Some early risers departed the hotel before 6 am to take Jordan Anderson to the airport in Jacksonville - Taylor Cappeluti, Troy Moskowitz, Robert Worrell and Tom Baldridge made the trip and celebrated Jordan’s time on tour before he flew home early for a family event.
Most of the group came down for breakfast about 7 am, and the meal was a bit fancier than our other hotel breakfasts. We were seated by a hostess and they took drink orders and the breakfast buffet included real eggs. We’re thankful for any sustenance, but it’s a treat when things are special.
We sang our standard Come, Unity at breakfast - it’s a way of greeting and acknowledging those who are serving us and sharing a meal, and it’s also a time of centering and connection - a little reminder first thing in the morning of who we are and what we are endeavoring to live out.
The vans went on ahead to reach Penney Memorial Church in Penney Farms, FL, and we had a greeting and Fork stories during the 1-hour drive. Matthew Baldridge (who was celebrating his 15th birthday along with his brother William) told about having to switch hotel rooms because when his group opened the room they discovered it had not been cleaned. Oops. Hotel management changed their room and offered them cookies. We get impressed again and again by the graciousness of our group in responding to inconveniences.
Penney Farms, FL, is where former DUMC pastor Jim Archibald retired, and he helped line up the chance for us to lead the worship service at Penney Memorial Church. Nick Works shared a message based on the Gospel story of Jesus calming the waters when the disciples (who were all experienced fisherman) panicked on the boat in the extreme weather. We sang The Storm is Passing Over and several other anthems throughout the service, and Steve’s playing of hymns and other service music was greatly appreciated by our hosts. It was a very special time!
We haven’t had many food repeats, and for lunch there were Subway sandwiches for all, plus vegetables platters, chips, and plentiful desserts. We also celebrated Matthew and William’s birthday with cake and more singing. Yvette Peloquin, DUMC member who moved to Florida, came to see us there, as did other family members and friends of our group. Seems like lots of us have Florida Connections.
We changed clothes and boarded the bus for Epworth by the Sea - a United Methodist retreat center in St Simons Island, Ga. We’re moving back in the direction of Maryland. Epworth is the name of John and Charles Wesley’s childhood home in England, and both Wesley’s came to the Georgia coast as Christian missionaries, so the Methodist history is very rich.
We arrived at Epworth by the Sea around 2:30 pm and had time to unpack into our 4 cabins and have free time before dinner at 5:30 pm. There was a pool, covered basketball court, and lots of beautiful waterfront to explore. It was good for the soul to be in a tranquil setting with Spanish moss draped from mature trees, historic buildings, and a lovely prayer/chime tower.
Dinner was served in the cafeteria, and afterward we went by foot to the Lovely Lane Chapel for a time of reflection about tour. We talked about highlights and a theme that kept coming up was how we treat each other like family, showing great care and acceptance in every situation. We also laughed about arriving at fast food restaurants with 60 of your closest friends and unique things that happen just by traveling with a group. People commented how tour can rejuvenate our faith life and said thank you to each other for providing wellness care, direction, friendship, sunscreen and aloe, counsel, musical expertise, encouragement, gentle teasing, love and memories. Angela Nardone led us in a concluding prayer.
As we left the chapel, there were outdoor games happening around the Strickland auditorium where youth from all over that area were gathering for something called The Main Event. Many of our youth joined in, and some elected to stay for the music and featured speaker. Every Sunday night during the summer, about 700-800 youth meet for this event at Epworth by the Sea. Kae and Sam Johnson both shared that the speaker’s main point was that broken crayons still color!
Others in our group elected to remain outside and take in the sunset, which was beautiful. Photos abounded, and a round of ultimate frisbee was entertainment for many.
We all were in cabins, nicely air conditioned, by about 10 pm, getting showers and preparing for bed. It felt a little like summer camp with bunk beds and about 20 people per cabin. As usual, after a tiring day, sleeping came quickly and easily.
Click Here for Pictures from Day 9