Clergywomen’s renewal retreat cruise offers sacred rest
Through the generosity of Educational Opportunities (EO), the North Alabama Conference offered a unique travel opportunity to all clergywomen in the North Alabama Conference.
Leaving from Port Canaveral, Florida, the day after Easter, seven participants boarded the Independence of the Seas for a 5-day Clergywomen’s Sacred Rest and Renewal Cruise, coordinated by Rev. Kelly Clem.
Rev. Clem reflects, “For over 35 years in ministry, I have always appreciated the strength I’ve drawn from connecting and growing with my fellow clergywomen in retreat settings. Our Bishop and Cabinet have tried to address the need for caring for our clergy. After two years of ministry challenges and social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the time seemed right for such a clergy care event uniquely for clergywomen. When EO leadership shared this opportunity with us, we decided to invest our resources and offer a restful and spiritually renewing opportunity for our clergywomen. From the youngest to the oldest, all participants agreed that traveling with other clergywomen helped them care for themselves by laughing, unwinding, enjoying some time away, and building some significant collegial relationships.”
Rev. Holly Woodall, the pastor of Rogersville UMC, says, “The women's clergy care trip was wonderful and at the same time both invigorating and relaxing. Catching up with colleagues inspired me with new ministry ideas while unplugging from that ministry gave me the chance to recharge after Holy Week."
As one who had never traveled on a cruise before, Rev. Carol Gullatt, pastor of Cedar Hill and Collinsville First UMCS and member of the Mountain Lakes District staff, was excited but unsure how the trip would be. Afterward, she expressed her thankfulness that she had agreed to the adventure: “Being able to go on the Clergywomen's Renewal Cruise was a blessing - a worthwhile time and expense. Once again, I was out of my comfort zone and stretched in ways that will be helpful to me in life and ministry.”
As the ship traveled across the ocean, everyone found time to enjoy private mornings on the deck or balcony for meditation, prayer, reading and reflecting on God’s call.
Rev. Wannell Scott, the pastor of Littleville and Maxwell Chapel UMCs, shares her experience: “Rest and Renewal are the words I would use to describe my mornings as I enjoy a wonderful breakfast each morning on the balcony of my room. I was able to focus on God's voice and feel His presence; I drew closer to God and was inspired by the amazing vastness of His creation around me.”
“I found this cruise to the Bahamas to be well timed after Holy Week,” says Rev. Christy Noren-Hentz, pastor of Oak Grove and Lineville First UMCs. “A week to relax and charge batteries for ministry in our local contexts. As a busy mom and pastor and pastor spouse, Holy Week was go, go, go and this gave me a chance to relax and spend some much-needed clergy women time and alone time. I find spending time with other clergywomen encouraging and uplifting. I was also given space to continue to grieve losing my mother to COVID last year. As mom and pastor, it was good to break from all my normal responsibilities and just be still. I was able to read several books over the week and always found reading time to be precious with the busy life we lead as a double clergy family. I’m thankful the North Alabama Conference emphasizes clergy care coming out of COVID years. It is a well-timed initiative. It was also a huge blessing to have most of the cruise covered by the conference and my local church. Thank you, Rev. Kelly Clem, the North Alabama Conference and Lineville First UMC for making this trip possible.”
Rev. Doreen Duley says,” As a retired Clergywoman, I had begun to feel disconnected from other clergywomen. The clergy care invitation to go on a cruise with other clergywomen was a delightful blessing. I was able to reconnect with a couple of still active clergywomen and meet new ones. Each day gave me opportunities to spend time with others and time with myself and God. I was reconnected to God, myself, and my community. I highly recommend taking advantage of Clergy Care opportunities.”
There were many smiles and laughter during the group’s time together. When asked if they would recommend a clergywomen’s renewal retreat cruise again, all participants responded, “we’ll be looking forward to it!”