“We’re trying to find ways to be better connected to each other and to our churches, and to the world at large. And we’ve got some amazing speakers with some amazing teaching going on. And we’re in the beauty of nature,” says chairperson Rev. Ron Carlson of the annual School for Ministry, taking place at Honey Creek Resort State Park in Moravia, Iowa from April 19-22.
Click here to listen to the conversation with Rev. Calderon and Rev. Carlson
“We know that Jesus went away and he prayed. He had to get away from the people. So it’s good to retreat,” says registrar Rev. La Tonya Calderon, who extols the virtues of Honey Creek, which she says provides a wonderful setting and facilities for the clergy to come together and learn from each other. “Many of us, we know of each other, but we don’t really know
one another. So this school has been created not just to promote healthiness for the clergy and their congregations, but clergy collegiality as well, amongst one another.”
Ron feels they are blessed to have Bishop Trimble participating in the retreat, which goes to show how valued the School for Ministry is. “The entire cabinet is here. Field outreach ministers are here, the bishop is here. They are taking part, they are leading by example, and they’re blessing us just with their presence,” says Ron. “Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a chance to rub elbows with the DS or the bishop and get to know them in a little bit different manner. It builds that relationship, and that keys right into our theme this year – relationships.”
There are three different speakers taking part in the retreat, Dr. Peter L. Steinke, Dr. W. Craig Gilliam, and Dr. Kirk Byron Jones. They are taking on the theme of “healthy clergy, healthy connection,” asking the school participants to discover how to deal with conflict and anxiety in their congregations, and how to better manage their own personal boundaries.
La Tonya says that, “Medea Saunders, who is our dean, works tirelessly at trying to get valuable speakers. It might not always be someone that is well known, but time and time again it has proven that these speakers she is getting, which I totally believe is Holy Spirit-led, are really valuable speakers for our enrichment and edification.”
The yearly School of Ministry gathering no doubt appeals to many people because it gives them a chance to catch up with friends. “Clergy being as itinerant as we often are, oftentimes we work with someone closely but then have to move,” says La Tonya. “So functions like this provide us the opportunity to re-connect, which is good.”
And they are given plenty of time to do just that, since the retreat builds in quite a bit of free time. “We have found over the last few years that we can pack in a boatload of information for somebody, but if we don’t give them some downtime to process, to re-develop and re-acquaint themselves relationally with others, after a day and a half you’re just maxed out,” explains Ron.
“Our brains can’t handle it. We need that absorption time and processing. So we have intentionally built in downtime, and we have structured it so that if you’re a person who needs even more, you’re welcome to take it. If you choose to take time to go fishing or golfing or hiking, you can do that.”
La Tonya adds, “And our evenings are structured just to have fun, so we’re going to be having a game night. We have one night where we’re going to do an open mic, see some folks’ talents. I don’t think we’re going to boo anybody,” she says, laughing, “but just have the time to spend together and have fun.”
Amidst the seminars, speakers, and fun, both Ron and La Tonya acknowledge that worship is at the core of everything. “We worship the one that has given us the opportunity to do this, to help us to edify ourselves,” says La Tonya. “We will have corporate worship. Folks will have opportunities just to have their own private worship, whether that’s a walk or time alone. And just fellowship worship, too.”
'Incredible event' for the organizers, too
A well-planned event like this can be an incredible experience for the participants and the organizers alike. “I speak from a totally different level than La Tonya or Medea, because those are the two backbones of it,” says Ron. “As chair, I get to point and direct and introduce people and pat people on the back and shake hands. They do the real work. I’m able to experience the speakers, get to know the people that are coming to be a part of the school. I get the chance to lead and to participate.”
La Tonya, on the other hand, acknowledges, “It is tremendously hard work. I mean, there’s just a lot that goes on, and a lot of the logistics behind the scenes. Everything out front may look well, but behind the scenes it’s a whole other story!” Even though she admits that every year they wonder if they really want to take on all that work yet again, they always do – both because they love God and because they really do love the work itself.
Every year, she has enjoyed watching people be surprised by how wonderful the School for Ministry experience is. “I love people having the opportunity to be so enriched.”