Center near St. Louis Provides Privacy

By Mercurio, John | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

Center near St. Louis Provides Privacy


Mercurio, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


ST. LOUIS - If D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was looking for a more peaceful retreat, far from the reporters and well wishers who had hounded him at a Maryland farm since Saturday, the Thompson Center in a suburb of this city was a good choice.

Nestled in the upscale community of Ladue, the 32-acre center provides guests with total privacy and the chance to relax and undergo counseling with spiritual and religious guides.

"Let me make this clear: We are not a rehab center," said Shah Smith, managing director of the retreat owned by the Episcopal Diocese of St. Louis.

"We are a spiritual conference center where people gather with friends and family to meditate and spend quiet time," Mrs. Smith said. "We offer a balance between the educational and the inspirational, the ecumenical and the informational."

That's what Mr. Barry said he was seeking Saturday when he left the District for the Skinner Farm in southern Anne Arundel County. Saying he needed to deal with the "telltale signs of spiritual relapse and physical exhaustion," he planned to remain at the farm for at least a week.

Early yesterday morning, however, the mayor left the retreat for the Thompson Center, saying the horde of reporters and spectators detracted from his "rejuvenation."

The center generally is host to conferences, but Mrs. Smith said guests often bring private counselors and psychiatrists for personal treatment.

Yesterday, three police cars blocked the entrance to the compound, refusing to let reporters onto the grounds. A Barry aide would not comment on the mayor's hiatus, but he distributed publicity brochures published by the center.

The center is composed of about a half-dozen buildings, including a 19th-century Georgian mansion and a chaplain center. There are four meeting rooms and a large conference area for groups.

The center's most popular religious events in recent years have been the Rev. Ramon Panikkar's seminars on meditative prayer. The center is a retreat supported by Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists. …

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