Friday, October 06, 2006

Getting ready to go on retreat

Every year at this time, our district ministers' chapter goes to a retreat center for four days of retreat and training. We go this Sunday to Palisades Retreat Center after solemnizing the ordination of a local candidate for UU ministry, always a celebratory occasion. We'll arrive at Palisades about 9 p.m., punchdrunk from a full day of preaching, processing, and then recessing to the sanctuary of a place where there will be no plaintive parishioners, no services to plan, no pastoral visits to make, no administrivia to delegate. Not that any of this will be far from our minds, but for those days, at least, we will not be on call. Except in cases of dire emergency, others will cover for us for this span of time.

Of course, a ministers' retreat is not all play and no work. In the dim dark past, retreats were mostly convivial, in the days when ministry was mostly a good ole boys' vocation. When women became more of a presence in the ordained ministry, things changed! Now a ministers' retreat always has some redeeming social value; we have preaching seminars and social action trainings and creativity modules and lots of worship, plus a lengthy business meeting. In addition, one of our longer-term colleagues presents his or her Odyssey, a recap of the life's journey that led the colleague into ministry and to this point in life.

But what we all look forward to, whether we are players or bystanders, is a cutthroat Charades game, which starts after the Odyssey is properly received and celebrated and lasts until one team of 12 or so players is vanquished (more or less) by the other team. Propriety prevents me from giving details but your imaginations can carry you far. Consider the possibilities: each team carefully plots the titles with which they will challenge the other team and the only firm rule is that at least three people on the presenting team MUST have real knowledge of the work, which could be a book, movie, TV show, song, opera, poem, or other literary or artistic opus. Consider that some of these folks have just come out of their studies, where they encountered things like "The Collected Works of ee cummings" or participated in stagings of The Vagina Monologues or have some inordinate fondness for obscure children's literature or indie films or odd PBS series. You get the picture.

No search committee will ever know what some of their prospective candidates have done in the name of Charades. No colleague will ever spill the beans on who did what when acting out "The Full Monty" or "Birth of a Nation". But it is the fodder of sly and amused glances at formal occasions, when so and so is being quite pompous and overbearing and we remember him or her when..........

5 comments:

LinguistFriend said...

I found myself wondering what sort of company St. Paul would have been at a ministers' retreat. Not very good, I suspect. But he was someone who created congregations rather than actually made them work. When you take a group, the membership of which is composed of people whose skills are to a considerable extent based on managing other people(in this case mostly volunteers), the possibilities of the dynamics when you get them together seem quite extreme.
LinguistFriend

Joel said...

Birth of a Nation? Are you serious? Forgive my stereotyping, but UU ministers strike me as the sort of people who would find that film abhorrent. (Heck, David Duke might be bothered by it.) Of course, you're the only UU minister I actually know in person, but still...

And LinguistFriend, I suspect St. Paul wouldn't have been much fun for other clergy to be around, either. Although I wonder sometimes if he had a sense of humor that he just never let get into his writings.

ms. kitty said...

Of course it's abhorrent! But it's still a great title to make the other team act out. Charades thrives on surprises, you know.

Berrysmom said...

Our ministers' chapter goes on retreat for the next few days, too. We start at noon on Monday in a retreat center near (not at) the beach in Delaware, spend the equivalent of two full days learning, playing, gossiping, shopping (many outlets nearby), sharing--such good collegial connection.

I haven't read Lively Tradition's most recent post, but he will be the presenter at our retreat. Should be lively!

ms. kitty said...

I may have left the impression that we ministers go to our retreats mainly to play Charades and laugh at each other. That's actually only a minor reason.

The real reason I look forward to our retreats is that it's a place where everyone present knows just how hard it is to be clergy. In our check-in sessions, both large and small group, we hear what's going on in each others' lives, the professional and personal crises that inevitably arise in such a values-laden vocation, and we have a chance to unburden ourselves among people who know and care how we are doing.

It may be the only place where that is possible, short of a cathartic session with another minister. Friends in other careers just don't get it. Parishioners, of course, are the antithesis of an appropriate venue for unloading. One's family may be supportive but are also too close to the situation to be helpful, though it can feel good when one's relative (in my case several years ago, my son) wants to bawl out the offending party for me (a pleasure which I denied myself and him).

So I'm looking forward very much to the retreat, with all its elements, including those colleagues who aren't as much fun. I love them too. And think of us out here in the PNWD on Tuesday night about 9 p.m., when Charades start!