Three churches host Irish-inspired spiritual retreat

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Stefan Andre Waligur, a contemplative musician and retreat leader, will visit East County to lead the Lughnasa event.Three Episcopal churches will come together Friday, Aug. 2, through Sunday, Aug. 4, to welcome Irish musician and spiritual director Stefan Andre Waligur.

The event, Sing Lughnasa, is sponsored by St. Aidan’s and St. Luke the Physician in Gresham, and Saints Peter and Paul in Portland.

The three-day retreat will offer various Celtic religious and musical activities including storytelling and dancing.

Lughnasa is an ancient Gaelic celebration that commences the autumn harvest season in Ireland. The festival commemorates the Celtic sense of God’s immanence, presence of Christ in the poor, and faith that celebrates the presence of the divine in ordinary things.

The festival also traditionally includes the baking of bread made from several types of grain, which symbolizes thanksgiving and mindfulness for Episcopalians.

Despite its religious roots, Lughnasa has grown to be a non-traditional way of worship for all spiritual communities.

“Lughnasa is an entry-level experience for people who are drawn or intrigued by the Celtic-Christian slant on life and faith and community,” said Kurt Neilson, rector at Saints Peter and Paul. “It’s a way to rekindle vitality in our mission and in the practice of our faith.”

To lead the retreat, the congregations invited Waligur from Ireland, who has served as chaplain at American University and as liturgical musician for the ecumenical Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. His music incorporates Celtic melodies and American rhythms to place a modern spin on traditional French Taize chants. The songs have been sung in churches across the globe and will now permeate the three churches.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal Church in Portland will host the retreat along with two other East County churches.The event begins Friday, Aug. 2, with a potluck dinner from 7-9 p.m. featuring storytelling, music and a bonfire at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 17405 N.E. Glisan St., Gresham.

The retreat continues Saturday with a Celtic music and worship workshop from 1-7 p.m. at St. Luke the Physician Episcopal Church, 120 S.W. Towle Ave., Gresham. The workshop includes a ceilidh, a Gaelic folk-music-dance-party.

Sunday, Aug. 4, concludes the event with a Celtic Mass at 10 a.m. at Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal Church, 8147 S.E. Pine St., Portland.

Sing Lughnasa is one of several events coordinated by St. Aidan’s, St. Luke the Physician, and Saints Peter and Paul Episcopal churches.

“We are trying hard to behave as collaborators and have a common mission,” Neilson said. “To break away from old sense that we’re all competing franchises.”

Much like the baking of bread, by coming together to celebrate Celtic culture and community, the three churches are becoming one.

Tickets will be available at the door for a suggested donation of $5 for students and seniors, $10 for adults. Children 12 and younger get in free. Mass on Sunday is free.

For more information, contact Kurt Neilson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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