“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this
because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” -The Gospel According to Mark 6:31
I recently benefited again from a pastor’s retreat with 7 other pastors in our presbytery. We affectionately call it the “Blind Squirrel” Retreat. We didn’t get to enjoy one last year due to… well you remember what screwed everything up for 2020 and the opening months of 2021! I don’t want to give it any more notoriety. I really needed this retreat!
This year, our retreat was at Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby (Utica) about 10 miles west of Ottawa. Most of you’ve probably been there, but it was my first time, and it was glorious! The weather was beautiful for the four days we were there, and the scenery is simply amazing. I plan to go back again!
Some of you have asked me about the retreat; I thought I’d share a few thoughts in this
newsletter. Feel free to ask me more questions about the retreat; I’m happy to share!
I see this retreat as a time to REST. You’ll note those 4 letters are capitalized; that’s
intentional. REST is an acronym made up of the first letter of four words that help us
understand what it is to REST. Here they are:
1 – Relate with one another (Reading and Relaxing also happened);
2 – Exercise (physical);
3 – Sing;
4 – Talk with God (prayer).
The heart of our pastor’s retreat is the precious time we each share about the joys and challenges of our ministries. One pastor talks, and the rest listen, asking a question occasionally for clarification. Often, this is a time of weeping, and sometimes, it is a time for hilarious laughter (you may be surprised at what makes a pastor laugh himself sick!). It’s when we get to Relate with each other that we experience the greatest benefit of coming together in the pastor’s retreat. My challenges largely focused upon the dreadful impact of COVID on our congregation. On a percentage basis, Trinity Church has the lowest in person attendance rate of the 8 churches represented. We were the largest church there, and that may have something to do with it, but we only average about 60-65% attendance of where we were in March 2020.
The retreat also offers the opportunity to exercise. Most of us walked, some ran, but all of us got outside for a couple of hours each day. Starved Rock offers all kinds of groomed trails to see some beautiful countryside. There are peaks and canyons of multiple sorts. I enjoyed walking with the company of at least one other pastor. This allows some one on one time to discuss how our churches are doing. Getting in my daily goal of 20,000 steps continued for every day with the exception of one. It was a great stress reliever!
I took 8 of our Trinity Hymnals with me for times of singing. It’s so beautiful to hear our voices some better than others, but all joyful noises in the Lord’s ears! Typically, we sing a hymn or two before and after the times of sharing. Among the hymns we sang were these: “Rock of Ages” (both versions); “O God beyond all Praising;” “All to Jesus, I Surrender,” “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place,” “To God be the Glory,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “I Love to Tell the Story,” “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah,” “The Church’s One Foundation,” “Abide with Me,” “It is Well with My Soul,” “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It,” “Be Thou My Vision,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” “And Can it Be?” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
The T in REST stands for Talking with God (prayer). What a beautiful picture for one pastor to be sitting in a chair with his head bowed, and all the other men in the room gathered around him, some extending a touch of the shoulder, but all praying for some aspect of what he shared. We had several times of prayer, before meals, on walks, or taking a personal devotional time during the day to read God’s Word and pray for each other, and our congregations. I also know that some of you were praying for me (us) and it made all the difference in the world. I so appreciate those of you who remember me in your prayers. For sure, it’s a good bet that I am praying for you, too!
After the four days of retreat, I joined Jan at Molly’s apartment in Bloomington for the
weekend, arriving Friday afternoon, and spending time with Zach and Clare, and Molly and Noah until we returned to Aledo Sunday evening.
In closing, let me apply REST to your life. Consider relating with other believers, especially in our church family. We all need someone to listen to our challenges and burdens. Each of you has a shepherding elder, and you’re certainly welcome to share your burdens with me. But, what often is very effective, is getting together with at least one other person on the phone or in person, and relating with each other.
Exercise is something we all need, but it doesn’t just mean physical exercise; you must
exercise your spiritual muscles as well – reading the Bible, memorizing parts of it, sharing what you read with others, and studying it with others.
Sing God’s praises, whether you are joyful or somber. He is worthy of our adoration and
praise. Lift your voice in song every day, not just during worship on the Sunday. I love to sing, and I love those who sing; there’s something very special about uniting our voices in song.
Finally, talk with God. Maybe you already do this, but look for his answers not so much in your life, but in His Word. If you’re praying about something, think about what we’re covering in worship, your personal study of his Word, your Sunday School class or Bible study. I’m happy to study God’s Word with you.
So, each of us, not just pastors, can REST in the Lord. We must REST in the Lord. In the
words of a great hymn, “Take it to the Lord in Prayer!”
Love to you in Jesus, Pastor Daren