Writing an Icon, an Invitation

By: The Reverend Dr. Jennifer Glaze Montgomery

Twelve years ago, my friend, Anne, said to me, “I want you to come to a retreat that you are going to love!”  “What is it?” I asked suspiciously.  “Just come” is all she said.  So, I did. 

The retreat was an icon writing workshop and Anne was right. I loved it!  Had she told me I would be painting and praying for hours I probably wouldn’t have gone. And, yet, almost every year since, I have participated in this spiritual prayer practice of writing an icon. 

If you’ve never heard of icon writing picture this: using acrylics and 23 carat gold to paint a holy image on a white gesso board. The image for this year that will be traced on the board and composed with acrylic paint is of Mary and the baby Jesus, sometimes called “Mother of God of Tenderness.”  Kara Nelson, the talented iconographer who is coming from California to teach us, will guide us through the process step-by-step.  And not to worry, all mistakes can be fixed! 

 You don’t need to be an artist to write an icon.  What is needed is an open heart, a willingness to engage in the process, and time set apart to pray. The gift for yourself in writing an icon is an immersion into deep prayer and creating a holy image that will be cherished for many years.  A participant from last year’s icon writing retreat at Camp Washington shared that after spending four days in quiet prayer, painting the image of Jesus, she experienced withdrawal symptoms when she had to go back to her job. She was saddened by having to return to her busy schedule. Being the extrovert she is, she also spoke of how much she cherished the beauty of Camp, the community worship, and the contemplative prayer.  

As chaplain for this year’s icon retreat, I will lead us in daily prayers, the celebration of Eucharist and will be available for individual conversations as needed. Laity and clergy alike will be blessed by “trying on” this new spiritual practice.  If you’ve never written an icon, or if you’ve done many, you will be spiritually encouraged by the presence and teaching of our iconographer, Kara Nelson.  

Image: The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas with the Rev. Jenifer Glaze Montgomery.
Photo from: Trinity Newtown, CT Facebook Page

This event takes place from Friday, March 20, to Monday, March 23. Registration and more details for the retreat are available here.

If you are interested in learning more about the process and this event, don’t hesitate to reach out via email: jmontgomery@trinitynewtownct.org.

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