Retreat fosters epiphanies for clergy spouses

April 27, 2023 | by JB Brayfindley

Retreat fosters epiphanies for clergy spouses

Dag Hammerskjöld’s Prayer for a New Heart (page 392 in the UM Hymnal) was central to the theme of the Clergy Spouse Association (CSA) Retreat held at Mercy Center in Auburn, California April 21-23 entitled, “The Meaning of Epiphany for our lives today.” Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery led sessions based on the liturgical calendar seasons. This is the first in-person gathering since the cancellation of the CSA retreat in 2019. Twelve spouses from Sparks, Nevada to the Bay Area gathered.

Gathering on Friday evening, the group walked the center’s labyrinth after dinner followed by a social time. Saturday began with breakfast and singing along with Losaline Toetu’u from First Taulang-U UMC, Sacramento and her ukulele. At 9:00, Ivery began by explaining “Spirituality, Consciousness, Prayer, Meditation and Spiritual Practice.” Ivery discussed a four point step to find meaning and direction after distributing to each person a worksheet entitled, “Core Spiritual Process.” Ivery guided the group starting with Advent scripture stories to identify the “existential situation” involved and using the spiritual practice of meditating to reflect on the existential aspects in our own lives beyond just our feelings and thoughts. The “ah, ha!” spiritual experience may of may not present itself at any given moment and may need to ruminate in us for a period, according to Ivery. In this way, a person may discover “Spiritual Resources” like the disciples and Jesus to best live a Christian life. Ivery repeated the exercises using scriptures from Jesus’ call (The Season of Epiphany), Lent and Easter as well as biblical stories from Pentecost and Kingdomtide.

“I got a lot from it—a lot,” states Sybella Pope-Sears of Stockton Holy Cross UMC. “I really needed it, and I got it—I had no idea how badly I need that.”

During free time, spouses walked the Stations of the Cross and wandered on different pathways or played board games, sang, and shared. Rev. Rod Brayfindley was available for personal counseling appointments. President, JB Brayfindley from First UMC, Sacramento led an association business meeting and celebrated the ability to meet in person.

“It’s time! It is TIME! Now, we get to SEE one another!” states Brayfindley. “and God is blessing us as we endeavor this “new” experience!” The group confirmed plans for an in-person Friday luncheon during the upcoming Annual Conference as well as Saturday morning male clergy spouse breakfast plus hosting an information table during the session. The group has a closed Facebook page and will open an Instagram page.

According to the bylaws, “The purpose of this association shall be to:

  1. encourage Clergy Spouse members to become better acquainted
  2. provide activities that will facilitate fellowship and personal growth
  3. continue to plan and implement ways to provide supportive care to those in our association.”

The membership is open to all clergy spouses including CLM (“Section .1 The spouse of any member, surviving spouse, local pastor, missionary, diaconal minister, Claym or chaplain in our Annual Conference shall be considered eligible to be a member of this association.” )

Current officers include: President, Debra (JB) Brayfindley;  Secretary, Tupou Fakava-Smith; Treasurer/retreat, Ray Jellison; Family Support, Martha Hoefner, Nominations, Losaline Toetu’u; Social Media, Norms Buenafe.

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JB Brayfindley is a freelance journalist.