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As most of my readers know, blogging is not my day job. My official title at work is “Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge.” I have served in this role for the last three and a quarter years, after sixteen years as Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Southern California.
Laity Lodge is a retreat center in the Hill Country of Texas. It is fairly well known in Central and Southern Texas (San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi, and the surrounding towns.). That’s true, partly because of its location about 120 driving miles from San Antonio. But Laity Lodge is also well known because of its association with the H.E. Butt Foundation, which has, for more than fifty years, developed and maintained five “Free Camps.” In the last half-century, more than a million people have stayed on the Foundation property at no cost. This is also where Laity Lodge is located. Moreover, thousands of people have participated in our summer Laity Lodge Youth Camp, a fantastic experience for young people to have great fun in a healthy Christian environment.
The H.E. Butt Foundation is a private foundation of the Howard E. Butt family, the owners of the H-E-B Grocery Company. The extraordinary generosity of this family for more than 80 years, in matters of education, health, community development, camping, and Christian service, has touched millions upon millions of people. The H.E. Butt Foundation operates under the name Foundations for Laity Renewal, of which Laity Lodge is one key ministry. (You can find out more about the history of this family and its charitable work here.)
Laity Lodge is not a “free” camp, though the cost of retreat participation is substantially underwritten by the H.E. Butt Foundation, which enables Laity Lodge to provide a unique retreat experience at a reasonable cost. The uniqueness of Laity Lodge can be felt in its extraordinary hospitality and top quality at every turn. When I first spoke at Laity Lodge ten years ago, long before I imagined working here, I was struck by the fact that in all my years of attending retreats and conferences, I had never tasted food that was so delicious and healthy. Plus, I had never before heard a retreat host say, “If you need something else for dinner, please let us know and we’ll figure it out for you. And if you miss a meal, drop by the kitchen and we’ll make sure you’re fed. And if you’re hungry during the day or night, we have fruit and other snacks available at no cost, 24/7.” (Photo: Laity Lodge along the Frio River.)
Laity Lodge features top speakers, musicians, and artists at all of its retreats. Since I’ve been part of Laity Lodge, our resource leaders have included people like: J.I. Packer, Eugene Peterson, Sara Groves, Andy Crouch, Ashley Cleveland, Michael Lindsay, Earl Palmer, Lauren Winner, Fernando Ortega, Gloria Gaither, Michael Card, Jeff Overstreet, Buddy Greene, Odessa Settles, Scotty Smith, and N.T. Wright. But a central part of what makes Laity Lodge unique is the intimacy of each retreat. We have a maximum attendance of 75 people. This means that you will not only hear outstanding speakers and musicians, but also have the opportunity to get to know them personally.
I want to invite you to Laity Lodge.If you live in Central Texas, a visit to Laity Lodge is easy from a logistical point of view. But many of our retreat participants each year come from throughout the country. A few even come from overseas. They have found the Laity Lodge experience to be well worth the extra time and effort.
In particular, I want to encourage you to check out our summer schedule. We offer top-notch retreats throughout most of the summer. You can find the basic information on the schedule page of the Laity Lodge website. We’ll be adding more information about the summer in the weeks ahead.
Finally, if you’d like to keep informed about what’s happening at Laity Lodge, you can join our Facebook page, subscribe to our Twitter feed, or sign up for our monthly newsletter. We will not use your email address for anything other than information related to Laity Lodge and Foundations for Laity Renewal.