Young clergy gather for retreat
By SUSAN ALLEN GRADY
Young clergy, aged 40(ish) and under, gathered at Camp Glisson April 29-May 1 for a time of retreat. Under the leadership of facilitator Dr. Alice Rogers and worship leader Chuck Bell, and with a special visit from Bishop Mike Watson, we spent those few days together practicing the art of storytelling, playing bongos, experiencing great worship time together, and forming friendships that we pray will last throughout our lives in ministry.
After a retreat held for young clergy in 2011, many of us realized that there is a need among clergy in our annual conference, especially our newest and youngest clergy, to really know each other. While it is a blessing to serve in a large annual conference in many ways, it is also hard to know clergy sisters and brothers well unless we take the time to develop relationships with one another. The theme of our retreat was Traveling Together, and our time was focused on how we can become more committed to traveling the path of ministry together in connection rather than competition. We kicked off with a conversation with Bishop Watson in which we had the opportunity to hear some of his story of life and ministry. Bishop Watson shared with us about the people who have encouraged him along his journey and both the joyful and difficult experiences he has had in ministry. He encouraged us to live the life of ministry in which we find ourselves right now and to practice holy living. He listened thoughtfully to our questions and responded honestly and with grace. It was a wonderful way to start a great time of retreat together!
As our facilitator, Dr. Alice Rogers taught and practiced with us the art of storytelling in the method of Jay O’Callahan. We shared much laughter as we heard about some of the incredible things that have happened to many of us. We practiced the method of telling about something deeply meaningful in a short amount of time (2 minutes!)—a skill we feel sure will help us become better preachers and teachers. We learned how to appreciate the simple act of listening to others as they tell their stories. This practice helped us to accomplish the major goal of our time together: nurturing a culture of connection among clergy in North Georgia.
Chuck Bell designed and led worship for us. The retreat planners (Revs. Matt Nelson, Elaine Wilder, Any Witt, Kory Trinrud, and myself) felt it was important for the attendees to be able to participate in rather than lead worship. And participate we did! We formed a drum circle, learned to play shakers and tambourines, and prayed. We listened to the Word of God, received Holy Communion together, and meditated upon images and music of our faith. We concluded our time together with a simple service of singing and the remembrance of our baptismal covenant, reminding one another that we share both a covenant with God and each other in our baptism and the call to ordained ministry.
I know that my journey has been changed because of the time I spent on this retreat getting to know new friends in ministry and growing in my relationships with others. And while I am quickly aging out of this group of young clergy, I know that coming in the generations beyond my own is a new tradition of young clergy gathering all over the conference for friendship, prayer, support, and (living into our United Methodist identity) connection. Next year’s retreat is April 28-30 at Camp Glisson. Who’s with me?
Susan Allen Grady is associate pastor Oak Grove UMC. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.