Tucked away in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state, a unique destination offers diverse educational programs, outdoor recreation, and a place apart from it all. Recently, 14 theology and social entrepreneurship students traveled to Holden Village—a Lutheran ministry in Chelan—to experience a journey of faith and reflection.
Accompanied by Social Entrepreneurship Professor Judy Hoffmann, Theology Professor Carl Hughes, and Center For Servant Leadership Director Morgan Klaser, the group spent two weeks at Holden Village where they were welcomed into the wilderness to share in the organization’s mission and core values of worship, theology, hospitality, vocation, grace, shalom, ecology, diversity, community, and much more.
While TLU has sent students to Holden Village in the past, it was several decades ago according to Klaser. This trip rekindled TLU’s relations with them and also supported their growing efforts to host a May Term for college students.
“The experience for me personally was extremely refreshing and a chance to see God’s tangible grace in action,” Klaser said. “The beautiful remote location created a setting to think deeply about how faith, service, and social justice connect. In particular, we were able to learn how Holden Village is respectful of its connection to the Lutheran heritage, the surrounding environment, and sociocultural awareness. Trips like this are beneficial to our students because they expose students to a different way of living and being. Holden Village is run entirely by volunteers and still manages to have a cohesive feel, despite recent years of dealing with a mine remediation project and a devastating fire in 2015. You can feel its history from the moment you step off the bus to be welcomed by fellow villagers, and that sense of inclusion and belonging really seeped into the beings of our TLU group while we were there.”
Professor Hoffmann refers to Holden Village as a “living laboratory of TLU’s mission.”
“It is a true intersection of intellectual discovery, full immersion into appreciating God's creation, and going deeper into understanding how one's call or vocation can be a process to change the world,” she said. “It’s a great way for faculty, staff, and students to practice how we teach to 'learn boldly and live to inspire.’ We learned how the role of community can be a transforming event, that everyone is important, and that our intellectual gifts, along with the gifts of our work, can change things on an internal and external scale. My hope is that faculty, staff and students are a presence there for years to come. I know that everyone of us came back a different and better person.”
Rising sophomore Carter Montgomery says he will always remember this experience and the lessons that came along with it, including a special vespers worship service where people came forward and lit candles as they prayed together.
“Some of the most memorable moments for me would be the late night UNO games we played, the long conversations I had with both classmates and villagers alike, and the games of pool and bowling,” Montgomery, a double major in dramatic media and philosophy, said. “One of the best moments that we all shared as a class was during the Prayer Around The Cross service. It was a very emotional time, and I feel that every single one of us in that grew closer to one another. It was one of the most vulnerable and lovely experiences I’ve shared with a group of people in my life. I made some amazing friends and I got the feeling that this service is where we all cemented our bond with each other.”
Professor Hughes was impressed at how social justice and the environment are central themes in the life of the community.
“Holden Village likes to talk about itself as a community of renewal rather than merely a retreat center,” he said. “The point is that going there is not about secluding oneself from the world but about being renewed to engage it in more faithful and creative ways. The nightly vespers services model forms of liturgy and spiritual practice that visitors can carry back ‘down the mountain.’ The emphasis on art and creativity helps visitors connect with parts of themselves that they too often neglect. Minimizing waste, resisting consumerism, and eating lower on the food chain are all Holden values that reshape how visitors live when they return.”
Hughes said the trip also reminded him why he loves teaching and helped him grow in his own faith, commitment to justice, and in his connection to nature and the environment.
“Teaching is always a privilege, but to be able to do it in such a transformative place with such motivated students was pure joy,” he said. “I loved getting to know the students so well and watching them make discoveries that I suspect will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”