Retreat Focuses on Clergy Well-being: “How is it with your soul?”

By Rick Wolcott*

“We cannot be as effective and as fruitful in our well doing in ministry, if we are not intentional in caring for our personal well-being.  We’re talking about emotional, we’re talking about physical, and we’re talking about spiritual,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone in her sermon during the opening worship service of the Bishops’ Retreat with Black Clergy.

Live Well was the theme for this year’s annual event of spiritual renewal, shared learning, and fellowship for clergy from the East Ohio and West Ohio Conferences.

“This means a lot to me,” said the Rev. Oliver Campbell, Jr of Centenary UMC in Akron.  “Bishop Malone asking us, ‘How is it with your soul?’ takes my focus off of short-term personal problems and makes me think about my well-being long term.”

“The retreat is a time of being together with colleagues of color, receiving training, and being refreshed in God,” said the Rev. Monique Greenfield of St. Matthew UMC in Cleveland.

Featured speaker Daniel Houston, who facilitates management and staff diversity training across the United States and around the world, led two Live Well learning sessions during the retreat at Salt Fork State Park Lodge and Conference Center.

“It’s a wonderful time of centering and experiencing a renewed spirit.  It’s also a wonderful time of being welcomed into a community that shares a journey together, and finding our common ground in Jesus  Christ,” said North Coast District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey.  “I look forward to this every year, and I am privileged to be here.”

“The Church has to lead the way in promoting understanding of why we need to highlight and learn other perspectives than the majority perspective.  So the Bishops’ Retreat with Black Clergy is really about bringing special attention to the needs of the black church in East Ohio and West Ohio,” said Will Jones, director of Multicultural Vitality in the East Ohio Conference.  “As we learn about our intercultural competence, and if we’re trying to grow in that ability, then there need to be special events like this to encourage and promote the non-dominant culture group.”

“For me, it’s a sense of connection that now goes back now 35 years to the very first retreat, which was organized by Bishop James S. Thomas,” said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Conference.  “It’s a sense of connection to history for something that is timeless, which is the care of the soul.”

“I look forward to this time because I get to connect with the clergy and worship together, and even though I’m here leading, I’m also here to receive because I’m renewed through the worship and the learnings that take place,” Malone said.

“This retreat is a time to be with the bishops and allow the bishops to be with us.  It’s a time of great joy and I look forward to it every year.  It’s one of the highlights for me,” said the Rev. Marilyn Coney of Tiffin Faith UMC.

Planning is underway for the 2018 Bishops’ Retreat with Black Clergy to be held September 23-25 at Mohican Lodge and Conference Center in Perrysville.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.