I got back last night from my second retreat in five days. This last one was the Gateways Retreat, or a clergy retreat. We were all a little rattled from the nearly white knuckle drive up (and there were some accidents in the group on the way) as well as from our recent budget sessions at all our respective churches, and the copious colds that everyone was just recovering from. It was good to be together.
We heard a speaker, N. Graham Standish, speak about a variety of things. I was looking forward to hearing him talk about his last book, Humble Leadership, but he didn't get there. A small generational rebellion broke out when he dissed Facebook and then spent the next session teaching us about generational issues from a 1991 book that all of us under 45 know very well, especially since it paints Gen-Xers in a negative light. There was a large crew of folks chattering on the edges about the disconnect, and a lot of laptops using Facebook to process the whole thing.
Despite the generational frustration the bishop got up and said, among other goals, she wanted the Minnesota Annual Conference to have the largest percentage of young clergy in the connection (we are in the middle on that stat.) And we ended with a worship service designed by some of our youngest clergy. They sent us home with gorgeous cards with the names of fellow leaders in the conference, asking us to pray for them, after we had lit candles for them. For me the younger generation of clergy gives me hope that there is life in the church. Besides that they offer so much to me and my view of things. (I am decidedly middle-aged these days.)
My favorite part of the retreat is always being with my colleagues. I love Annual Conference but we are all working so hard and have so much to do; at the retreat it is clear the point is to be together. My next favorite part is when the Bishop preaches to us, because it is the only time she preaches to us. She uses it as a time to address communal issues but also to provide pastoral care for us, to encourage us.
To end she had us stand in a circle putting our hands on each other's shoulders for a ritual of recommitment to the ministry. That's what these gatherings are, in the end -- a time of remembering why we are clergy, why we are in ministry, and knowing we have strength for the journey ahead.
And I think I'll still read the guy's book.