If there was one takeaway from Canterbury Retreat & Conference Center’s 35th anniversary dinner, it was that the Oviedo venue is a place where the love of Jesus mediates through hospitality.
Approximately 200 people, including Bishop Greg Brewer from the Central Florida Diocese, celebrated Canterbury’s anniversary on Sunday, June 11. The Caribbean-themed event that focused on bringing in new partners was a huge success, drawing a silent auction three times the size of last year’s, according to Rev. Dr. Jon Davis, executive director of Canterbury.
Open to the public, the event has drawn many prominent Episcopal leaders, other churches and ministries such as Man in the Mirror, Northland Church, and area businesses through the years. Past sponsors include the Rotary Club, Citizens Bank, 4 Rivers BBQ, and the Kiwanis Club.
Joy has been synonymous with Canterbury since it opened its doors in 1982. Scores of visitors have made their way to the serene, 48-acre retreat for meetings, gatherings, events and more and found faith, love and peace, according to Davis.
“Canterbury, in many ways, is the common ground of the diocese where we gather for prayer, worship, spiritual growth, training, instruction, fellowship,” Davis said. “Canterbury is ministry-driven; what moves us forward is a sacramental ministry of mediating Christ to the world through a ministry of hospitality.”
Utilizing an energetic and visionary board of directors and a staff that serves guests with the love of Christ, Canterbury has been blessed with growth through the years. Just in the last four years alone, the number of people served and who have received ministry has grown 75 percent, Davis said. And more growth is still to come.
“We are projecting 20 percent growth for just 2017 alone,” Davis said. “Canterbury’s impact and reach is increasing at a phenomenal pace. It’s a sacred and holy expansion.”
Canterbury’s improvements can be seen everywhere. There is a new hospitality bar in the living room, fresh paint, new lighting, enhanced Wi-Fi, and soon-to-be new carpet throughout the Folwell building.
“These are just a few things the Lord has provided us in 2017,” Davis said. “We squeeze every dime, every dollar given to us, to do these things. As the parable says, ‘We take five talents and stretch them into 10.’”
The enhancements have helped the welcoming hospitality of Canterbury and its continuing mission to share the good news of Christ.
Father Chris Braithwaite, rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Haines City, said Canterbury Retreat lived up to the meaning of its title during the dinner. “The annual Canterbury dinner was scrumptious with Caribbean flavors and delights, which were very close to how my mother used to fix them,” said Brathwaite, who formerly served in the Caribbean. “One could not have asked for a better way to spend a joyful evening bumping into some old friends and making some new ones.
“(My wife) Genevieve and I arrived early and were able to take our time picking some fineries from the large array of items presented at the silent auction,” Brathwaite said. “The guest speaker was both funny and serious, challenging attendees to do their best for a great cause. After Father Jon and Bishop Brewer spoke to the group about the place in the church and the wider society in which Canterbury sits, it was difficult not to sign up as a Canterbury partner. I pray that others who attended can express similar sentiments.”
Others had plenty to say about the wonders of Canterbury. David Mead, chairman of the Canterbury Board, opened the event with a welcome. Canterbury partner Marla Glover, a parishioner at St. Mark’s in Cocoa, shared a testimony of how Canterbury’s ministry helped her.
The Rev. Dr. Steve Brown of Key Life ministries, a well-known speaker and teacher, and also a Canterbury partner and frequent guest on the Canterbury campus, was compelling as he encouraged attendees, correlating Canterbury to the Transfiguration. He made three points:
- The disciples did not know why they were there, but Jesus was there and Jesus is at Canterbury, and that is enough.
- When Jesus is around, things happen, and good things happen at Canterbury every day – lives are changed, the kingdom grows.
- The disciples wanted to make sure they were on the right side of things, and if you are with Canterbury, you are on the right side of a ministry making a difference in the world.
Bishop Brewer spoke on behalf of the diocese, as a member of the Canterbury Board and as a Canterbury partner, talking about the need for safe, sacred spaces – a point underscored by the fact that he had just arrived from the Pulse Memorial service at the Cathedral. In a world torn by fear and grief, and questions with few easy answers, he said, we need Canterbury as a place that mediates the love of Christ in a broken and hurting world.
To become a Canterbury partner or to learn more about Canterbury, go to: www.canterburyretreat.org