For the third time now, I have been privileged to help as a part of the team that has put on what we call, “Soul-Care Retreats.”
These retreats were created for clergy in the Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in which I serve. They are less an opportunity for learning, and more an opportunity to care for oneself as we navigate the rigors of ministry.
I have found a lot of joy in these “unstructured” retreats:
There are opportunities for worship, fellowship, activity, and yes, learning. However, none of it is forced. Much of it is planned around the renewal and revitalization of clergy in our conference. Even the last two retreats have been planned around Lent and Advent. Two seasons that clergy hardly get opportunities to celebrate due to our leadership role in the local church. Much of the planning of these retreats is left to our Office of Clergy Excellence and other clergy who serve in the area of spiritual vitality for clergy.
Leading at the Retreat:
In the first iteration of this retreat, I was asked to lead an early morning group of people for a walk/jog/run. It was an envisioned time of “movement” for retreat attendees.
The first time I did it, I lived into the spirit of it and offered people to move as was most comfortbale to them. We had some walkers and runners. However, in that first time I noticed the need more for movement and fellowship than for it to be a specific type of movement.
So, I adjusted my plan, and led all of us to walk, as a spiritual practice. I wanted it to be enticing no matter what speed you appreciated. I wanted it to be an inclusive opportunity (well inclusive for all who can rise and be ready to go at 6:30 but that’s a question for another time).
Now I have been responsible for leading this morning walk each time since. I have led it around the grounds of the Episcopal Church’s Roslyn Retreat Center, on the outskirts of Richmond, Va.
Walking as Spirutal Movement:
As someone who is a morning person, I do like this walk when it is at 6:30 AM. I love it because the sun is just about to come up and the dew is still freshly forming on the ground. We usually walk around the campus of Roslyn, along the u-shaped road and then in across the field that makes up the center of the grounds (makes it about a one mile walk).
To say it is a “refreshing” time would be an understatement.
There is a sense of renewal that comes along with it. I know how important movement of any kind is in our pratices and rituals of self- care.
I try to stay free of creating strict rules during this time. It is meant to be a moment of relaxing and moving out in God’s Creation.
- I will invite persons to walk at their own pace, and to engage as they wish (while honoring others desires as well).
- If people want to have a conversation, they can have one.
- If they want to walk alone and just reflect or pray, then by all means.
- If they want to stop because the sunrise is shining beautifully against the tree line, then take in the beauty of God’s creation.
I usually begin our time with a reflection on the joy of movement, and especially movement outside.
My joy in this practice is that it slows me down. When I first did this event, we pitched it as a run/walk time. We wanted to get people moving and have an opportunity carved out for them to do so. However, I noticed that we were missing a certain fellowship opportunity.
Yes, we could invite people to run if they desired, but not everyone wanted to run. Yes, we could have made it a time of silence, but people also had a desire to talk (not about work, but about life). Therefore, I left it more unstructured, with everyone given the opportunity to move, together
As I have learned and adapted over the past few retreats now, I have noticed that it is less about what I say in our gathering time, than the expression of community that takes place on the walk. I can give a devotion at the start and offer what I think is God’s word, or I can let God speak for themselves as we walk in community together.
Inevitably the topic comes to why I am not running (or when will I get my run in). I often reflect back to the person, that I will ghet my run in, proabbly later that day. However, I also let them know that I do try to walk quite a bit, and especialy try to walk outsdie.
Importance of Outside Movement:
I remember on “The Growth Equation Podcast”, one of the hosts, Brad Stuhlberg, talked about the boost you get from taking a five minute break during work. However, he and co-host Steve Magness, went on to talk about the exponetial boost you get when that break is taken in the form of a walk outside. The change of scenery and the movement help our blood flow and even helps our attention spac (something I appreciate with ADHD).
This time in the morning on these retreats reminds me how vital it is to break my own day up and just go for a walk. I need a time where I am not worrying about pace, but I move at the pace of the Spirit within me. This practice of walking and walking outside is a tool I lvoe to utilize in my self-care ritual.
The Gift of Movement
Movement is such a gift that we often take for granted. It is something we fail to realize its value until it is gone. Movement is a gift because it can take us on incredible journeys and in moving we can accomplish amazing things.
What starts as a walk, could turn into a run.
What starts as a tuck roll can turn into front hand springs.
What starts as swinging a pickball paddle can turn into a full fledge addiction to the fastest growing sport in the US.
Movement is a gift. Movement outside carries even more of a special meaning as we are given the gift of moving around in God’s creation. We have the opportunity to take in what God has created and given life to.