On Monday evening, as Conference 2011 began, the Rev. Winnie Varghese invited us into what she called a retreat. I was unprepared for that invitation. I’ve been to almost every conference we’ve hosted as The Young Clergy Women Project. I say we because I feel some ownership. I should. I’m a board member. I have been for several years. It’s such a part of me that I managed somehow to not leave the board this year as was part of the plan. The only reason I missed the conference in 2008 was because I went to Iona with some young clergy women I had met the previous year. I have a deep love for this project but we’ve never had a conference that I would call a retreat. We’ve always gone to do something — to improve our preaching or leadership skills. We’ve never gathered simply to be.
But that was exactly the invitation. Come and retreat. Let go of the things that have been left undone and remember who you are. I didn’t really manage this as I was checking my email at church. I was worrying about them. I was wondering if everything was OK. I didn’t fully let go but I did remember something that I hadn’t heard in a long time.
It ended up being in my sermon. For the first time in a long time, I just wrote. I wrote a sermon that is so true I’m almost scared to preach it tomorrow morning. It reveals a vulnerability I don’t often share from the pulpit, but this conference was so good that I find myself wanting to share what I experienced. I want others to know. It was so good. There is some pride in that sigh of contentment. I feel like we’ve finally figured it out. In this second conference fully led by our board, we’ve managed to create an experience that is authentic to who we are as young clergy women. We’ve created a space that is really our own. It makes me giddy to wonder what will happen next year — but I’m not really ready to think about that. I’m still trying to absorb all that this week has meant to me. And it is so good.