My Way of Telling Pastors About Tres Dias
By Rev. Cynthia Dodd
This is being written by a clergy person for clergy people. Laity may “read over my shoulder,” as I sometimes do when I sit next to a person on a plane who is reading a book that I always wanted to read, but I would like my audience to be that minister, pastor or priest who has been invited on a Tres Dias weekend and has said something like “I just don’t have the time. Please stop inviting me…I just don’t have the time…”
Underneath that polite refusal, which I am sure is very true, one may also be thinking, “Even if I have the time, I’d rather be doing something else…”
As one who had much the same response over many years, until I finally said yes to an invitation to attend, I would like to say that the objection of “not enough time” points to a concern that Tres Dias may be able to help you with.
Once you experience the power of a Tres Dias weekend, you will find that you have more energy and time than before you went–it is that inspiring. While many seminars we attend give us ideas and good sermon stories, this weekend helps us remember why we went into the ministry in the first place. As people share heartfelt stories about their faith journeys and their brokenness, their struggles and their triumphs, those listening begin to be more open and honest as they share in their small groups. There is nothing more refreshing than honest sharing, and although that kind of sharing is the stuff of healing that goes on in 12 step rooms and small group gatherings, it is all too rare in the larger church community.
And there’s more. Anyone you send from your church will return having thought more deeply about their Christian journey and be more alive in their faith than before they left. This means you will now have stronger leadership, freeing more time for you as parishioners step up to take more responsibility. But it is hard to convince someone to attend a weekend if you do not have firsthand experience as a basis for talking about the weekend.
And now a word about being asked to be a spiritual director, one of the two (or more) clergy who become part of the weekend team. You may feel that, “Ok, I will go on a weekend so I can explain things to my church members, but I don’t want to get hooked into this spiritual director thing.” First of all, you must volunteer to serve; no one will push you to do this if you do not feel led to lead. If you do become a part of a team, however, the deep relationships that form as team members work together to bring a weekend into being are a little like those bonds formed with a beloved college roommate, or a longtime friend. And instead of having to travel across the country for a reunion, you have an opportunity to connect with those wonderful new friends on a frequent basis.
Those connections keep what was received on the weekend ever fresh. Also, people who know and care about you are available when, as sometimes happens, life makes an unexpected turn–a loved one dies, a decision has to be made, a personal struggle becomes overwhelming. Since we are often too busy to tend to our own needs, our support system can become thin, and during a crisis is not the best time to strike up a new friendship. The net must be in place before we start to fall. And God is offering you an opportunity to widen your support network.
So, you may believe you are too busy to attend a weekend, but you are too busy not to. The next time someone approaches you about a Tres Dias weekend, you may want to use this phrase: “Because I am too busy, I must make time to go.” If you say yes, God will make the path clear.
Cynthia Dodd is a United Methodist minister and a spiritual director in the Fairfield County Tres Dias community. She served as the pastor of The United Church of Westville, CT, before joining the staff of a mental health agency where she has worked for the past 25 years.