European Unitarian Universalists
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Spring 2014 Retreat

The Spring 2014 Retreat was a big success — over 150 attendees!

Gather the Spirit, Come to Melun!

April 11–13
Dammarie-lès-Lys, France

(50 km south-east of Paris, near Melun)

your hosts: the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Paris

Walking Tour/Seminar: Transcendentalists in Paris, April 8–10


EUU weekend retreats offer a unique combination of spirituality and fun, offering everything from worship to walks in the forest to late-night jam sessions. Retreats are mainly a time to connect with other Unitarian Universalists living in Europe. So many options are available that participants can emphasize whatever aspect they prefer.

We gather on Friday afternoon and our first meal together is Friday dinner. That evening we get to know one another and share candles of joys and concerns. Saturday morning our guest minister gives a theme talk (see below). Saturday afternoon will begin with our Annual General Meeting and will continue with a wide choice of workshops or a visit to a château or a walk in the forest, and then choir practice for anyone who would like to sing at the Sunday service. Saturday evening is our Cabaret Night/Open Stage when we enjoy talent and humor from participants of all ages. Sunday morning is our worship service, followed by lunch. Children and teens have their own exciting program throughout the weekend, though some activities are intergenerational.

You won’t want to miss the spring retreat, whether this will be your first time, or you are a frequent retreater. Please join us and bring your talents: can you lead a workshop, play an instrument at our worship service, sing in the choir, help with the children and youth program, entertain us on Cabaret Night, play or sing along after hours?

It has been a long time since a retreat has taken place in the Paris region. For that reason, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Paris is so proud to be hosting this retreat at a new site. With true Gallic spirit, we are creating a special recipe for both the head and the heart, from spiritual inquiry to pleasures of the palate! And speaking of spirit…


Our guest minister will be the Reverend Chris Buice of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chris will be speaking on that indefinable quality, Spirit: un certain je-ne-sais-quoi (a certain I-don’t-know-what!)

“This will be an invitation to talk about spirit in a way that goes deeper than religion and broader than theology and includes common experiences of team spirit, school spirit and those moments when we feel a certain, I don’t know what,” says Chris, promising to lead us into exploring the theme with his trademark humor and insatiable curiosity. He suggests his presentation will also include reflections on “Spirituality as a Second Language” and “Cross-Cultural Experiences that Can Lead to Spiritual Growth.”

Chris Buice has traveled to Europe several times. In 1987, he was an exchange student at the University of Manchester, England, which gave him ample opportunity to explore many European countries. While in seminary he was a program leader for an international gathering of Unitarian Universalists at Great Hucklow in Derbyshire, England. Chris spent a sabbatical month in Paris in 2012 with his daughter, Sally. In addition to preaching and leading a workshop for the Paris Fellowship, he spent quality time with us, hanging out in Paris cafés. And now, Chris is studying French. “One should continue to do at least one thing in your life that you are bad at without quitting – and one thing your kids can do better than you – in order to stay humble,” he quips. He is interested in exploring how learning a new language affects one’s thoughts about religion.

Chris says, “I am now looking forward to learning more from you about the beauty and challenges of being a UU in Europe.”

While he professes to have no greater ambition than to be “the funny minister,” Chris has led his current congregation through difficult times. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church became the target of a violent hate crime due to its history of activism. This violent act was instrumental in launching the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, a spiritual response of overcoming hatred with love.



Le Bois du Lys (*
380 chem
in du Clocher
 77190 Dammarie-lès-Lys


*please address any questions you may have to the and not to the Bois du Lys.  


The Bois du Lys conference center, in the town of Dammarie-lès-Lys, is 50 km south-east of Paris and just 3 km from the Melun train station. Its buildings sit on 13 wooded hectares (32 acres) on the edge of the historic Fontainebleau forest. We will have the campus all to ourselves during the retreat. The Bois du Lys is part of the Ethic Etapes network of French conference centers which share a charter of commitment to quality and respect for the environment.

Bon appétit! All meals are included, from a buffet dinner on Friday through lunch on Sunday. Except for breakfasts and the Friday buffet, meals will be served at tables family style.

All of the rooms have sinks, shower and toilet, except for the family rooms which share showers and toilets. The family rooms are the only rooms that have bunk beds.

Thank you for being willing to share…..There will be very few single rooms available at this retreat. They will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. If you have had a single in the past, please consider sharing this time. If you absolutely need a single for health reasons, be sure to sign up early!

We want to welcome as many people as possible, and the majority of the rooms have three beds. If you are coming on your own, it would be ideal if you were willing to share with two other people. Thank you for your understanding.

Room description Adult Young Adult (19-25yrs) Teen (13-18yrs) Child (4-12yrs) Infant (0-3yrs)
Single room* 235 € n/a n/a n/a 0 €
Shared Double Room with private bath 190 € 140 € 50 € 25 € 0 €
Shared Triple Room with private bath 175 € 140 € 50 € 25 € 0 €
Shared Quad/Family Room with shared bath 160 € 130 € 50 € 25 € 0 €
non-resident (sleeping off-site) 140 € n/a n/a n/a n/a

These prices quoted are for the entire cost of the retreat including meals, from dinner Friday night through lunch on Sunday.
Discounts: EUU members will receive a 10 euro discount.
Prices will increase by 15 euros for adults on March 10.
If you cancel after March 10, there is a 50 euro cancellation charge.

EUU retreat grants: We try to keep the prices of our retreats within reach of most people, but we understand that some people still may not be able to pay the full cost. That is why EUU has a grant fund. Please consider adding a little extra for the grant fund when you register.

