Earlier this month I spent a week in Truro, at the annual Atlantic Seminar in Theological Education (ASTE) event. For those unfamiliar with it, this is a wonderful week, held each year for the last 45 years, with a different theme each year. Every years since I’ve lived in the Maritimes — almost ten years, now– I’ve thought about going. Different speakers, different foci, different attendees. Ecumenical, and inter-faith. It all sounded so interesting! And each year, something else has interfered with my being able to go.  The year before last I finally decided that I’d go no matter what. I didn’t even care what the topic would be, I would be there.  That year, the topic was Theology and Politics, and it was outstanding. Before the week was up, I let the registrar know I’d be back this year.

This year, the topic was “Once Upon a Time There Was a Parable”, and it was just as interesting, informative, and engaging, as last year’s forum. The two leaders were Dr. Alyda Faber, a prof at AST, and Dr. Brandon Scott, a theologian from Oklahoma. Brandon spoke about specific parables, giving insights into them that went far beyond anything I’d previously understood. Alyda spoke about film as parable, using the films of Frederick Wiseman, an independent filmmaker.  She spoke about film as lyric; she helped us to see how use of silence in both the visual and audio portions of a movie are akin to the use of silence in parables.

I had been looking forward to this study week for a long time. It was my first week away from my pastoral charge since October, and I needed some “me” time.  The week was all I hoped it would be.

When we read the scriptures, we see the Biblical warrant for this sort of renewal. Jesus did this regularly: taking himself off to be by himself; to talk with God; to have some rest and renewal from his day-to-day ministry. It’s time for grace to send her tendrils through heart and mind, easing tension and stress. It’s a time for wisdom to lodge herself in one’s head, expanding understanding, and challenging previous viewpoints. It’s a time for a new kind of fellowship- not the day-to-day fellowship of minister to parishioners, but the fellowship of colleagues (lay and ordered), all looking for new insights into what has perhaps become ordinary and/or stale.

I am grateful to our church for its generous study leave allowance, and for the variety of programs available close by. I’m grateful for the people who give of their time and talents, as organizers for this and other events, as presenters, as participants.  I am grateful for study and laughter and rest. And I hope that this sort of ‘away’ time is possible for everyone. No matter what sort of work we do, or even for those who are *retired* ( I must say that I have never in my life seen such busy retired people as I have since I moved to the Maritimes!), it’s important to take time for you. Time to recharge your batteries, and to see life from a new perspective.  Time to appreciate and reflect on God’s presence in your life, and how that presence can be shared in your world.  Or just time to sit back and watch the clouds go by. It’s all good.

The topic for next year’s ASTE seminar is “Art as a vehicle of the sacred, and an expression of the divine”  I can hardly wait!