At its spring meeting, the House of Bishops departed from its usual agenda, packed with briefings and program updates, to days spent on a retreat that combined eucharists, Bible studies, moments of reflection, quiet walks and group conversations.
“Bishops are always encouraging clergy, ‘Take your retreat.’ Every once in a while when it comes to that counsel, we need to lead by example,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, in an interview. “The time has come for us to follow our Lord’s advice to ‘come apart and rest a while.’ ”
The retreat, held April 28 to May 2 at Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont., was led by Archbishop Barry Morgan, primate of the Church in Wales, and Kathryn Smith, ordained minister with the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. Morgan was tapped for his years of experience and “acquired wisdom” as a bishop for 21 years; Smith has expertise in such areas as congregational revitalization, mediation and conflict resolution, as part of ARC, an interdenominational group that provides coaching and consulting services to Christian congregations and organizations.
“It really was a retreat,” said Hiltz, and it was “intended to help us all focus on the unity that we have in Christ and to celebrate that and to embrace all our diversity.”
The idea for a retreat came at the fall meeting, as bishops expressed their frustrations at not having sufficient time to have or finish deep conversations with one another. “We are resolved to work together as colleagues in ministry, and every once in a while in a body like that…it’s time for us to take time and be with the Lord, just to remind ourselves who has called us to this work, whose servants we are, whose people we serve,” said Hiltz.
Hiltz said it was “just really good to see bishops in a much relaxed pace,” adding that “the most important thing we did all week was pray together.” He said bishops appreciated being able to sit down and have conversations with each other or go for walks with each other in a leisurely way.
During their retreat, bishops began each day with morning prayer, followed by an address by Archbishop Morgan and quiet reflections. Morgan’s talks mostly centred on the essence of a bishop’s calling.
Afternoon sessions were facilitated by Smith, who focused on how bishops could build and strengthen their relationships with each other and how they could build a sense of community as a group.
Evenings were spent in prayer and people were free to enjoy some quiet time alone or in conversation with others.