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..........