Multiple times, our bishop has stated that we pastors need to set aside specific time to be with the Lord. Often that is easier said than done, especially with the demanding schedules we have - both the expectations our congregations have of us and the expectations we place upon ourselves (the work is never done, and when do I have time to go on retreat!?) work against the fact that retreat is necessary. C'mon; Jesus Himself retreated frequently for private prayer times (and also frequently took his closest friends with Him).
I haven't been on retreat in a long time. I've led retreats, but that's not the same. So Tara went looking online for Pastor's Retreats, and she found the Pastors' Retreat Network. If you are a pastor, please check this link out. Furthermore, if you have a pastor, please give them the information. This is a resource that's almost too good to be true.
We went to the Valley View Inn, out in Amish country in Northeast Ohio. It was amazing just to see and hear about how the Amish live. Holmes County has the largest Amish population in the world (apparently 30,000 families strong). So as we drove around, we constantly had to be aware of the buggies, pedestrians, bikes, etc. we shared the road with.
Lessons learned from the Amish:
- Amish kids at recess love baseball. We saw many, many Amish schools (that only go up to 8th grade), and often (usually) the kids were at recess, and that meant baseball. I saw one girl make a pretty spectacular catch, stepping over a teammate who had tripped while going after the same ball.
- The Amish know what community is all about. It's interesting to live in a town where community is important, yet to see how short they fall in comparison to the Amish. They truly depend on one another.
- The Amish know what it means to move slowly. It's not as if they necessarily want to, but their lifestyle necessitates that they move slowly. I saw one man walking a pair of horses some five (?) miles down the road. Nearly two hours later, I saw him bringing them back with a piece of machinery to work his field. Somehow, I doubt that boredom enters their picture as much as it does ours.
- The Amish aren't stupid. They may not embrace some of our technology (electricity, for example), and they may only have an 8th grade education, but that doesn't mean they are dumb. We stopped into Keim Lumber, in their incredible new showroom, and it was humorous to see Amish employees sitting at the computer, talking on the phone. It's not that they aren't aware of technology or even capable of using it; they choose not to have it in their homes. Maybe, even if we don't choose to embrace their ideas, we have something to learn from them.
We used Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline extensively, as it is an extremely good way of getting started in spiritual disciplines. We spent a lot of time in the Word, especially since another option that we chose to do was to read the entire New Testament aloud. We did so by taking 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening and reading aloud, taking turn by chapter.
Unlike any other retreat I've been on, this retreat was not about building relationship with the other participants. In fact, other than the sharing we did around the table at lunch and dinnertime, we really didn't interact with the others. This was fine, as the purpose of the retreat was to get alone with God and with our spouses. That said, there were several others there, too, and we enjoyed our time around the table together. Denomination and the discussion of theology and/or doctrine was not allowed (we were told to leave it all at the front door) - this was a great thing, as we were allowed to make better "first impressions" than we might have made had we been identified primarily by our denominational affiliations. Instead, we knew each other by first name first.
Here is a group photo. We argued that I ought to be on the end; "you don't put the point guard between the center and power forward," I posed. But that didn't happen, so I look like a Hobbit.
I'll write more later, specifically about what I "got out" of this retreat. I'll also continue my running journal as I find time.