A Time to Retreat

Nov 20, 2016

by Rick Admiraal, pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa. 

A wise man writes: "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)  The third weekend in September was the time for spiritual retreat.  In fact, PCA staff did an exceptional job planning the first ever retreat for prison pastors.  Nine pastors from four states traveled to Abbey of the Hills near Marvin, South Dakota.  The Abbey was a great location for all of us to rediscover peace.  Although it was a two hour drive north of Sioux Falls, the location was serene.  The grounds contained pleasant ponds, a fragrant orchard, and walking paths.   Saying that the accommodations were outstanding would be an understatement.  There was even a fire pit where we could gather each evening to swap ministry stories and sing praise songs.  Most striking for me was the high towering white cross that you could view from every corner of the property.  In addition the great vistas of the great plains inspired you to consider the grandeur of our great God.

Intentionally the staff did not plan a busy weekend full of seminars.  However, they did schedule five forums on Saturday that stimulated conversation.  The first forum focused on relationships that we have as pastors of prison congregations.  Pastor of Women at the Well in Mitchellville, Iowa, Rev. Lee Schott reminded us of the complexity of our task.  Certainly we interact with diverse groups of people, including but not limited to: men and women in prison, the department of corrections employees, multiple supervisors, inside council, outside board, volunteers, and donors.  And what about our own families?  Another forum focused on the topic of self-care.  I was asked to lead this session and inquire of my peers - "If you are the pastor then who will pastor the pastor?"  After I shared some activities that are life-giving for me, we shared other ideas around the circle.  It's extremely important to continually renew your spirit so that you don't become burned out in ministry.  One thing was said that stuck with me.  Pastor of the Church of Hope in Pierre, South Dakota, Rev. Kimberly LaPlante shared a story about how on a walk with her dog she felt the presence of God.  Afterwards she asked, "Is it possible to pray without praying?"  It's a question that has been bouncing around my mind ever since.   It has challenged me to think about prayer not only as communication but also as communion.  As you can see from my reflections, we learned a lot from one another while also experiencing serenity.  What an incredibly beneficial time we shared thanks to Prison Congregations of America.  I hope we do this again!



Category: Peace

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