Saturday, March 15, 2008

68.2 Miles

Early Monday morning I was with a group of clergy who had met to continue planning the opening worship service for the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference. I explained to them how I could meet with them that day but how I could not attend the meeting on the following afternoon because I would be on retreat.

"You are going on retreat the week before Easter?" one of my colleagues asked.

"Yes, I am going away this week. Everything is going to be crazy after Easter," I explained. "Once Easter is over, everything needs to be calculated to prepare us for our move back into the historic church."

My rationalization made sense to me. There is so much to do after Easter. There is so much to discern, to pray about, to think about and to prepare for as we think about moving the congregation from rented space to our permanent home after a very expensive and extravagant renovation. Still, there was more to the story. The real truth would come out in the days ahead.

The idea came up at a recent meeting of the Staff Parish Relations Committee. With new members participating in their first meeting as a committee member, I was explaining to the group that their chief purpose was not to respond to problems that come up with the pastor or staff. Rather, their chief purpose as a committee is to support the pastor, the staff and their families. With this explanation, one of the new members on the committee asked a question, "What are we doing to take care of our pastor?"

What are we doing to take care of our pastor?

It was a refreshing question to hear. I had not heard anyone ask it before.

The committee members continued to talk, with the older members adding information about vacation and continuing education. This newcomer added something else, "But our pastor is getting married. Our pastor is working hard. What are we doing to make sure she is taken care of - that she is taking care of herself?" She then continued, "I think we should require that she find time for a spiritual retreat between now and her wedding. We need to make sure that she goes away and takes care of herself."

At this point, I started to pinch myself. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. After some discussion about how I already had time off for vacation and continuing education, followed by an explanation of what a spiritual retreat is, the committee agreed that I needed to go away.

On Tuesday morning, I drove 68.2 miles to Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia. It took me just over one hour to arrive at a place described by one of the other retreatants as "just an inch or two below heaven."

And, I cannot wait to tell you more about what I discovered this week.

What a difference 68.2 miles can make.

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