In March of this year, New Canaan Society held its Southeast Regional Retreat in Orlando, Florida. Several hundred attendees gathered together at the beautiful Omni Resort at Championsgate in order to “restore broken or interrupted fellowship.” This is exactly what David Caudle experienced for his first time attending a New Canaan retreat.
David is a member of New Canaan’s Winston Salem chapter, where he has attended for the past fifteen years. He was content with his chapter’s Friday morning experience, but after undergoing the isolation of the pandemic, he was ready for a deeper connection. When he received the invitation to attend, he knew this was the right time to go. He reached out to his friend and fellow NCS member Fred Jordan, and the two friends attended their first retreat together.
This decision was one David did not regret. The retreat was well-organized and delivered on its promise to offer engaging keynotes as well as ample time for personal reflection and relaxed social interactions with others.
This year’s keynote speakers included former NFL Coach Dave Wannstedt, Christian author and founder of Key Life Network Steve Brown, and Winston Salem’s own Alan Wright, the head pastor of Reynolda Church. Each of these speakers presented soul-nourishing talks on different aspects of the retreat’s theme—Reset, Refresh, Renew and Reconnect.
Alongside of the keynote speakers, Broadway actor Mark McVeigh shared a moving testimony on how performing in Les Misarables as Jean Valjean paralleled his own journey of personal transformation from facing federal drug charges to becoming the star of one of Broadway’s longest running and most successful shows. David was invigorated by each speaker’s keynote as well as everyone’s readiness to engage with one another between sessions.
“I’ve always found it easy to start conversations with new people, and the retreat made this easy to do. There was an overt willingness to engage with each other, and I really liked the vibe. People were clearly there by choice and ready to participate.”
"This open and welcoming environment is not one always experienced in other parts of society", David noted. There can be a stigma associated with men openly sharing their faith and being honest about their struggles and beliefs. Many men feel reserved and are hesitant to open up around other people. The retreat allowed attendees to break past these social restrictions and to present themselves as openly Christian men.
Dave Wannstedt’s keynote on the challenge of being openly Christian in a profession where grace is not the norm particularly served to empower David to walk out his faith with confidence.
In summary, the retreat’s inspiring talks and atmosphere of camaraderie proved to be a transformative gathering for this first-time attendee. David left rejuvenated and eager to attend again.