Laura Valentine—Penuel Ridge

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Away From It All—Penuel Ridge Retreat Center

Helicopters, sirens, traffic, deadlines, quotas, to-do lists, demanding devices—noise, noise, noise, pressure, pressure, pressure—the hallmarks of everyday life! Where is the escape, the safe space away from it all, a place to simply to be, to renew, to reconnect? Laura Valentine knows.

Laura is the executive director of Penuel Ridge, a small retreat center not far from bustling Nashville, yet nestled in 135 acres of quiet, where individuals and small groups (of no more than 18) can find themselves. Open 365 days a year, Penuel Ridge is a contemplative, interfaith center offering safe, sacred space to be still in a peaceful setting to listen to one's inner voice and for the voice of God (however persons define the divine).

People come to walk the land, to listen to the sounds of nature, to study sacred texts, to journal, to rest, to simply be away and at peace. The retreats are self-directed. Consequently, each experience is unique to the individuals or groups who come. Some may walk the meadow-sized labyrinth; others may seek out the benches by the two-acre lake where the wildlife comes to share a moment. Some will gather by the fire circle, perhaps to listen to and tell stories or simply to savor s'mores and watch the dancing flames.

Others, especially in the extremes of weather, will find sacred space in the welcoming retreat house with its floor-to-ceiling windows. Still others will dip deeply into The Well, a circular, covered structure constructed with straw bales and stucco that invites people to connect with one another and with nature. No where are there TVs or cell phones.

The numbers of individuals and groups who come add up—nearly 2,200 each year. With a staff of only Laura and a part-time assistant, volunteers are essential for making the center a place of gracious hospitality and for being good stewards of the pristine wilderness. Whatever volunteers have interest in is needed—assisting with the administrative tasks, greeting and orienting guests, preparing rooms for the overnight visitors, bush-hogging, mowing, gardening, trail building and maintenance, filling the bird feeders, even checking the light bulbs.

Once a month, volunteers can be part of a cook team and hosts for Penuel Ridge's retreat for homeless persons. The center has as part of its mission to be in solidarity with the poor.

Volunteers are needed and are only limited by their imagination in terms of what they can contribute. As a way of appreciating those people who give their time, Penuel Ridge gives them equal time for their own personal retreat. After all, everyone needs safe, peaceful, sacred space.

For more information, visit the website (, email Laura (, or call the landline (615-792-5936).

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