GilChrist FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-related changes, anticipated to last at least through 2022, are noted in italics.

Where is GilChrist?

We are in southwest Michigan, approximately seven miles west of Three Rivers. By car, GilChrist is 35 minutes from Kalamazoo and 60 minutes from South Bend, Indiana. Directions are available here. Please note that we are in the Eastern time zone. 

What are the facilities like?

GilChrist is located in a rural area on 67 acres of woods and rolling hills, with walking trails, ponds, and a prayer labyrinth. We have eight cabins; a house for longer term solo retreats and small groups (of vaccinated individuals at this time); a small, stone chapel; and a common house, WindHill. All buildings, with the exception of the Stone Chapel, have modern heating and air conditioning, plumbing, and kitchen facilities. Currently, WindHill (which includes the library, meditation loft, and community area) is open to vaccinated, masked individuals.  

What are my responsibilities as a guest upon departure?

Collecting used linens, sweeping floors, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and removing trash, recycling, and compost are basic responsibilities for all guests. Detailed guidelines for departure can be found in the informational binder in the cabin. Each cabin has earth-friendly cleaning supplies so our guests can lovingly prepare for the next person by leaving your space as you found it. 

What are staff practices for cleaning in between guests?

Cabins are left empty for at least 24 hours between guests. During that 24-hour period, a staff member will retrieve the laundry, restock supplies, and give the cabin a second cleaning. Based on the latest understanding of the viability of coronavirus in the air, staff will not enter a cabin within three hours of a guest's departure or arrival.

What should I plan to do about food and beverages?

In each guest space, we provide dishware and essential cookware, along with filtered water, tea, and basic spices. Each space has a complete kitchen, with a stove, oven, and a refrigerator, though most do not have a microwave. Small appliances include a toaster, a hot water kettle, and a drip coffee maker with filters. Most guests simply bring their food, snacks, and any specialty beverages they desire.

Where can I buy groceries?

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 between communities, we encourage guests to purchase groceries from your home region, if you are driving in from a distance. If that is not possible, just a 10-minute drive from GilChrist, you’ll find chain grocery stores Meijer and Aldi, as well as the locally-owned Bullseye Marketplace. The Corey Lake Orchards farm stand is also a good nearby option in season, with a bakery, eggs, local dairy and meats, and a full selection of produce. In addition, the GilChrist vegetable garden is available to guests in season. 

What kind of programs does GilChrist offer?

GilChrist offers space for individual, self-guided retreats, as well as private and public group retreats that support contemplative practice and social transformation. Check out our calendar of group retreats here. A half hour of silent meditation takes place virtually most weekdays from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. To participate in meditation or inquire about spiritual guidance, please phone the main office at (269) 244-1130. Other daily, weekly, and monthly practices may be offered by our neighbors at the Hermitage Community, St. Gregory’s Abbey, and Apple Farm Community

Where does the name GilChrist come from?

GilChrist is named after Sister GilChrist Lavigne, a Trappist nun who was a close friend and inspiration to its founders. The name "GilChrist" is of Gaelic origin, from gille, a servant, and Chriosed, Christ — “the servant of Christ.” While the name is based in the Christian tradition, GilChrist welcomes people of all faiths and affiliations.

    What is your affiliation with the Fetzer Institute?

    GilChrist is the public, contemplative retreat center of the Fetzer Institute. GilChrist staff are employees of the Fetzer Institute, located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

    May I come by myself?

    We welcome individuals for self-guided retreats or as participants in the events offered at GilChrist. If you would like help structuring a self-guided retreat, please let us know!

    May I bring a group?

    Groups offering programs that support GilChrist's mission of contemplative practice in service of healing self, society, and the natural world are welcome. All participants and facilitators of group retreats in 2022 are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Please review our guidelines for group retreat requests and contact us to inquire about making reservations. We also have space for small outdoor group gatherings; please contact us for more information.

    Are children allowed?

    Yes! We warmly welcome children and lean on their adult companions to guide them in safely exploring our grounds and preserving a quiet environment for all our guests and wildlife.

    Do you allow pets?