To apply for a grant write to EUU Treasurer John Hertz: We help as many EUU members as we can and all requests are handled confidentially.


The RE organizers are pulling out all the stops this year to deliver an engaging and meaningful 6-month Coming of Age program for EUU teens, starting with our meeting at the Spring Retreat, sustained with regular online hangouts and posts, and concluding with the Fall Retreat. More information will be presented on the RE page of the EUU website in March. For the children, we will explore our experiences of faith and wisdom "With Reason as our Guide". The “search for truth,” our 4th principle, often leads UUs to new and different beliefs. The emphasis on the use of reason and the willingness to change one’s beliefs based on new information are hallmarks of our liberal faith tradition. A full program, including games, crafts, and outdoor excursions, will encourage each youth to dive into the processes of scientific discovery to help address the big questions of their lives with rationalism. RE Coordinator Julianne McCall writes, “Ambitious, you say? We think so, as well! But as with any mystery, we're looking forward to the experiment!"


Saturday afternoon we offer workshops led by volunteers. The Retreat Committee will be offering a visit to the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte (see below) and a walk in the Fontainebleau forest from the trail head on the property. Workshops are interactive and usually last 90 minutes. Is there a topic you would be interested in presenting as a workshop? Past topics vary from spiritual to ethical topics, or can be music, dance, or yoga. Send us your proposal when you register, and we will contact you in advance to confirm.


The musical offerings are numerous and varied at every EUU retreat. Our choir welcomes all voices, and after a rehearsal on Saturday, we offer two anthems at the Sunday morning service. Bring your instrument if you have one, and play either at the Sunday service or at the Saturday cabaret night. Please let us know when you register if you can bring an instrument.

PLANNING A LONGER STAY? Please note that the Bois du Lys does not deal with reservations from individuals. If you wish to come to the area early or stay later, you will find many possibilities on the internet. There are two hotels in the town of Dammarie-lès-Lys itself, and many others in the surrounding area.

HOW TO GET THERE - General Directions
Download detailed driving instructions here

The Retreat Committee will be organizing rides between the Melun station and the Bois du Lys by minivan. If you arrive at the Bois du Lys on Friday afternoon by car, we would appreciate your helping shuttle travelers to and from the site.

By Car

The retreat site is 50 km south-south-east of Paris, near the city of Melun. If you are driving from the North or East, you will want to steer as wide of Paris as possible on a Friday afternoon and take the A104/N104 ring road rather than the Périphérique or the A86 ring.

General directions : From Paris, take A6 south to exit 12; from Germany, take A4 to N104 to A5b through Melun; from Geneva, take A6 north toward Paris to exit 13; from Brussels take A1 to A104 to A4 to N104 to A5b through Melun. From Basel you can either follow the directions from Geneva or come across the Vosges and then approach Paris on the A5.
(Coming from another direction? Just ask!)

By Train

From Gare du Nord, take the RER D to Melun, allow about 1 hour.  
From Gare de l'Est, you will need to walk 15 minutes or take the metro one stop to Gare du Nord.  Allow about 75 minutes.
From Gare de Lyon, follow signs to the RER station and take the RER D to Melun.   Allow about 50 minutes.

The Retreat Committee will provide shuttle service between the Melun station and the site.

By Air

Charles de Gaulle airport: Take RER B to Gare du Nord, cross the platform and take the RER D to Melun; count on 2 hours total travel.
Orly airport: Take Orlyval or Orlybus to the RER B, then go to Chatelet and take the RER D to Melun; count on 2 hours total travel.
Beauvais airport: Take the bus to Paris (Porte Maillot) then metro line 1 to Gare de Lyon and take the RER D to Melun; count on 3 hours total travel.


Melun is the large town closest to the retreat site and will be your final destination if you are coming by public transportation. Because of its prime location on the banks of the Seine,  Melun has been a commercial center since the Middle Ages. It was also a favorite country residence for the kings of France during that era. Today the château is gone but Melun is the Préfecture of the Seine-et-Marne département, and for gourmets, it is the home of a particular variety of Brie, le Brie de Melun.  Melun offers scenic boat cruises to see amazing villas built along the Seine by the wealthy bourgeoisie around 1900.

Not far from Melun is Fontainebleau, with its vast forest of 280 square kilometers (110 square miles). This former hunting ground of the kings of France now has walking and hiking trails to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast. The Château de Fontainebleau is one of the most fascinating in France. It was transformed through the years by all the French kings from the Renaissance on. Napoleon, who did not like Versailles, chose Fontainebleau as his palace. His famous farewell to his army as he left for Elba took place in the courtyard in front of the horseshoe-shaped staircase. We will not be organizing a visit to Fontainebleau during the retreat, but if you come by car we recommend that you visit it before or after the retreat. Be sure to allow enough time to visit both the château and its gardens.

Closer to the retreat site is the exquisite Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, a jewel of 17th century French architecture with beautiful gardens à la française created by André Le Nôtre. Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s superintendent of finance, built Vaux-le-Vicomte. Learn more about the fateful evening in August, 1661, when Fouquet invited the young king for an evening of sumptuous food and entertainment, and how that soirée led to Fouquet’s downfall. A visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte and its exceptional gardens will be organized on Saturday afternoon during the workshop sessions.

Other sites worth visiting in the area include the medieval village of Provins, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the charming town of Barbizon, home of the 19th school of landscape painters. Disneyland Paris is only one hour by RER from the Melun station.

A bientôt! We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Any other QUESTIONS?

Just ask the Retreat Committee (

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