I'm just back from our spring UUMA retreat at the Jesuit retreat center Palisades in Federal Way, feeling refreshed and energized by a few days away from my normal routine of ministry and household tasks. I had hoped to be able to sleep later than 5:30 a.m., since I would not be sleeping with three cats either pinning me to the bed or scratching outside the closed bedroom door. (No such luck---I appear to be doomed to wake up early in the morning with or without cats.)
Our programming in the spring tends to be pretty laid back, with plenty of free time and conversational groups. This year we structured the conversations a little bit differently, starting with what we call a "shallow check-in", i.e., a quickie rundown from every person present on their current professional and personal life, in one minute or less. Normally, we follow that up with "deep" check-in, small groups sitting together and sharing at a deeper level. But this time we were divided into small groups according to similar paths (small congregation ministers, community ministers, retired, student) with no more than 3 in a group, and spent almost two hours together in a "Clearing Circle" format. It was lovely, even better than my experiences with deep check-in in previous years. I hope we do it that way again.
The next day, we came together again in different small groups of six to share our spiritual journeys and the things we loved and did not love about Unitarian Universalism. Again, this was a rich and rewarding experience. In each case, I got to know colleagues I'd not known well before and to understand them more clearly, rather than relying on my first impressions of them.
It was also a good retreat in that after ten years I no longer feel like a newbie! There are still many people who were here before me, but I'm now one of the "elders" in the chapter and have a certain set of skills and memories that shape the colleague I am to them.
I opted out of Charades this year and just watched. I think I'll do this from now on; I enjoy Charades but I get so wound up by the competition and anxiety of impromptu performance that I don't sleep well. It was just as much fun to watch as to play. And I went to bed and slept rather than tossing and turning and second-guessing how I SHOULD have portrayed "The Full Monty".