2020 has felt like a lifetime.
So much has happened. So much of our society was in turmoil and chaos. So many of us experienced grief, loss, and heartache. So much of life was in a constant state of uncertainty and change.
While many of us feel ready for 2021, jumping into the new year expecting that everything will magically change and get better is unwise. We must take some time to pause, to reflect, and to see clearly what God is doing this past year (even in the midst of pain) in order to move forward into a new year.
What did we notice and learn? How did we change? How can we move forward with a clearer vision for our lives and for our society in 2021?
I have written a year-end reflection guide that may be used in both personal and group prayer retreat settings. Note that it is meant to be a resource, not a script. Feel free to use as much or little of it as serves you, and go at your own pace. Of course, if you want to add/modify activities, feel free!
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE:
I encourage you to set aside a minimum of 2–3 hours of uninterrupted time for this reflection time. If possible, go somewhere peaceful and consider turning off your phone completely (or use airplane mode)
There are several exercises that include the use of concrete and sensory materials, for a more holistic and tactile reflection process. If you are interested in participating, here are a few items that you may need:
- A copy of Kelly Latimore’s- “The Trinity” Icon
- Blank “thank you” card to write in
- Candle + something to light it with
- Piece of cloth
- Materials for collaging
I also recommend using a printed version of this guide, so that you don’t have to use a screen or device.
For a full, PDF version of the retreat guide, please click here.
Part 1: Settling In
SETTLE YOUR BODY:
Take a moment to settle in to this current time and space. Find a nice place to sit and be still for as long as you need, breathing deeply, slowing down, and becoming more present to God’s presence and your own body. If helpful, use this breath prayer:
INHALE: God, be my vision
EXHALE: Be my hope and my guide.
SURRENDER YOUR ANXIETIES:
As you come into this time, take some time to name and release any anxieties, worries, or thoughts you might be bringing in to this space. To concretely release, you can either put your hands facing down as you surrender in prayer, or write them down on a piece of paper to be put on pause until later.
STATE YOUR INTENTION:
Take some time to pray, using Kelly Latimore’s icon “The Trinity.” How might the Triune God be inviting you to feast at God’s table? To sit at God’s feet? To experience communion and presence? Spend some time offering (or even writing) prayers down to express what you desire from this retreat time. Be bold and be honest!
Part 2: Looking Back
REMEMBERING WHAT HAPPENED:
Take a slow, unhurried chunk of time to look back at this year and remember all that has happened. Consider looking through your calendar, making a timeline, or going on a long walk where you recount all you’ve encountered as you walk. Or you may use the Psalm 23 guide shared here.
What were some highs and lows? What were significant experiences, feelings, or revelations you had?
Make space to access and express grief from this year. Who are the people you’ve lost? What injustices and evils do you lament? What joys and memories did the pandemic take away from you or loved ones? What transitions were you unprepared for?
As you identify sources of grief, consider tearing a piece of cloth (a Biblical sign of mourning) to concretely express your grief. You may make one big tear or many small tears.
In the midst of the grief and darkness of 2020, take some time to light a candle in the middle of your torn cloth pieces. As you watch the flame, recount ways you’ve seen God’s light this past year. What were unexpected gifts? Where did you experience help, growth, or new life?
When you are done, write a thank you note to God to give thanks for the life, even amidst the death and darkness.
Part 3: Looking Ahead
Consider the new year ahead. What are your hopes for yourself in 2021? For your family and loved ones? For your work and ministry? For the community around you? Spend time confessing these hopes to God and if you feel led or inspired, make a collage or a vision board to convey some of your hopes and dreams or 2021 in a creative manner. .
As you have uncovered and expressed some hopes for the new year, what are some of the concrete needs you will have? Take some time to identify these needs, and create some steps for how to meet them. What will you need to prioritize? What kind of help do you need and from whom? What resources will you need to access? Consider writing these down and making concrete next steps, and then spend time surrendering these needs to God in prayer.
Consider who God might be inviting to be your community in the next year. Who are potential mentors? Who are your peers? Who are people you might mentor or influence? How do you want to cultivate these relationships in 2021? Pray for God to bless and honor these relationships.
As you reflect on these people, set a plan for how you might follow up with them and communicate your desires for relationship in 2021 .Consider reaching out to them shortly after this time.
Part 4: Closing Litany
Consider ending your time, using this closing litany from Fran Pratt. You may do this alone, or consider a few people you might invite to join you and do it together over the phone, facetime, Zoom, etc. For more of her writing, visit franpratt.com
©Fran Pratt | franpratt.com | Used with permission
God with your help we have come here,
To the end of another year,
Some bearing smiles,
Others bearing scars.
We reflect upon your goodness now
Your constant Presence,
Your unfailing love,
Your kind regard.
You offer peace.
You offer nearness.
You offer a new life.
You offer transformed hearts.
Heal us where we are wounded.
Sort us where we are confused.
Sweeten us where we are bitter.
Open us where we are shut-down.
For all the ways you’ve revolutionized our hearts and minds this year,
We give thanks.
For the improvements to our character,
We give thanks
For challenges tackled and trials endured
We give thanks
For disappointments that have re-oriented us
We give thanks
For pain that has disciplined us,
We give thanks
For love that has soothed us
We give thanks
For the light of Christ, whose life has illumined the path of peace
We give thanks. Amen.