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Back home in Georgia, when faced with something surprising or unexpected, folks were prone to say “Well shut my mouth!”

During an overnight faculty retreat for Campbell University Divinity School (held at Caraway Conference Center), we were challenged (very politely) to shut our mouths and practice silence from the end of our evening session until the beginning of our first morning session, about half an hour after breakfast.

Being silent isn’t hard for me, though it’s a lot easier when accompanied by solitude. A few signs in the hallway notified the staff and other groups at Caraway that we were practicing silence, but it was still hard not to say “Good morning” or “thank you” to the lady who “morninged” me before serving up breakfast, or to people we met in the hall. We had even been instructed to avoid non-verbal communication as much as possible, which made for a rather awkward meal and really bland eggs, as I couldn’t ask for the salt and didn’t want to exercise my boarding house reach.

Since we weren’t expected to talk to each other, however, the setting seemed to encourage alone time. After nearly a decade of hectic activity in reporting on Convention-related meetings (often contentious) at Caraway, I had a chance, for the first time, to spend some time in a solitary canoe on the lake. That 20 minutes was incredibly refreshing, and on many levels.

Maybe I ought to shut my mouth more often.

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