Saturday, 15 June 2024

Minister's Retreat 2024 - A Pocketful of Joy

'She's off on a cruise!' is probably not the answer our retreat leaders were expecting when they asked the question 'Where could we find our Joy?' Explanations followed, Sr Joy Raynor was indeed away on a cruise, and a feeling of light-hearted joviality continued to permeate much of the retreat.

As I have discovered over the past year, ministerial work can be very consuming of time and energy, and it is essential that ministers take time to recharge their own batteries in order to continue to have energy to serve their congregations. Ammerdown Retreat Centre in Somerset was a lovely setting for the retreat, a beautiful old building set in woods with a walled garden. Our rooms were comfy, the food was superb, there was a small bar for evening relaxation, and the company was invigorating, what more could we want?

Our retreat leaders, Bruce and Sarah Johnson from Derby, led our morning and evening worship with a series of Lent prayers and reflections from the Journey Community. We were joined on Zoom by some of their community for these prayers which added an interesting element to the worship. As a Moravian who loves singing, I did find the absence of music during the retreat a little strange. However, there was a hymn in our final service and, before it started, we did sing a couple of impromptu verses when one of our number spotted a song she had not sung since childhood!

The theme of the retreat was 'A Pocket Full of Joy' and each day started with an introduction to an element of joy, led by Sarah. We could then choose from, craft-based activities with Sarah, or looking, with Bruce, at some of the chapters of the book 'Hit the Ground Kneeling' by Stephen Cottrell. There were several interesting discussions about the challenges facing us as leaders, and I certainly appreciated Bruce's use of Dilbert cartoons to illustrate some of his points.

Some lovely pieces of craft were produced by those who chose Sarah's sessions, despite their creators thinking that they were not really 'arty'. I had great fun with free-flowing water colours during the prayer painting session! Those not wanting to attend the structured activities could also enjoy periods of free time absorbing the peace and quiet of the surroundings, going for a walk, or losing themselves wandering the labyrinth in the garden.

There was one very poignant session at the start where we had been asked to bring something small that brought us joy. In small groups we shared our items and then placed them on a central display. Amongst them were ornaments, shells, musical instruments, pictures, pin cushions, a table tennis bat, fruit, an olive wood cross and image of Jesus, and a poem written by a loved one. Each story of why they were special and why they brought joy was unique, heartfelt, and very moving.

Opportunities for ministers to be able to relax and recharge are very important. Yes, we are a small church, and all 'know' each other, but it is at times such as these where there is a chance to get to know each other in greater depth, to share ideas and expertise, and to be able to support each other. It is also a rare space where we can just 'be' as individuals without the external expectations of us from our ministerial roles.

Bruce and Sarah encouraged us to make cultivating joy something that we practiced as a positive daily routine. Being joyful isn't necessarily the same as being happy but having the ability to be joyful, even when things are hard in our lives, is a learned skill. They gave us the following five ways as a starter to cultivating joy in our lives:

  • Notice the things that make you happy.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Write and say thank you.
  • Spend time with joyous people.
  • Know who you are.

So, whilst we missed Sr Raynor and the few ministers who were not able to attend, we did indeed find joy during the retreat and left with our pockets full of it!

Sr Sue Groves
Lay Pastor at Brockweir Moravian Church

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