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PNC Men’s Retreats have been held for 25 years

The 2017 PNC annual Men’s Retreat in February at Pilgrim Firs will be the 25th.

Men gather for presentation during the PNC Men’s Retreat in January, 2015, at Pilgrim Firs.

Rick Russell, former pastor of Eastgate UCC in Bellevue, has been attending or helping with leadership and planning for 10 years. 

He said the biggest attendance reported was in 1995 when the presenters were the Interfaith Amigos—UCC pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman. 

Presenters have included out-of-state people from the national UCC setting, Berkeley and elsewhere, and local leaders such as the late musicians Tom Hunter of Bellingham and Tom Colwell of Seattle.

From 35 to 60 attend, with an average of 45 to 50, ranging in age from a grandson to grandfather.  Sometimes there have been three generations in a family, grandfather, son and grandson.

The Men’s Retreat planned for Feb. 3 to 5 at Pilgrim Firs, preceded by a silent retreat Feb. 2 to 3, will feature PNC Conference minister Mike Denton speaking on “Eldering.”

After studies at Bangor Seminary in Maine, Rick and his late wife Jennifer returned to Prospect UCC in Seattle, their home church, to be ordained in 1984.  Then they served churches in New Hampshire for 17 years and Jennifer connected with Global Ministries in India and China.

Musicians team during the 2016 Men’s Retreat.

In 1998, Rick earned a doctor of ministries at Andover Newton Theological School in the Boston area, focusing on “Men’s Ministry in the UCC: Past, Present and Future.” 

In 2001, he returned to the PNC as pastor at Eastgate and Jennifer served at First Congregational UCC in Bellingham. 

“When I first came to Men’s Retreats, I came to listen and experience the retreat,” said Rick, who had connected with the national UCC men’s ministry until staff and funds were cut.

Responsibility for organizing the retreat varied over the years with Richmond Beach UCC and University Congregational UCC responsible for several years.  Then Eastgate UCC took on the leadership.

In recent years, planning has been done by Michael Phipps of University Congregational, Hans Dankers of Monroe UCC, Steve Guy of Wayside UCC in Federal Way, and Rick.  They arrange the program, plan the schedule and do the publicity.

The retreat consists of small group meetings, with program Saturday morning and evening and Sunday worship. 

At a Wisdom Circle on Saturday evening, men share about what they are experiencing, listening to each other, Rick said.

There is plenty of music. In recent years it has been led by Don Jenkins of Kirkland UCC.

“There is nothing like men singing songs of faith wholeheartedly,” said Rick, who has helped lead it for 10 years.

It has been the same weekend as the Super Bowl—a reflective alternative to the aggression and violence of football—but ends in the morning so the man who want to go home and watch the game can do that.

For Rick, it’s important because the Men’s Retreat gives men permission to reflect on their faith and lives, to assess who they are and want to be.

That reflection happens in the context of friendship, conversation, music and scriptures.

“As a retreat, it is at a place set apart, offering time to look at life anew in touch with relationships and faith,” he said.

There’s a draw for Rick, having grown up in a home with strong women.  His father died, and his brothers were four to six years older, so Rick spent much time with his mother and three sisters.  His mother grew up in Maine, and he lived there until he was 11.  She remarried and moved to Seattle.  He began attending Pilgrim Congregational UCC, now All Pilgrims Christian Church.

“Men’s ministry fills a need for men to be around other men and experience what is unique to being men,” he said.

Rick recognizes that it’s a challenge for some men to pay $140 and leave their families for a weekend, when they might like to take a weekend with their families, but many are repeat attendees.

For information, call 206-999-6968 or email


Copyright © September 2016 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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