Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. – Psalm 84:5
(Note: these photographs are not mine – I found them on Google Images, then they were adapted for use in this post)
Outside of this blog I write regular columns for a number of editors. One of my most important current gigs is filing reports for the Florida United Methodist Foundation (FUMF). The foundation handles loans and investments for churches in the Florida Conference and numerous related non-profits. Endless columns of facts and figures notwithstanding, I run into some fascinating stories when I ask the right questions.
One recent assignment had me interview several pastors who received “Clergy Renewal Leave Grants,” part of the FUMF’s commitment to support church leaders and to encourage them to care for their own spiritual needs. I’m not going to share their personal details here (for that you’ll have to peruse the “NEWS” page on FUMF’s website), but I am going to tell you how inspirational these conversations were.
What made this year’s crop of recipients unique was the creativity of the proposals. I know, “Methodist preachers thinking outside of the box,” whatever next!
Seriously though, most of us think about spiritual retreats in one-dimensional terms. But these men – and women – are engaging renewal with everything they have – body, mind, soul… and imagination.
- One is driving cross-country – the entire length of historic Route 66 – in a yellow Corvette, stopping to photograph crosses he sees along the way and learning the stories.
- Another pastor is attending a leadership course in the Rocky Mountains built around breaking horses. He’ll also be sitting at the feet of story-tellers and hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail.
- The next preacher I talked with plans to hike the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), in Portugal, France, and Spain.
- Other renewal activities include watercolor painting, mosaic building, and – always – prayer.
When I talked to these leaders – some senior pastors at churches with thousands of members – I was struck by their humility, their deep sense of personal need for spiritual renewal, and their single-minded pursuit of God in every conceivable life circumstance.
In consequence, I plan on approaching this coming long weekend as a personal pilgrimage of sorts. I will actively look for the presence of God along the way. And I will try to share some of the encounters Rebekah and I have with The Holy.
Maybe, if I word my posts just so, I can qualify for one of those grants too!
In love, and because of love – DEREK