A few months ago, a friend floated a grant application my way. (I'm always amazed at free money). These particular grants are given by the Presbyterian seminary in Austin, Texas. Meant for small groups of clergy, the grants offer on going learning and support over the course of two years. The seminary provides financial support for up to $10,000 for each small group. Each small group sets their own course for learning.
We quickly assembled a group of three Lutherans and three Presbyterian pastors and brainstormed ideas. We finally arrived at the theme: Belonging. What does it mean to belong? To the Body of Christ? To a church/faith community? What does “membership” mean and does anyone even care about it anymore? We six are in very different contexts—and the sense of belonging for people in our churches varies widely.
Pastors also have such weird jobs that it's hard to know where we belong. Want to kill conversation? Have your pastor walk into your next social gathering. We often carry the secrets of our communities—it's part of our vocation. Add odd hours and weekends and you have some fairly isolated oddballs.
We proposed that we meet for a monthly, twenty-hour retreat. We have a book list related to our theme. We picked a retreat space that will feed us good, whole food...with trails for walking and solid beds for rest. We also picked Wed/Thurs time frame so that we are forced to stop other work to attend to this work.
Guess what? We received a grant that will fund these monthly retreats. Seriously. And then in October, they fly our entire group to Austin to meet up with the other grant recipients and more time for learning. I have just the boots for this occasion! Keep Austin Weird, love.
I am profoundly grateful for these strangers and their belief in what we do.