Time for that post about the Clergy Spouse Retreat! Each year the Clergy Spouses (dubbed "Spice" by resident lunatic, Brett Probert) have a three day retreat at one of the conference camps. This year the retreat was held at Camp Allegheny, near Johnstown, PA. For ten years I have been attending these retreats and I think I have only missed two...once because I was pregnant with Claire and near my due date and once because the retreat was rescheduled due to the September 11 attacks. There are very few other reasons I would miss it. Being a clergy spouse isn't easy. At least I don't think it is, and I really like people. As a clergy spouse you are in a unique situation where you are thrown into a new environment, and yet, you can only really connect with that new environment in so many ways. No matter how much you love your congregation and no matter how dear certain people become to you, you still have to have some boundaries regarding confidentiality and intimacy. I've gone round and round about this with some people and we don't all agree, but if you're looking to find your best friend in your local church, chances are you're going to be terribly disappointed. To me, a best friend is someone I can say anything to at any time. Say the wrong something to the wrong someone in a church and your husband is suddenly standing in the pulpit each Sunday with a giant target on his chest. The same holds true for your children. There is a certain amount of protection that is necessary to survive the role of clergy family.
Now, this all sounds very negative, but it isn't. It's real. I have met hundreds of truly lovely people in our ten years of ministry. The far majority of people I've met would never do something to hurt me or my family and I am so blessed for that. But it only takes a handful of people to make things really, really miserable. What I'm saying is, that even though we're dealing with the most intimate issues of our humanity...spirituality, love, service, death and life...I have always felt I needed to be a bit guarded. That's just been my experience. The clergy spouse retreat gives me the opportunity to unload, relax and let that guard down. Of course, you have to watch what you say there as well, because everyone knows everyone (!), but these are friends that I have grown to have such a deep connection with, that I feel I can trust them and be myself. And we have so much fun! This year's theme was "joy"..."The joy of the Lord is my strength". The retreat committee did an excellent job! It's not easy to plan such an event and work out all the details. Having served on the retreat committee for two years, I can appreciate all that dedication. This year's committee really thought of everything. We had plenty of time to relax and also had nice options to choose from. There were some crafty things to do. I made this snowman and some other people made really nice stamped cards or learned how to crochet. There was even horse-back riding. Thursday night Bishop Bickerton joined us and we spoke for a while about joy and how to have joy in our lives. I think it's basically a decision we make. Joy doesn't mean that nothing "bad" ever happens or even necessarily that you're happy all the time. But joy comes from knowing that through it all, we're God's and he's always, always with us. The bishop was a little under the weather and he had a long drive to and from Cranberry Township, but we were really glad that he made the time for us.
This year we didn't have breakfast until 9 AM! Usually we have to get up for breakfast at 8:00 or so...while that's certainly not early and we're all usually up before that on a regular school day, it was nice to sleep in a little bit. However, I was starving!! I really had a good time. I just love these friends. There are some people I have seen every year since 1996 and some people I met for the first time. Then there's Ken! Bless his heart! Ken has been at every retreat I've ever been to and always has something wonderful to share. He is so comfortable with himself, he doesn't mind being the only guy there. (Then again, we're such a beautiful bunch, who could complain??!) Christine was there (calling me a heathen) with her mother, Wilma Jean. When Wilma Jean talks, we listen! Mary was there too, knitting something amazing! She is the first person I ever saw knitting socks with self-striping yarn and little bamboo needles. She inspired me to learn to knit. Now I want to learn to quilt because she's an amazing quilter. She's going to think I'm stalking her! Cheryl and Kathy signed one of the hymns for us...beautiful. We told jokes, shared funny stories and talk way into the night. I took an upper bunk (big mistake) and got so wrapped up in my sleeping bag that I abandoned it the second night. Wilma was there with her cousin, Lynn who is a Presbyterian pastor's wife. That's cool...I think we should do more together. These are just some of the people I thought of, but they're all great. As soon as the weather gets cool and I know retreat's coming I start to think of them. Maybe next year Doreen will be able to make it, but she's in Ireland now and that's a bit of a trek!
Since I've been home I made this bib for a baby Keith baptized on Sunday. Not bad for one night's work. I also finished Carlie's socks! I knitted about 9 inches of the leg while on retreat and got them finished this afternoon. I can't believe how well the stripes line up. I had made really detailed notes about where to stop and start different parts of the pattern. I guess it paid off!
I hope they fit her. I'm going to include a pair of googly eyes in the package, too and tell her if they don't fit she can make them into sock puppets!