Holden Village: Marching the “all are welcome” speech


Fair warning: I am about to enthusiastically suggest that your family consider a mountain retreat “rooted in Lutheran Christian tradition” and located deep in the Wenatchee National Forest. If your family isn’t rooted like this, you might be hitting the X tab right now. But listen to me.

My family (with the exception of my parents) is not Christian. We are, most of us, agnostics, atheists and/or “others”. In my clan, we have been Catholic, Episcopalian, Buddhist, non-religious members of the LGBTQIA+ community, bar mitzvaed but non-religious Jew, yogi, Muslim, death metal aficionado, “unlabeled” shoulder shrugger. shoulders and a pagan in the style of the early Celtics.

Why are we going

And even, Holden Village has been one of our family’s favorite getaways for almost 20 years. Every time we make the 3 hour journey to Lake Chelantravel the 4 hours Boat lady of the lake to the wharf in the disabled city of Lucerne, then ride 30 minutes in an old school bus along death-defying switchbacks to be delivered dusty and hungry to the village gate, we do it with impatience and joy.

How is it possible? The village clearly states the answer on its website:

“Holden Village welcomes and embraces people of all races, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities. We strive to overcome learned biases and develop relationships beyond differences. We actively seek liberation and transformation through education, relationships and engagement. . . “

Holden is indeed a place of spiritual renewal, but it is a place where “all religious traditions are celebrated and welcomed”. And, most importantly for our family, where “non-Christians can feel comfortable in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and conversation.”

This means that while you are likely to meet many Lutherans, none of them will try to convert you or your children. And almost all of them will make your family feel like you just walked into Grandma’s kitchen as she was about to put your favorite dish on the table. If you are interested, the residents, volunteers and guests here are happy to invite you to engaging dialogues spanning the spectrum of global concerns, from global warming to gender freedom to the crisis of incarceration. mass in the country. The latter was the subject of several courses open to all visitors during our recent visit.

Or, they are happy to leave you alone. It’s yours.

They got us on the first trip

I first took my kids to Holden, an old copper mining town that was sold to Lutherans for $1 in the 1960s when they were two and five. A friend and avid hiker/conservator had passed through Holden the year before and had been struck by the village’s dedication to sustainability, its unique composting and recycling systems and its many environmental commitments. In addition to these things, which I was also interested in, she promised that we would find beautiful wilderness around Holden, a welcoming community, healthy food, activities and arts galore, and a great quiet space when and if we we needed it. The latter was important because my then-toddler son was in his crying phase for no clear reason. Shortly after our trip, the phase was diagnosed as autism.

The sign of a welcoming community for me is this: my little one standing in the middle of a dining hall filled with two hundred people and screaming loud enough to raise the dead. And no one – NO ONE – flinched in response. People continued to chat and eat. Later, an elderly woman approached me, quieting my son in the corner, and asked if I could take a break.

understanding and kindness

“How about you go for a little walk?” I’d be happy to hang out with him – he’s a real singer!

She then shared that her son had autism. She listened to me as I screamed our story of worry and testing and waiting for a final diagnosis. I didn’t know I would come for this emotional release, but there it was.

While my son stayed quite close to me on this visit, my daughter ventured out, met kids from across the country, played, hiked, explored nature as part of the fun programs children’s playhouse from Holden, threw clay pots on the village wheel, started weaving a rug on a giant loom, and shot billiards with his father in the old village billiard hall and bowling alley. In other words, she walked around Holden with the kind of childhood abandon and freedom you don’t see much in childhood these days.

Summer is children’s time

Holden is open to visitors most of the year, although summer is the best time for families. Fall and winter are quieter – a paradise for snowshoe enthusiasts, indoor art enthusiasts and families who need more space and fewer crowds. A significantly smaller volunteer community tends to this historic site outside of the summer months. During a visit in June, one year our family took part in our first Holden Village Pride Parade, a colorful parade down the main street one block across from the village. It was a wonderful time to bring budding discussions about fairness and love into a more concrete space.

