Read through the plans for the entire weekend retreat. Where there are options, select the best one for your group. Most activities include the entire group. Some call for participants to work alone or to share, as they wish to, with others. Learning objectives, preparation, and description are provided with each activity.
The retreat begins with getting acquainted, establishing a covenant, and building trust and community among group members. The retreat then moves to preparing participants to write Odysseys that are deep and wide. On the second day, you will give each participant a copy of "Odyssey Writing: A Guide for Participants" (Chapter 3) to guide them in the interlude between retreats.
Plan which activities you will do and prepare an agenda to post. Include mealtimes and other breaks in the written agenda. A natural break between the first full day and the second falls after Activity 6, Values Clarification.
You may plan some activities for the first retreat that invite participants to bring and share certain items. If this is the case, let participants know well in advance what they will need to bring. Here are examples that show the kinds of instructions you might want to include in a letter or email:
- We'll be creating a photographic "Hall of Fame." Please bring one photograph of yourself as a child, one as a teenager, one as a young adult in your twenties or thirties and one as an adult in your forties or fifties.
- Dress casually and comfortably. If you have one, bring a tee-shirt to wear that expresses a core value or belief of yours. Bring more than one!
- There is a line from the song "Today" which says "You'll know who I am by the song that I sing." What is the song that you sing that most tells people who you are? Bring a recording of that song, especially the version you love. Let me know if you know how and are willing to create a CD from the various songs participants bring.
- Bring a calendar so you can set dates with your Odyssey-writing partner.
Most High Hill groups enjoy having worship once or twice a day, in the morning and/or evening. If you are planning to have daily worship services, it is wonderful to invite participants to help plan. Invite them to bring favorite readings or songs, and musical instruments if they would like to share some music. Plan to bring a collection of your own readings and worship service materials, including a few copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the UUA hymnbook. You may wish to consult your minister or religious educator for suggestions. One suggestion from the first High Hill group is "Layers," a poem by Stanley Kunitz, which they used to frame the entire program. The poem was read by the facilitator on the first evening of the first retreat weekend, and then as a unison reading for the closing on the last weekend.
If you will invite participants to help plan worship, create sign-up sheets to post listing each time slot (e.g. Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning) with lines for two or three people in each slot. The facilitator and/or group organizer should prepare a brief, evocative, and simple opening, and invite participants to help create other worship experiences.
It's a great gift to bring reference materials and place them on a table for participants to look over. Don't forget to put your name and phone number in all of them and ask that they be returned. Consider creating a handout of resources such as books, movies, and music used during the program. If your meeting site will have equipment for showing movies, you might bring a selection of films for participants to view "after hours."
Prepare a roster for participants to take home. Circulate a copy early, so participants can make corrections if they need to.
Purchase a journal for each participant, or ask them to bring their own. They can be large or small, with blank or lined pages, and can be as simple as a school copy book. Make copies of "Odyssey Writing: A Guide for Participants" (Chapter 3) and place this guide in a small three-ring binder or a pocket folder for each participant.