What is the Christian Ashram retreat?
Christian Ashrams seek to help all people deepen their experience of Jesus Christ as Lord in their daily living.
The word “ashram” – meaning “retreat” – is a word that comes from Sanskrit. Following a personal retreat experience in India, the Christian missionary E. Stanley Jones recognized the significance and value of a time for alternating discipline and rest, seeking spiritual health and renewal. Returning to the United States, Dr. Jones adapted this ancient retreat approach to be centered on Christian teaching and community.
The Christian Ashram Experience
Each Christian Ashram today continues to follow the original format instituted by Dr. Jones. The unique Ashram format offers a break from everyday demands to allow space and time for learning, prayer, reflection, fellowship, and rest.
Early in the retreat experience, participants gather into small groups to express in a heartfelt way the blessings, needs, and spiritual desires that they have coming into the Christian Ashram. This time lays the groundwork for the openness and closeness that will be shared over the next few days.
The Christian Ashram experience is rooted in the practice of listening for God. Each day, a gifted and qualified Bible teacher provides substantive, Scripture-based lessons for reflection and discussion.
Journeying together throughout the retreat, prayer groups offer each Christian Ashram attendee the opportunity to reflect on what they have heard, share what they feel, receive encouragement, and join in prayer for one another in love.
Opening to God’s Spirit and rekindling the fire of our faith is an essential goal of the Christian Ashram experience. Gifted and qualified evangelists are dynamic, bold, and relevant in their proclamation of the Word.
Healing and Wholeness
Often a pivotal moment during the retreat, each Christian Ashram includes a time when participants are given the opportunity to receive physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing through prayer and community support.
As the Christian Ashram draws to a close, the entire community in attendance is invited to reflect and share how each one has been blessed, challenged, and equipped for continuing growth and ministry during the retreat. This special time of praise to God and encouragement of one another prepares us all to return to our lives ready for what God has for us to do.
“I decided I needed a group discipline, both for myself and for my work. So, in 1930, I invited two others to join me in establishing a Christian Ashram.” – E. Stanley Jones
We hope this Christian Ashram will be a healthy and happy adventure in corporate, disciplined Christian living for you. The Christian Ashram seeks to balance devotional practice, study, worship and service in a committed life together. Our aim is to be the Kingdom of God in miniature–a quest for spiritual living. We presuppose a heart open to God. All of us can have an experience in which we, as sincere seekers, end up with a heart overflowing with love of God and our neighbors. Jesus Christ is the Center of the Christian Ashram. From Him will flow into each of us newness of life, renewal of spirit and a desire to witness wherever we live and work and serve. In this spirit, we address one another as “Brother” or “Sister.” To help during these hours together, the following information is important. During the Christian Ashram, announcements are held to a minimum.
Christian Ashram Greeting, Motto and Sign
We believe the most ancient creed of the Church to be “Jesus is Lord!” The uplifted three fingers (with the tips of the little finger and thumb touching each other and with palm turned toward self) stand for this creed. With this sign we greet each other (silently or audibly) in the name of Jesus Christ, proclaiming that Jesus as Lord is the One around whom Christians gather to learn and receive power to do God’s will.
The Hour of the Open Heart
Early in the Christian Ashram, we enter into a sharing of our greatest needs. In an atmosphere of love and trust we are honest with ourselves and those present. Here we are invited to consider three questions: Why have I come? What do I want? What do I really need? The last is the important one, so we tell our needs. The Evangelist will lead this period and will have some concluding remarks. All are invited, but none are required to share.
The Evangelist’s Times
The Evangelist is usually the leader most familiar with the disciplines of the Christian Ashram. He proclaims again the Good News that Jesus Christ is the “Word become flesh among us” and, through the inspiration of The Holy Spirit, leads the Ashram in experiencing the Kingdom of God in miniature. He also leads in the Open Heart Hour, the Healing Service and the Overflowing Heart Hour.
The Bible Study Periods
In addition to the Evangelist, we have a Bible Teacher. It is through the scriptures that we are introduced to Christ, become His disciples and receive power to serve in His Kingdom. Come with open minds, questing spirits and an earnest desire to be fed from His word.
Evenings of Silence
An essential part of the Christian Ashram is the time of silence from bedtime until the Evangelist breaks the silence at morning devotions. The last thing we do before we go to bed is to listen to God in silence and in this same silence speak to Him in the morning as we greet the new day. Let us strictly keep these times of silence.
The rising bell is early enough to give time to dress and prepare (in silence) for morning devotions. We gather at a designated place and continue in silence reading our Bibles or devotional books, praying, and meditating on a Scripture assigned the preceding evening. The Evangelist breaks the silence by sharing what scripture, insight, etc. he/she desires. Everyone is then free to speak, in turn, sharing as he/she feels led. At close of devotions, the Evangelist leads in the morning greeting. He lifts one hand and says, “The Lord is risen!” The people lift their hands and say, “The Lord is risen indeed.” Everyone lifts the three fingers and says, “Jesus is Lord!”
The Prayer Vigil
You are invited to share in the Prayer Vigil where someone is at prayer around the clock. You are encouraged to pray an rather than to spend the time in reading. The Prayer Vigil begins immediately after the Hour of the Open Heart and closes just before the Hour of the Overflowing Heart. A schedule is posted. Please sign up for a particular period of time to pray for the Christian Ashram.
The Prayer/Share Groups
Every person attending the Christian Ashram is assigned to a group led by a Prayer Group Leader. In these groups members can share and pray for more specific needs. After the Ashram is over groups often continue to pray for each other and keep in touch.
The Healing Service
Time is set aside for a healing service. We do not make the physical body the center of the Christian Ashram, but we do recognize its importance. Brother Stanley Jones said, “If we make physical healing the center, this is making our bodies the center. Anything that leaves us at the center is off center. We do not believe all diseases must be healed in this life. Many of the saints were never healed. We emphasize wholeness. Some want to be well and not whole. “Wellness” is centered in the self. Wholeness is centered in Christ.” The Evangelist will lead in this vital and important service-a healing of body, mind, spirit and relationships.
The Lay Witness
This is an opportunity for a person to give his/her witness as to how Christ has transformed his or her life.
The Church-In-Action period provides an opportunity for persons to share their ministries through the church. One of the main ministries of the Christian Ashram is to equip the saints for ministry in the church.
A love offering is received in each Ashram for the following purposes:
- to supplement registration fees for current Ashram expenses;
- to provide assistance to subsidize persons who could not otherwise attend the Ashram;
- to carry out the Ashram’s Overseas Mission and Outreach to all parts of the world;
- to meet other approved needs and projects.
The Overflowing Heart and Closing Ceremony
Brother Stanley Jones said:
“The Open Heart and the Overflowing Heart are the two pillars upon which the Ashram rests spiritually. During the Open Heart, we told our needs. Now we tell our victories. Here we lay the tributes of our gratitude at the feet of Jesus for what has happened to us during the Ashram. We will all try to keep from exhorting.”
We are challenged to sign a Christian Ashram covenant card and to keep a daily Christian Ashram when we return home. The Ashram closes with worship in a fellowship circle and the final greeting, “Jesus is LORD!”