This is a small painting of a place in the Hill Country of central Texas that brings joyful memories to many people. The place is Mo Ranch, which has been a camp and retreat center for the Presbyterian Church since the 1940’s. A fellow Presbyterian asked me to paint one of my greeting cards for her and she specified that the subject be MoRanch. What a joy to paint a place that not only represents the fast-disappearing natural beauty of the Hill Country, but the most spiritually satisfying experiences of many people’s lives. Every year our whole congregation is welcome to go on retreat together, old and young. We worship together and eat together and play together and study God’s purposes and work . There is a clear, cold river in which to swim or to canoe; there are hills to climb; birds and wildlife to observe; and for kids at camp in the summer, a physical challenge course and horses to ride. Up-river is a wide, shallow area where the limestone river bottom has gradually been worn into “bath tubs” and sluices. The buildings on the property are constructed of native stone, and the oldest buildings are set with Mexican picture tile, flooring of tree-trunk cross-sections, and lots of windows.
The MoRanch experience re-kindles a sense of community and wonderful shared experience that carries our church family through a year of weddings, funerals, worship, arrivals, departures, work, study, socializing, and everything else that happens in family life. The other day I was talking with one of my Jewish friends about her synagogue. We agree that there is no replacement for the community created by worship together. We can laugh, be comfortable, be challenged, be tired, disagree, share, have a meltdown, be comforted, and laugh ’til we ache in a real community.