I’m writing this within a few hours of returning from our annual Fall Clergy Conference, now called a Clergy Gathering. Retired clergy rarely attend these meetings, but I enjoy being with long time friends, meeting the new clergy, and keeping up on what is happening, especially since I’m still in active ministry.
The first one I attended was in 1968, which means 53 years of Clergy Gatherings. I was the only representative from “the old crowd” at this gathering. And I find it so interesting how they reflect the times and history of the church. Of course, the old gatherings were all male. We met in Ascension, Norfolk’s Parish Hall. The cigarette smoke was thick enough to cut with a knife. And all of us who were local were expected to house out of town clergy in our guest rooms. The bishop’s office assigned who would stay where.
Just prior to the ordination of women, we started meeting at Camp Chanco. Its facilities were very inadequate for about 200 clergy. Younger clergy were encouraged to sleep in sleeping bags in the large tent chalets used for summer camp. I had an RV, so my dog and I had nice comfy accommodations with heat. Our days were spent crammed into a room that could not begin to hold us. It was not unusual to end up sitting out in the hall because we couldn’t squeeze one more person into the room. The bishops took attendance, Bishop Vest would phone absent clergy and ask what hospital they were in so he could bring them communion. Sneaking away became a fine tuned art.
Well, this gathering was different than all of the others. Last year had to be cancelled due to Covid 19, so this was Bishop Haynes first gathering with her clergy, and it was a hybrid meeting. There were about 60 of us present, and about 25 participating by Zoom. They may have also been streaming it. But it required a lot of equipment, personnel, and running around with microphones. Anyone who had anything to say, had to wait for a mike to be brought to them. And of course, we were in masks, spaced out, and very aware that we were making the best of a still difficult situation.
Our speaker was Melissa Perrin, Psy,D., who was very impressive. She talked about “burn out”, depression, anxiety, and all of those things with which clergy, like other professionals, are dealing. I found her to be very insightful, and she made a lot of sense to me.
Even so, it was great to see clergy friends from years past that I’ve missed being with. It was good to spend time with our bishop, with whom I am more impressed every time I am with her. It was great meeting some of our new clergy, some of whom seem so very, very young. It was very different than past gatherings, but that’s the way things are these days – different.
November 1, 2021
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