Pastors reflect, relate and relax

Date Posted: 9/22/2022

By Lindsay Peyton
Rev. Heather Leyland of Millican UMC first heard of Refresh when she received an invite in her inbox. The annual retreat is offered by the Texas Annual Conference to clergy every five years after their ordination or licensing. Since Leyland, who has been a pastor for 15 years, is a transfer from the Louisiana Conference, she had never attended Refresh before. At the session, she discovered opportunities for fun, camaraderie, relaxation, worship and a deep dive into the Enneagram.
“There was something for everyone,” Leyland said. “It’s important to get away and unplug. I got to sit with colleagues and enjoy conversation and fellowship.”
And at night, a few attendees joined to play Cards Christians Like – a Christian version of the popular Cards Against Humanity. “We just laughed until we almost cried,” Leyland said. “It was great. We had so much fun.”
Refresh was held Sept. 7-9 at Camp Allen in Navasota. Organizer Rev. Deborah Hawboldt, Associate Director for the Center for Leadership Formation, said that 21 pastors attended the session.
“It’s really the biggest gift we give from the Conference,” she said. “It’s a time for pastors to reflect and ask, 'What’s next?' It’s also a chance to step back, slow down and relax.”

Hawboldt explained that Refresh consists of two retreats each year – one in the fall and another in January. Both sections are full of ministry resources and insights into personal growth.
The first few years, Refresh centered on the Birkman Method, a psychological assessment and coaching tool. The past few years have instead focused on the Enneagram, a tool for understanding personalities.
Enneagram specialist and certified mediator Lisa Hancock served as the featured presenter. “We spent this week looking at the Enneagram and how it pertains to our work as pastors,” Hawboldt said.
In January, the pastors will return to continue the Enneagram exploration, looking at how their “number,” or one of nine personality types, can affect their personal relationship with God. In addition, they will focus on how an understanding of the Enneagram can aid in conflict resolution.
Refresh also focuses on worship, which was led during this session by Gideon Bustamante from Montgomery UMC. “He blew everyone away,” Hawboldt said. “We had really fabulous worship.”
Sermons were delivered by Rev. Morris Matthis, Director of the Center for Leadership Formation, and District Superintendents Rev. Charles Anderson of the Northwest District and Dr. Elijah Stansell of the Central South District.

Rev. Trey Comstock, Senior Pastor of the Servants of Christ United Methodist Church in Houston, attended Refresh for his first time, celebrating five years in ministry.
Comstock found Dr. Stansell’s message to be particularly meaningful. “It was about being in relationship with others, which is at the heart of ministry,” he recalled.
He enjoyed the entire experience, especially having the time for fellowship with other clergy. “It became like a really cool small group,” he said. “I got to know people I had never met before.”
Bringing together clergy of all ages and backgrounds is what it’s all about, according to Nancy Slade, with the Center for Leadership Formation. “They’re pastors from small churches to big churches, and they all have a take,” she said. “It’s just neat to see them share, connect and build new friendships.”

Slade has handled the logistics of the event since it began in 2013. “The concept was to connect pastors and honor them every five years of service,” she said.
She also looks forward to attending the event. “I’ve gone every time, and I always enjoy it,” she said. “Each one has a different feel.”
The best part, Hawboldt added, is witnessing how all of the pastors come together and delight in the retreat. Some are newly ordained, with five years under their belt, others have been in the ministry for decades.
“We had people from all over the conference, deacons, elders and local pastors,” Hawboldt said. “To see them take a moment and focus on themselves, that was really wonderful.”