Engaging in deep reflection
Having just spent four productive days engaging with a group of ministry agents on retreat in one of our rural and regional presbyteries, I am reflecting on the deep value of spending time in this way.
It takes time to engage in deep reflection on the complex journey from endings to new beginnings. Space without everyday responsibilities is a gift that allows for not only the recalling of our experiences of endings, transitions and new beginnings but also for disciplined reflection on this experience. The retreat provides fertile psycho-spiritual space within which transformation can occur.
Time spent in deepening our awareness is also enhanced by the presence of a supportive community on a similar journey. As we share of ourselves and hear one another’s experience and insights, we grow in the safe space of true Christian fellowship.
We all, I am sure, instinctively affirm the wisdom of Jesus taking his disciples away to a quiet place; up the mountain or across the lake. We also know, as he did, how difficult it is to find this space amidst the busyness.
At one retreat, I heard a minister greet another with the words, “How did you manage to get the time off?” In fact, attending a retreat is not “time off” but serious work, for which it is as important to make the time as any other part of the job — perhaps more so.
Some presbyteries are in the habit of holding such retreats every year, or at least since Ross Kingham gave us his concept of ‘Kaltara Retreats’. In at least one presbytery in NSW/ACT, attendance at the annual retreat is written into the terms of settlement of every person entering a placement.
It should not be optional! We know from the example of Jesus and many other great spiritual leaders that this time of reflection and refreshment is crucial as part of our close and ongoing walk with God, as well as for healthy relationships with our communities. This is especially important given that we can all get caught up in the individualistic culture of our modern society.
This was brought home to me with renewed force recently at an induction service in a large urban presbytery. When the time came for members of presbytery to stand and greet the newly inducted minister, the five who were present did so! I felt sad that this person was not able to experience the strong affirmation and support of his colleagues in ministry at this important starting point of his settlement.
I perceive that leadership is among the most critical issues facing our church at this time. Being in retreat together is a vital part of the support, nurture and growth of those who are called to guide and resource the church in these challenging times.
And yes, it is true not only for ministry agents, but for all who seek to follow Jesus in service of the common good. We need the time. We need the space. We need the disciplined reflection.
It is not an optional extra as we seek to embrace Christ’s offer of life in all its fullness.
Rev. Brian Brown, Moderator, NSW and ACT Synod