Today I’m getting a much-needed retreat. Thankfully I’m not one of those super-busy types that people try to track down even on days off, so I suppose I can tell you where I’m at. I’m up in a secluded little town called Ouray, about 70 miles north of Durango. I’ve passed through before, but never really stopped. The 12,000-foot mountains fencing in the town 360 degrees around are just mind-bottling. Durango looks like it’s in the middle of Kansas compared to the valley that Ouray sits in.
The occasion for this retreat is a gathering of others within my presbytery who are also on the path seeking ordination. It’s called an Inquirers’/Candidates’ Retreat. So there are about 10 of us at various stages along that journey, and we’re each joined by our mentors from our local congregation, and there are some presbytery-level folks here too. Coming from a congregationalist background, I would have initially flinched to read about such a gathering: “Ugh, all sorts of committee business and meetings and whatnot.” I would have assumed it would be a lot of wasted meeting time and red tape and whatnot.
So far, it has been nothing but refreshing. For starters, once I finally cleared the north end of Durango (a 20-minute exercise in traffic navigation), I had an absolutely breathtaking drive this morning, crossing three 10,000-foot passes, and zig-zagging down switchbacks, spying abandoned mining camps off in the distance, passing along a ledge of a road through a steep canyon with absolutely vertical (if not inverted in some places) thousand-foot walls. When I arrived at First Pres. Ouray it was a pretty informal time of just chatting with folks while everyone arrived. A good number of the other Inquirers and Candidates are in youth ministry jobs as well. Also, I met someone preaching her ordination sermon this weekend whose call is as a campus pastor at a college in Edmonton, Alberta. (Cool, I hadn’t thought about attaining PCUSA ordination while working with college kids…) After the mingling time, we went upstairs for a great worship service. Some songs that I would actually call “contemporary,” as well as a few like “Come Thou Fount.” Thankfully none of that Jesus is my significant other crap, though. Then the dude who just happens to be my presbytery-level mentor (not to be confused with congregation mentor), the Rev. Tom Hansen of First Pres. Grand Junction, shared some thoughts on pastoral calling. Tom mainly referenced Peterson and Willamon and read Moses’ and Jonah’s stories from The Message. His words penetrated to my core more than any message or sermon in recent memory. A lot about the idea of call vs. career, and the passage from Peterson’s book was awesome for that. Then a light lunch with friends also here from my home church, and topped off with a stroll downtown to a good cafe, which is where I’m sitting now.
I guess today probably counts as work, so I guess it’s safe to say work hasn’t left me feeling this refreshed in ages. You should find a way to have your work do the same for you.