Welcome to Oranbega, to “the quiet water between the rapids”

We are so glad to announce that we now have the full and unanimous approval of the Orland Town Planning Board to operate as a Retreat Center beginning this year, 2021. We are free now to invite you to taste the hospitality and nurture we offer to all artists and pilgrims. As you paint, draw, sculpt, write and pray with abandon, remember that you can also have a community of inspiration and support for your journey and your work, here on the peaceful banks of the Narramissic River. 

“The rapids” we are all faced with now include the serious and on-going situation of the Covid-19 Pandemic. At the Oranbega Retreat Center we are dedicated to making sure that our “quiet waters” are absolutely safe. We follow the directives of the Governor and CDC of Maine as we welcome guests to stay with us for a week or more at a time or hold special events. We must all do what we can to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, and to protect the health and safety of our neighbors, our guests, and ourselves. Until further notice any retreat we schedule will be a “Social Distancing Retreat” in which masks will be worn and distances kept between Residents and Guests.   We are convinced we can extend a true welcome and provide a delightful retreat experience for our guests even under these circumstances.

As we prepare for our first guests, please know that we are still an unfinished project, both in the house itself and on this website. Please bear with us as we come up with the finishing touches! If you have any questions, or have any trouble navigating this site, please contact webmaster@oranbegacenter.com

Opening Ceremonies for Oranbega Retreat Center took place on August 21, 2020 .  You can enjoy that day’s Riverbank picnic and Zoom Poetry Festival featuring Wesley McNair on our YouTube and Facebook pages, along with other programs we have presented since, such as our Burns Night Supper, and the Celebration of Black History Month. And check out the great stylings of our own jazz trio, Spence & Co.

The Oranbega Mission

building a community of artists helping artists

To these rooms writers and artists come to have a safe, uninterrupted time with a project, to receive the support of other writers and artists, and to pursue their creative goals unencumbered by the need to make dinner, fend off salesmen, or worry about life’s annoying necessities. The Oranbega Center exists to aid these creative pursuits with the resources, staff, and environment to further genuine artistic achievement in an inclusive community.

Human creativity, we believe, is rooted and grounded in the nurture of the human spirit by the Spirit of God. Not all who come to our house will share that belief, and that is fine. We will have no expectation of religious affiliation or faith commitment on the part of those seeking the creative space. They can be of any faith or no faith. They must just be able to be open to and even to enjoy the order of prayer and work that will give the house its structure. The rhythms of prayer, ritual, and meditation of the community are intended to support the peace in which creativity can flower, like a trellis on which roses can bloom.

Rev. Dr. Jennifer Reece
Retreat Director and Literary Arts Coordinator

Jenny is a novelist, poet, teacher, and a retired Episcopal priest. After more than 30 years of ministry she felt a call to build a community of support for women and men dedicated to transforming the world through the arts. The Oranbega Retreat Center is the result, a place where writers, visual artists, and all creative workers can find peace, inspiration, and renewal. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Jenny has developed through her travels a dedication to seek and nurture diversity in all ways as she works with others to build a truly inclusive community. She practices contemplative prayer, but also listens to Funk music and Opera. A life-long Tolkien fan, nature lover, and choral singer, she is also an avid Mah Jongg and Scrabble player, loves to travel by train and boat, and is currently attempting to learn how to play the Bodhran (celtic drum.) She believes that creativity and spirituality are linked at the core and does her best to nurture both in herself and others. 

Dianne Phipps
Coordinator of Hospitality

A practicing poet, Diane brings her understanding of the artist’s life to her role as Coordinator of Hospitality for the Oranbega Retreat Center. With years of expertise in hospitality management, Diane facilitates the smooth operation of the Center, from organizing the nutritious and delicious meals to ensuring a clean and comfortable environment, and everything in-between. Diane is a fine seamstress and  loves to nurture  growing things, both inside the house and in the garden.  As she is someone who really knows how to get things done, she acted as Project Manager for our effort ready the house for our guests. Her Christian spirituality, nurtured by both Episcopalian and Quaker traditions, is expressed in her generous care of our near neighbors in Orland and of her wide circle of friends.  Coming to Maine from the State of Washington, Diane combines Native American and Irish ethnicities in her family heritage. She loves all kinds of music and is currently learning how to play the Recorder.  She says that being the Hospitality Coordinator at a Retreat House is her dream job!

Robert Phipps
Coordinator of Visual Arts & Aesthetics

Robert brings his lifetime of experience in multiple artistic endeavors and disciplines to his role as Coordinator of Visual Arts and Aesthetics. A lifelong Quaker with a commitment to sustainable living, Robert's pleasure is helping bring an aesthetically satisfying and enriching environment to the Oranbega Retreat Center. As the eldest resident, Robert contributes a wealth of knowledge about the role of good nutrition and exercise to graceful aging, and is a fund of  stories about his life and travels.  Settled now in Orland, he finds the  Riverbank Studio provides an ideal place for him to continue exploring and growing as a painter and visual artist.  He is also writing his memoirs and a novel. Robert keeps loving watch over the life of the Narramissic River, and is dedicated to preserving its beauty and that of all our woods and waters. He also has a special interest in learning from the indigenous peoples who fished these river banks for thousands of years before the Europeans came.  For many years a dedicated choral singer, Robert has  bequeathed his musical talents to others, including his own grandson Louis Phipps who at age 9 has just released his first CD as a singer-songwriter.  Robert's energy and passion for life is an inspiration to all who meet him. 

Spencer Nelson
Sexton, Coordinator of Music

Spencer became the Sexton of the Oranbega Retreat Center in September, 2020.  That means he is the all-around "Mr. Fix-it". If there's a problem with technology, plumbing, electricity, fuel, or any of the myriad systems that make a house run smoothly, Spence is on it and he doesn't give up until it has been put right. He also contributes  to the life of Oranbega Retreat Center through his talents as a gourmet chef  and as a drummer.  His band  Spence & Co. has become a fixture of our monthly Zoom celebrations of the Arts.  Not affiliated with any religious tradition, Spencer cultivates his spirituality through playing music, creating delicious dishes, and caring for others. As he was raised locally,  our Guests will find him a great resource for finding a good place to walk,  hike,  go boating or fishing, or to eat out or find other entertainment.  He is also a carpenter, a painter, a woodsman, a mechanic, a punster,  an indescribably creative Scrabble player-- in short,  a caretaker in every sense.