    As much as we here at GilChrist all love animals, we do not allow pets, comfort animals, or therapy animals. We trust you will enjoy visiting with our cats, goats, and wildlife while you’re here! Service dogs and miniature horses that are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks that are directly related to and mitigate the handler’s disability” are very welcome. Please kindly alert GilChrist staff of your intention to bring a service animal by providing the following information: 1.) Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability? 2.) What work or task has the animal been individually trained to perform? Service animals must be housebroken and remain under control of their handlers at all times.

    How do I reserve a cabin?

    Request a reservation using our online form or call us at (269) 244-1130. The best times to call are Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

    What is the check-in process?

    If it’s your first visit, a staff person will be watching for you at the main office at your stated check-in time to orient you to the grounds and help you get settled into your cabin. In order to minimize contact, we are happy to show you how you can transport your belongings from the parking lot to your cabin via our golf cart or wagon. With the exception a couple of spaces designed for guests who have mobility issues, we do not allow vehicles in the area by the cabins. If you are running late for your arrival time, or if you’re having trouble finding GilChrist, please call the main office at (269) 244-1130 so we know when to expect you. Guests who have been to GilChrist before may make arrangements to get themselves into their cabins, using the sturdy wagon or golf cart in the parking lot for this purpose. 

    What is the check-out process?

    Expectations for departure are detailed in an informational binder in each cabin, and we are grateful for your attention in preparing your space for the next guest. We have a sturdy wagon and a golf cart in the parking lot that you are welcome to use to bring your belongings from your cabin to your car at your stated check-out time. Upon check-out, please pay by cash or check (made out to the Fetzer Institute) and leave the key on the desk. 

    What forms of payment does GilChrist accept?

    We accept cash or check for payment. Kindly make checks out to the Fetzer Institute.

    What should I bring?

    Apart from the usual items people pack when traveling, regular visitors to GilChrist tell us they like to bring the following:

    • A mask to cover your mouth and nose in case close contact with others is required 
    • Binoculars (fun to be able to see the wildlife close up)
    • Blanket (for sitting outside)
    • Camera
    • Hat (for protection from the weather and just because they’re fun to wear)
    • Journal and art supplies
    • Books
    • Yoga mat
    • Water bottle (for long walks, especially in the summer)
    • Comfortable clothes, with layers for changing weather
    • Shoes for romping outdoors
    • Slippers
    • Favorite pillow and whatever you need to sleep well
    • Simple food items that do not require use of a microwave
    • Coffee and a grinder or any other beverage that will bring you joy
    How should I prepare to deal with ticks?

    Ticks are increasingly common in Michigan, including the black-legged tick, a smaller variety that can be a carrier of Lyme disease. To prevent getting bitten by ticks when you’re outdoors:

    • Wear a tick repellent spray. Repellent with essential oils is available in guest spaces and varieties with DEET are located in the coat room in WindHill. Consider researching and bringing your own repellent.
    • Wear long pants tucked into your socks.
    • Walk in the center of trails and avoid brushing up against the ends of plants where ticks like to hang out.
    • Check yourself carefully after you’ve been outdoors.

    If you get bitten by a tick, use a tweezers to pull on its body gently until it releases its grip. If you experience a rash at the site of the bite or any flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.

    What is your cancellation policy?

    Please notify us as soon as possible. We understand that most sudden changes are unavoidable, and we do not charge for individual cancellations. Groups assume full financial responsibility for reservations three weeks prior to their event.

    How can I purchase a gift certificate for GilChrist?

    To purchase a gift certificate, please mail a check or money order for the desired amount to GilChrist Retreat Center, 56265 Day Road, Three Rivers, MI 49093. Include a note with the name of the person you’d like the certificate made out to and an address where we can mail the certificate. Nightly rates can be found here

    Is there wi-fi at GilChrist?

    Wi-fi is NOT available in the cabins or Tree of Life, and cell phone signals vary depending on your carrier. Some guests have had success using hotspots to create an internet connection in their cabin, while others have not. We do offer wi-fi access in and around WindHill, which is a short walk from the cabins. Guests entering WindHill must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and equipped with a face mask.

    Are there phones in the cabins?

    No, we do not have phones in the cabins, and cell phone signals vary depending on your carrier. An emergency landline phone is mounted on the outside of the main office by the garage service door. We welcome you to make a plan with staff if you anticipate someone needing to reach you in an emergency.