February 9, 2015

Value One Another (Vestry Retreat)

Celebrate. Listen. Be inspired. Plan.

The old congregation had been rocked by the priest’s resignation. Those who loved him sensed that those who wanted him out were silently gloating, even two years later. Some members left. Many who stayed were bitter and suspicious.

As he entered this environment, the new rector called for a vestry retreat. An interesting exercise was designed to help these lay leaders know each other on a deeper level, regardless of what “side” they had been on in the previous controversy.

Each person was asked to bring to the retreat an object that represented their love of the church. No hints or examples about what to bring - just a request to prayerfully do it.

At the retreat, each person explained the significance of his/her object...

  • “This was my mother-in-law’s crucifix necklace. I wear it now, and it reminds me of our family’s long ties to this church.”
  • “This is the Prayer Book I received when I was confirmed.”
  • “This prayer shawl got me through some dark days of cancer. I will always be grateful to the women in the knitting ministry who brought it to me and prayed with me.”
  • “This is my daughter’s wedding photo.”
  • “My son drew this picture of Jesus in Sunday School.”

Reactions also offered insights…

  • “I didn’t know you were married to Elizabeth’s daughter. Elizabeth helped me through a rough time.”
  • “I didn’t know you’ve had cancer.”
  • “I didn’t know we have a knitting group that makes prayer shawls!”
  • “My daughter was married far away. I wish it could have been here.”

Eventually, the group went on to identify their shared values, as demonstrated by the objects. They valued the church as part of their family and as a home. They valued prayer and the liturgy. They valued the church’s teaching, for their own faith journey and for their children’s Christian formation.

More importantly, the inanimate objects exercise drew the leaders closer together. 8:00-ers understood the deep spirituality of a 10:00 am service go-er whose previous utterances were mainly about finance reports. The joy of a young mother over the spiritual awakening of her child lifted the entire group. Tears prompted by tender common memories washed away some sharp edges protruding from broken experiences.

Have you found an activity that works to build greater understanding and trust among a team? Please share!

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