It is not always easy to know when or where a story begins. Perhaps the seeds for this story were first planted over 30 years ago, before any of the partners knew each other but were each finding her renewal in nature and at camps and retreats, and were each feeling a strong pull to ministry. Pat Bailey and Dee Irwin began dreaming of retreat ministry in the 1990s, but thought it would be 15-20 years in the future. Two events brought clarity to the discernment of how that dream was to be fulfilled: first, their participation in the Servant Leadership School of Greensboro (www.servantleadergreensboro.com ) and its focus on serving God’s dream for a transformed world; and second, Dee’s breast cancer and their decision to move to the country in 1998 for healing and revitalization. They bought nearly three acres of horse pasture, woods and water with a house and a four-stall horse barn. The buildings needed work, but it was the land that drew them and they immediately began taking down fences and creating gardens and meditation areas. A year later, they converted the horse barn to studio space.
Friends who came to support their healing journey commented on the special feeling they had as soon as they stepped on the land–a feeling of calm and peace, an invitation to solitude and connection to nature, a place for deep healing of body, mind and spirit. Pat and Dee realized that this place was meant to be shared with others and their dream of retreat ministry was born in 2000 as a day retreat center that named itself Healing Ground. A mission group formed to support the ministry and met monthly to plan retreats and offer hospitality.
From 2004-2013, Healing Ground offered pilgrimages for small groups, focusing on Celtic spirituality and caring for the earth. Pilgrims traveled to Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Wales, France, the Pacific Northwest and the Cumberland Plateau.
We also have a deep interest in supporting and promoting environmental stewardship and sustainability. We have an organic vegetable garden, compost bins, a root cellar, rain barrels, a rain garden that helps return run-off to the water table, and a riparian garden at the edge of the pond to demonstrate how to filter run-off. In 2012 we added a geothermal system and have dramatically cut our heating and cooling costs. Solar power installation was completed in October 2014 further reducing our impact.
Anne-Barton Carter joined the Healing Ground ministry in the spring of 2012 bringing her considerable talents and experience in working with children, youth and adults, her love of the outdoors, and her interest in creating “Retreats to Go” as another venue for sharing the Healing Ground vision with others. Anne-Barton has decades of experience creating curricula, planning and leading retreats and pilgrimages, and supporting others in their personal spiritual quests.