A Sacred Interlude: AMiA Clergy on the Coast Retreat

By David+ Larlee, Rector, St. Bartholomew’s Dallas, TX

For my 43rd birthday, my son Thomas bought me a small figurine he found at a local antique store. It was of a buffalo, and he had been drawn to it. It was only later that the significance of that gift hit home.

When storms hit, buffalo, unlike other cattle, don’t run away from them. When a storm is approaching, their instincts lead them to run directly into it. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. By running toward the storm, the buffalo are able to get through it more quickly. They also minimize their exposure to the most dangerous parts of the storm, such as the leading edge where the winds are strongest.

To me this has served as a powerful metaphor for friendships among those leading in ministry alongside me. I have been a member of the Anglican Mission for a decade, and my experience is that when the storms of life hit, I had other leaders come alongside me and walk with me through those storms. Having received in such a way from so many I know, I try to reciprocate the help. In order to have that kind of missional society that rallies around those facing adversity to journey with them, we first need to retreat in order to advance.

Archbishop Rowan Williams once wrote that retreats are sacred interludes in the relentless symphony of life.They offer a precious opportunity to step aside from the cacophony of the world. While on retreat we are free from the distractions that hinder our walk with Jesus.

These retreats, whether in a remote monastery or in a coastal community off of the Gulf of Mexico, allow us to unburden our souls, reflect on our actions and attune ourselves afresh to the gospel. It’s about entering a space where the sacred and the mundane are inextricably entwined.

The value of retreats lies in their capacity to rejuvenate and refocus the soul so that we emerge from them with hearts aglow, ready to serve and inspire others.

A good retreat isn’t about escaping from reality, but rather returning to the very heart of worship by connecting with Jesus in a space of grace–where all that is expected of you is to receive.

This is what a number of Anglican Mission clergy experienced recently while on retreat in Destin, Florida. The host team, led by Rev. Caleb Miller and Immanuel Church, had thought of and tended to all the details, so that those who so regularly give out in ministry could receive.

Among the clergy gathered were chaplains, deacons, priests and bishops representing churches and ministries from Arkansas, California, Illinois, South Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.

We worshipped together, we prayed together and we broke bread together and feasted in between, all while listening and reflecting on the recent post-graduate work that Caleb+ has been conducting. The topic of study that was presented to the clergy was of a model for pastoral leadership in the New Testament that paints the pastoral role as a type of parental role. These reflections seemed especially apt given the cultural moment that the wider Church in America is in, where the senior pastor has been most recently defined and depicted as a CEO role.

In addition to the excellent teaching, a number of other things happened among the participants. A sense of community and belonging was renewed and fostered. What is more, connecting with other leaders encouraged collaboration, the sharing of vision and the offering and receiving of mutual support. I personally found it so encouraging to be able to listen and hear how my peers were rising to the challenges they were facing in their parishes and seeing the Jesus work powerfully in and through his Church.

In an era where the best possible content is available online on any subject from any number of sources, the need to meet together remains. It is only when we are together that we are able to lay hands on one another and pray for each other, to rejoice with each other and to weep together.

The hope of our hosts was that by taking time away from our everyday roles, we would gain fresh perspectives and insights that would have a profound impact on our congregations.

I am so thankful to the team in Destin, Florida and in the Anglican Mission that made the retreat possible.

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