On another visit, when my children were 10 and 13, the two were easily accommodated into the traveling group of teenagers who spent their evenings back and forth between the hot tub under the stars, the sauna with its glacial plunge and the glacier. As they explored new ways of being and the beginnings of teenage unity and angst (there was heartbreak that summer!), I enjoyed the respite from the nagging expectation of constant parental supervision.

An atmosphere of fun and peace

There is charisma in Holden. It’s found in the way impromptu music bands play on porches, or in a village-wide clue game that erupts across lawns with volunteer figures in fancy dress and in a line of wringing adults and children. tie-dye shirts behind the “craft cave”. ” It is found in the same handmade bread for 60 years which is available 24/7 with butters and jams and seasonal fruits. “Holden hilarity” – the sudden parades or the surprise concerts or the festive work parties – is part of this charisma.

Nature all around

Each time we return to Holden we set aside a day to hike to one of the breathtaking lakes in the protected forest surrounding the village. This summer we walked to Hart Lake to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. However, you don’t need to climb to reach the forest. Quiet walks take you to waterfalls, a river, a wooded labyrinth. That first year I carried my soon to be official autistic toddler back and forth along the way to 10 Mile Falls less than a mile from the center of the village. It wasn’t far, but it was the connection to nature that I needed to achieve a spiritual renewal that I hadn’t realized I was longing for. For him, the chirping of birds, two deer and a multitude of rocks on the way were the doorway to peace and contentment, a rare and blessed thing in those early years.

About the deer: they are everywhere in and around Holden Village. In the summer, they roam the grassy lawns, nibble the leaves of the trees, and occasionally let their babies rest in the flower beds. Chipmunks abound, butterflies dance, fish abound in the rivers and lakes. For a child, all of this makes Holden an ever-expanding moment of wonder and surprise.

Symbols and signs

But back to my original warning. All around Holden there are references to his Christian foundation – a scriptural reference here, a cross or some other symbol there, a class or an event or activity with a theological connection. Grace is said at meals. The central platform of the village is called the Ark.

At the same time, there are many nods to a wide range of belief systems, religions, social justice and land stewardship movements. Each night, residents and guests are invited to gather for a “sacred space” in the center of the village. In the past, this 30-minute break was called Vespers or Evening Prayer. But I noticed during our recent visit the effort to make this time more inclusive and less uncomfortable for non-Christians. And, as with all things Holden, visitors are invited to participate or not according to their choice. No one will check or judge you for your presence or absence.

Separate but part of

En route to Holden this year, my family members and I discussed our distaste for the fundamentalist thinking that led to recent Supreme Court decisions and added to the polarization of our country. Sometimes we want to paint all religions with the same narrow-minded, sexist, racist brush that has colored recent politics – and run from them as far and as fast as possible.

But, sitting in Holden’s sacred space in early July, listening to a group of Lutherans place social justice and equity for the land and all people and all rights at the center of their faith, my mind, which shuns religion , was hit . My daughter, an atheist, felt the same way. We did indeed feel at ease in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and conversation. We indeed felt part of a “celebration of unity, diversity, humanity and all creation”.

Come back

Eventually our clan boarded the rickety school bus and rode back down to the lake. As we did, the people of Holden Village gathered in the dust of our retreating Bluebird to wave us out of town. It’s a tradition. Similarly, villagers have been welcoming and saying goodbye to families of all faiths and more for 60 years.

How I wish the spirit of love, inclusion and acceptance that we feel at Holden Village will be the rule rather than the exception in today’s world. I like to think that each time we visit, we bring the possibility of this hope one step closer to reality.

If you are going to:

Summer 2022 rates include room and board:

  • 3 nights, $381 per person. Children under 3 years old are free.
  • 5 nights, $650
  • 7 nights, $840

Adults volunteer at Holden receive room and board free of charge.

Return tickets on the Boat lady of the lake in Holden are $98 per adult and $49 per child over 2 years old. Children under 2 travel free.


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