Rev. Jill Duffield
Senior Pastor

I just spent nearly a full week at a continuing education opportunity for Presbyterian pastors sponsored by our Board of Pensions.

The goal of these events is to nurture physical, financial, emotional and spiritual health. There was a presentation on eating right, getting enough sleep, managing stress. Another on saving for college, retirement planning and paying down debt. Yet another on having robust spiritual practices and yet one more on naming core values and living out of them.

All good stuff, certainly. I did, however, find myself thinking,: “I know all this. The issue isn’t the knowing, it’s the doing.” The issue isn’t data. The challenge is action.

I suppose a week away with very little Wifi and no cell service should have facilitated the doing, but, ironically enough, the well-stocked snack table meant I ate more and the lack of my usual morning exercise ritual meant I exercised less. I did walk when it wasn’t raining, and we weren’t sitting in a presentation. I even saw an eagle and I certainly scrolled a lot less on Instagram given the whole connectivity challenge. I met interesting people. I was reminded that I am richly blessed with a supportive spouse, a healthy congregation, and a great group of colleagues. And, as my friend from Texas says, that ain’t nothing!

I also learned that I need less scheduled con-ed content and more space to wander, wonder and just be. I enjoyed reading on the porch of my cabin and I relished having some time to write without purpose or deadline.

Over the course of our week together some people left for various reasons and another group had to isolate in their rooms because of Covid. Towards the end of our time a winter storm loomed so the entire enterprise got moved from the rural retreat center to an airport adjacent hotel. I felt for our stalwart leaders. It was an exercise in flexibility and persistence.

What I noticed, though, was that our time together felt richer and more fulfilling in the unforeseen upending. The PowerPoints got chucked and the schedule went out the window and that’s when it got real. We regrouped in the hotel meeting room, sat in a circle and shared not only the challenge of the week but also the struggles and blessings of the last several years. This, to me, was the biggest gift of the week. (Plus it was nice to have a big bed, a television, Wifi, cell service. The hotel bar didn’t hurt either.)

So, my takeaways: I like my normal, daily life, a lot. It’s very good and I am very grateful. Information is not transformation. It’s OK to seek what you need for renewal even if it isn’t what others need to get recharged. Sometimes upheaval makes space for creativity, grace and connection. I like Wifi and cell service. I’m glad to be home!