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Upper Columbia Pastoral Spouse Retreat
by Patti Hoover, Upper Columbia Conference Ministerial Spouse Leader
Thirty ministerial spouses traveled from three states to the Upper Columbia Conference Pastoral Spouse Retreat on the first weekend of March. This annual retreat is a time for the pastoral spouses to be reminded how much they are valued and to provide a few days of relaxation, inspiration and fellowship. The weekend expenses were completely covered by the conference including meals and a nearby hotel.

On Friday evening ministerial spouses, tired from the drive and their week’s work, arrived at the conference office meeting rooms.  Treat bags including water, nuts/trail mix, fresh fruit, granola bars and breakfast muffins were left in each of the hotel rooms with a note welcoming each attendee by name. Intentional planning to help with rest and rejuvenation included time for visiting, walking, and just relaxing in addition to no early meetings. A sunny Sabbath afternoon gave the opportunity for those who wanted to take a walk in a nearby garden.
The theme this year was “What I Wish I Had Known…” and featured eight pastoral spouses each sharing an aspect of life in ministry. The practical topics were chosen by the speakers and included: starting out in ministry, going the long haul, words, handling bitterness, entertaining, dealing with difficult members and listening. All of the topics were given with authenticity and openness.  Years of experience ranged from ten to fifty years with many speakers having more than thirty years of ministry life. Questions planned by the speakers stimulated interesting discussions.

Care was taken to provide time for individual and group prayer. Prayer using the psalms for focus was led by one spouse who provided hand outs that were used for prayer direction. “The Gospel of John” DVD was used for scripture emphasis. The video uses the biblical words only from the gospel of John in a dramatic format. Taking one to two verses from the scene along with questions or direction for reflection were given for personal time during the service.  Music was led by spouses through voice, violin, piano and cello. Attention was given to provide a worshipful atmosphere and the voices lifted in praise to God were inspiring to all.

This year a different Saturday evening activity was planned led by a pastoral spouse who has a ministry using handmade cards. She and her sister-in-law led in a craft evening using stamps, cut outs, tiles and other craft techniques. The activity allowed for plenty of visiting as each spouse moved from table to table to work on five different types of cards.

Meals, with the exception of Sabbath breakfast, were provided at the conference office ending with a Sunday morning brunch. The tradition of the conference president, vice-president and ministerial director making breakfast for the attendees continued this year. At the end of the meal the president and ministerial director spent some time thanking the spouses for their contributions and encouraging them in their support and ministry.

After the Sunday morning meeting, the giving of gifts and good byes brought the weekend to an end. But from the evaluations and spouses’ comments,  the camaraderie and appreciation experienced that week-end would linger on for some time.