Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

In the spirit of expansion and connection, we have created some new small group activities for our Seniors to enjoy. It is our hope that by sharing special moments with friends, old and new, our Senior community will strengthen its connection with each other and with Grace Cathedral. 

Our first small group activity in this series was a visit to The Aquarium by the Bay for a private event, Breakfast with the Otters.

We decided to visit the Aquarium on Thursday, February 29 – Leap Day. It was an unforgettable day of fun, learning, and fellowship. We started the morning off with a buffet breakfast (scrambled eggs, veggies, fruit, toast, juice, and coffee), and then we visited with the Otters while they had their breakfast.

The Otters ran through a caged tunnel (see image) into an area that was secured by tempered glass so we could watch them play. We also had the privilege of visiting with one of the scientists who cared for the Otters, and we learned a lot about their migration patterns and anatomy. The four Otters that we were able to visit with were all male and we were advised that most of the female Otters were down in southern California caring for their offspring. 

We were also informed that they like to play with each other in a manner like canines; they often look as if they are fighting, but they aren’t.

Afterward, we explored the Aquarium to learn about the other exhibits on display. We were greeted by a small robot on wheels who guided us around the room. The first exhibit we explored after the Otters was the Sardines and the Sharks. They even had a giant set of shark jaws with two sets of teeth on display. The jaws were so big we could have stood inside of them!

Everyone expressed delight and wonder as we walked through the Aquarium, marveling at each exhibit. We even got to pet some baby Sting Rays! To my surprise, their fins felt very soft and silky…

However, the best part of the day was how we were able to connect in a more intimate setting and learn new things about each other. Our group size was small enough that each person felt seen, heard, and safe enough to open up and share their thoughts with the entire group. I learned a lot about the group at the Aquarium!

We weren’t just learning and growing on our own but together as a group, and it showed in the way we navigated through the Aquarium together—no Senior left behind. Our group formed a single line to walk through the underground tunnels of the glass-domed tanks, which provided 3D views of the fish. We also took several group photos to commemorate the day.

We all arrived with a smile and left with one, GRATEFUL for the day of fun and each other.  

This year’s Senior Retreat was a huge success! We all had a great time, and we spent the three days together getting to know each other through fellowship and food. For me, this was my very first visit to the Bishop’s Ranch, and I explored the grounds with a fresh eye for everything.

At times, it felt like camping in the vineyards as we had communal dining, lodging, and games among landscapes of lush vineyards in the background. Upon arrival, we were served lunch (the first of many tasty meals that we enjoyed), and to my delight, lunch included scrumptious sugar cookies as big as my hand.

The first order of business after lunch was to get acquainted with each other. We all wore name tags and introduced ourselves. We had a group of more than twenty people, and this was a first visit for many of us. Once names were exchanged, we began our retreat discussion on “Finding Joy.”

Finding Joy sounds like such a simple concept, but for many, it’s a challenge. We explored many things that prevent us from experiencing joy (fear, anger, hurt, grudges, disappointments…, etc.). Because our group was so big, some of the more reserved folks were reluctant to speak up, so we broke out into small groups.

I found myself sharing things in the small groups from my past that I would normally be uncomfortable sharing.

When we weren’t in small groups, we enjoyed the scenery of the grounds and visited with some of the residents. One of the advantages of being on a ranch is being surrounded by animals; we had cats, goats, birds…and chickens. These ranch residents truly enhanced our experience. One chicken in particular brought immense joy one day as we were making our way to the Ranch House for prayer.

We named this lively bird, the “Prayerful Chicken” as it jumped up and bolted towards the ranch house as we were walking on the path to attend an afternoon service. In a sudden instance, this silly bird brought us so much laughter that we certainly found our JOY that day. This seemingly insignificant and hilarious incident provided us with one of the main sources of finding joy, which is laughter.

By the end of the retreat, we had made some new friends and felt connected to the ministry and each other. Our small group discussions and fellowship made a lasting impression on me, and they stayed with me long after I arrived home that Thursday evening.

I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and connect with this group of Seniors with Grace, and I look forward to our next retreat in March 2025.