CLERGY COUPLES RETREAT REPORT
BY THE REV'D MARK RUDOLPH
Christ our Hope offered its first retreat for clergy couples in April in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. These retreats are designed to be thoughtful and soul-nurturing times, small gatherings with real conversation, time for couples to get to know other couples and time for couples to simply share the gift of being alone with each other. Each year the Diocese will offer two retreats—one in the middle Atlantic, one in the Northeast. The next retreat is scheduled for September 29-October 1, 2016. Location in the northern half of our Diocese, TBA. Contact David Hyman for more information or to register.
Here’s a report from Rev Mark Rudolph (St John’s, Willow Grove, PA). He and Lynn attended our first clergy couples gathering.
Sometimes naming a thing for what it is can be a revelation all its own. Can discussions about (supposedly) obvious topics like friendship, calling, brokenness, and love yield anything truly fruitful for a married couple? They sure can!
As married couples know, marriage is a blessing, in part because it is a crucible, perhaps the most effective crucible, for making us holy and more wholly effective in life.
Each partner in marriage brings different cultures, experiences, vocabularies, styles, preferences, dreams, sometimes ethics and views of God, and even their own individual “mythology” about what marriage is supposed to be. The classical five areas of conflict—children, communication, money, religion, sex—will all at one time or another provide a context for growth in love, or increase in distance.
Add to that mix the responsibility of the “cure of souls” and the concomitant temptations and struggles of loneliness, people pleasing, church conflicts, and expectations, and one has the potential for a real blessing … or … something else.
Bishop Steve Breedlove, together with his wife Sally, recognize an additional set of responsibilities which they carry: Bishop Steve has the responsibility of the cure of souls of those who have the cure of souls. Over two days in the beautiful High Country of North Carolina near the town of Boone, they combined sound biblical knowledge, thoughtful meditation, and decades of personal and pastoral experience in the first of what will be twice yearly clergy couples’ retreats.
Though conversation ranged widely, the focus was on how to help the non-clergy person walk alongside their clergy partner. The four key areas with some salient questions and points were:
Calling: Are only ordained people called? Can couples be “called” without thinking of the married couple as a “two-fer,” two for the price of one? What is calling? In what ways does marriage itself contribute to calling, and calling to marriage?
Friendship: What is friendship, what are its characteristics? Can clergy have friends in the church they serve? Do we really need friends? In what ways is marriage meant to be “the best human friendship?”
Brokenness and crisis: Brokenness is, by definition, something that happens to us, not something we can manage. Should we show weakness to our churches? How can we minister to the church and each other as broken people? How can we minister to the broken partner in their dark times? What in the world does Paul mean that “power is perfected in weakness”?
Love: What is love from a godly perspective? Do we dare ask our partners, “What is it like to be with me?” What does it mean to learn to love like God loves? How does love actually grow in a ministry marriage?
The weekend provided a balanced use of time, rich content, and fun in fellowship. Strongly recommended!