Every year, the clergy of the United Methodist Central Texas Conference gather for a day of refreshing rest for our weary pastoral souls and for creating peer connections through conversation. This special event is organized by the chairs of the two orders of ordination and a short list of people they invite to collaborate in this work. This year, I was invited to participate in the planning committee by the chair of my order, who was insistent that I also be given the opportunity to facilitate some form of art meditation at the event.
The five of us got together to sketch out the theme of the event. Our leader inspired us with a reminder of the power of the contemplative tradition through a piece of the story of Moby Dick: in a boat in the midst of the stormy sea, the harpooner does not row, pull sails, or move the rudder. The harpooner merely sits and waits in quiet. The others may be calling for help, but no! The harpooner must reserve all strength for the moment of calling: the actual action of the harpooner’s vocation. How can we create a space of rest in the midst of busy-ness so our pastor peers can regain and retain full strength for their vocational calling?
In between the bookends of worship, the whole group would participate in a session of improv facilitated by the co-founder of a local comedy house, enjoy table conversation of deep reflection questions and a variety of break-out sessions for prayer and contemplation. I led a guided meditation using drawing in which participants ask God to reveal specific memories of particular moments in their lives. This exercise, which takes two hours, can be intense and painful; there is always someone who weeps during this exercise and I have learned to make sure there are tissues available and to forewarn people that grief will likely emerge.
All eleven participants thanked me afterward for this very powerful experience. I thanked them for their compliments but I also realize that my role in this experience is usually only one of creating a container in which people have a safe place to take time to reflect on things and then serving as a time keeper. All that powerful work? That was you and God.