Wesleyan love feast were the highlights of the intensive.

Looking back, the abbey intensive course at the beautiful Camp Casey intentionally cultivated a tight-knit community. The week-long retreat greatly assisted in the development of relationships that a currently enhancing my educational experience. What an amazing feeling to have this kind of connection with fellow students!

-Donovan Richards

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