The Last Retreat

Two years ago, I began this journey with four other women in a cohort group in College of Pastoral Leaders at Austin Theological Seminary. It all started with a group of women that I met as part of The Young Clergy Women Project. We became fast friends. There were dinners and bottles of wine. There was conversations and this desire for something more. In all honesty, we were looking for an excuse to spend more time together. That is, an excuse to drink wine together. So we applied to this program with lofty ideas about how we would support each other in trying to understand what makes our leadership different as young clergy women. We knew were were doing it differently. We just didn’t understand why we were different.

a96cd-photoWe applied to this grant. We had big ideas and crazy dreams. There was nothing that could stop us — except that lots has changed in those two years.

One member of our group had a baby. Three of us left our churches. Only one of those three is serving a church now.

And then, there was this moment the last time we were together in Washington DC where we each wondered if we were called to traditional churches. It’s the assumption that began this grant. We wanted to better understand how to create change within traditional churches. We didn’t want to do abandon those churches and start something new. That’s what we had said. But something changed in that retreat in DC. Something about us changed.

Today I’m leaving for the last retreat we’ll share funded by College of Pastoral Leaders at Austin Theological Seminary. I know this isn’t really the last retreat because we still have so many questions. And we really do enjoy drinking wine together. That won’t end this week. I know it won’t. It’ll continue. Something will happen past this point. But, I ask for your prayers. I ask for your prayers this week as we gather for our last retreat in Arizona as we try to better understand where God is leading each of us in life and ministry.

It is holy time indeed.

I Needed This Sacred Pause

Way back when in the beginning of Lent, I was looking for words. I was hoping to inspire the writer within me. I was hoping to release my creativity with words. So I wrote morning pages and picked up a copy of this book.

In truth, I had pre-ordered it from the good people at Amazon. Because I had so loved her first book. It kept me company during another Lent some time ago. In just a few words, Rachel G. Hackenberg had inspired playfulness and wonder with the magic of words.

And now, she’s done it again. In her new book, Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-weary Christian, there is this same playfulness. There is same sense of wonder. In a book about words, it is not heavy with words. I don’t know how she does it. But, somehow, she manages to explore the gifts of language and living. There are these wonderfully keen observations about social media. Social media, of all things! Even as she comments upon this changing world, so that it might seem easy to be burdened by the weight of change, reading these words truly feels like a retreat. I was suspicious of this — especially after being led in a retreat on this very same material on a Clergy Retreat during my time in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ. Because her energy was contagious and silly. It was delightful to hear these words leap off the page. (This manuscript preacher was also delighted to see her pay such careful attention to the page in this retreat.) I wasn’t sure if the same energy could be read. Because you can’t always hear the author when you’re reading. You can’t always hear her careful guidance and her gentle pushing. You can’t always hear the voice of the author. But, in this little retreat book, you can.

There is a presence in her words. She truly embodies each word and gives it her own flesh — just as she encourages the participants on this retreat to do. I needed this sacred pause. I didn’t finish it before Easter. I finished it several weeks later. But I really did need this sacred pause — and I bet you do too.