Retreat center flows with spiritual nourishment

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 1, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

At first, you may hear nothing.

But for the many who have visited The Well over the past decade, that silence is a source of spiritual enlightenment.

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For years, people from Hampton Roads and beyond have been coming to the center on the outskirts of Chuckatuck for prayer, peace and to strengthen their connection with God. Located on 23 acres of pastureland off Cherry Grove Road, the center is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.

But it’s open to all faiths and people seeking to enrich their spiritual lives, said Diane Weymouth, the center’s co-director.

&uot;Our culture is so noisy and cluttered,&uot; Weymouth said. &uot;The Well is a place where people come to relax and slow down, …where people can take stock of their prayer life and their relationship with God.

&uot;They can come here to think and pray without being distracted and to let God speak to them. It is amazing how loud the Lord speaks when one is quiet.&uot;

Church organizations and other groups often rent the center over overnight for retreats, Weymouth said.

The main building features two meeting rooms where more than 30 people can gather, a lending library of theologically based books, and two prayer chapels.

Several outer buildings – with names like Tranquility and Inspiration – surround a nearby pond, where as many as 32 overnight guests can stay.

&uot;Most weekends, the place is filled with church groups who do their own programs and we just play hostess,&uot; Weymouth said. &uot;Sometimes they just rent space, sometimes they rent us.&uot;

Weymouth and fellow co-director Sister Nancy Healy are available to design programs that cater to the specific needs of groups.

The Well also offers occasional classes throughout the year, such as art-as-meditation, an ongoing Creation Spirituality School and weekend retreats for men and women.

As part of some courses, Weymouth, Healy and other spiritual directors have individual prayer sessions with participants.

&uot;It’s nice to meet with individuals on a directed retreat and watch their expression as they have a new sudden new revelation on who God is,&uot; Weymouth said.

The Rev. Gretchen Simpson Nelson, pastor of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Chuckatuck and frequent visitor to the center, finds it a place of peace.

&uot;It’s restful, you know you are in the presence of God,&uot; said Nelson. &uot;…There are classes that can speak to everyone, regardless of where they are in their spiritual journey.&uot;

Nelson often takes advantage of the lending library, which is overflowing with books on theology, church history, spiritual growth and the like.

&uot;I love public libraries but they don’t have a lot of deep-faith material,&uot; she said.

The lending library is open to all members of the community, Weymouth added.

For more information on The Well, call 255-2366 or go to its Web site,