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Retreats offer ‘soul time’

Retreats address seasons of the soul

March 25-27 marks the first of three Courage to Lead Retreats. Michigan Conference clergy have an opportunity to renew their calling.

KAY DEMOSS
Senior Content Editor

The Vision of The Michigan Conference states the organization’s intent to “equip and connect through: Christ-centered mission and ministry; bold effective leaders; and vital congregations.”

Jennifer Browne, Director of Clergy Excellence for The Michigan Conference, has a passion for helping clergy leaders become bolder and more effective. She describes the context. “Our nation and our church are both experiencing major upheavals right now. These are the moments when people turn to their clergy leaders for wisdom and guidance.” Browne adds, “We sense that these are times calling for bold and effective leadership, and we wonder if we’re capable of meeting that challenge.”

The director adds, “Continually finding the courage to lead requires ‘soul time,’ time set apart for prayer, conversation, and reflection.” And that’s why the Office of Clergy Excellence is helping provide such set-apart time. They are underwriting three 3-day Courage to Lead Retreats, hoping to make this opportunity accessible to all clergy leaders in The Michigan Conference.

The first retreat is at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, March 25-27. The second and third will take place at Lake Huron Retreat Center in Burtchville, October 26-28 and 28-30. The costs vary from $300 to $400. Details and registration forms are available here.

Sarah Hescheles and Nathan Kirkpatrick will guide these retreats, both talented and experienced retreat leaders, who will provide the structure and safety needed by the retreat participants to dig deep and look anew at themselves and their ministries. “They are deeply faithful church leaders themselves, committed to helping other disciples live out the healthy future that God desires for us and to which God calls us,” Browne says.

Hescheles and Kirkpatrick invite clergy to an experience that will help them renew a sense of calling, a return to their “true north.” Hescheles observes, “Pastors feel the weight of every compromise in their souls. They have the pain of saying something that they wish they didn’t have to say; there’s the pain of not saying something that we needed to say. There’s the hurt we feel on behalf of others.” All of that, she says, leads to a burden of guilt, shame, and betrayal.

Hescheles acknowledges that, despite all they carry, pastors can reclaim the feeling of being true to their convictions. She describes it this way. “There’s the passion of the sermon when it’s honest to God and to our people; the energy found when serving in ways which resonate with the deepest parts of who they are and who God is calling them to be in this moment, not who they think they should be.” And she speaks about pastors who gain “increased creativity when they are not bound by ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ and invite ‘could’ into the conversation.”

Courage to Lead provides space for pastors to get back to “living the life God has uniquely gifted me for.” Hescheles notes, “When we experience leading from ‘true north,’ we don’t ever want to do anything but that.” Facilitators, participants, and God create sacred space together during the retreat.

The facilitators have seen lives changed as the hours in such retreats unfold. “We’ve seen people who wonder if this is still their vocation come away with renewed passion and energy for the work of ministry. We’ve seen people who were unsure if their marriages would make it find the courage to love,” Hescheles reports. She recalls pastors “who have been ready to give up on a place and on a people find hope to go back and keep serving. And then there are the people who come to us with more than a few wounds from their ministries find some measure of healing.”

Additional details about how the experience of Courage to Lead can help a clergyperson find “true north,” can be found on the event website.

Hescheles concludes, “Above all, during this process, we find people realize that they’re not alone – that there are people that they can reach out to, people who care and who are going through the same things.” These realizations are personal and more. “It changes people. It unites people. It transforms the church!”