New Board of Pensions program offers ministers ‘rest and reset,’ minus travel fatigue
by Lea Sitton, Board of Pensions | Special to Presbyterian News Service
PHILADELPHIA — For more than a decade, pastors gathered for CREDO conferences. During the weeklong retreats, they focused on personal renewal and shared their experiences and compassion with each other. When they parted, it was with a renewed sense of call.
Then COVID-19 arrived. The coronavirus deepened the need for the CREDO experience — and made it untenable. The Board of Pensions, which had been expanding access to the highly regarded program, “went back to the drawing board,” in the words of the Rev. Dr. José Irizarry, the Board’s Vice President, Education.
“We had to offer some kind of experience,” Irizarry said. “It had to be virtual. But we wanted a way for pastors to come together so they could share their experiences of ministering during COVID and give each other support.”
The answer was CREDO Sabbath, a virtual program the Board of Pensions plans to continue after the expected return of in-person CREDO in 2022. A participant in CREDO Sabbath, introduced in fall 2020, said that it provided “the rest and reset of going somewhere new without the stress and fatigue that comes with travel.”
Pastors who are invited to CREDO Sabbath are encouraged to choose a location close to home where they can stay for the Sunday-Thursday conference, an Airbnb, for example, or a conference center. The Board pays for four to five days of lodging and provides a stipend for food and self-care resources.
Both the in-person and virtual CREDO gatherings are built on three concepts: rest, reinvent, and reconnect. CREDO Sabbath includes live virtual plenaries and opportunities to connect in small groups. Pastors may meet one-on-one with CREDO facilitators in particular subject areas and take part in workshops. Group gatherings are separated by blocks of alone time. “I really needed to get away and spend some time in solitude,” one participant said. “This was the perfect balance for me.”
Irizarry said CREDO Sabbath is intended to take pastors out of their places of work (these days, often their homes) and enable them to be with themselves in a dedicated space, and to be with each other. It provides a space in which they can share their experiences of this extraordinary time and support each other through it, he said.
Once in-person CREDO returns, CREDO Sabbath will continue as an alternative, Irizarry said. “It is good for people who cannot spend seven days in a place,” he said. “They might be bi-vocational or simply prefer more solitary, internalized learning. This is an opportunity for people who couldn’t participate in CREDO before.”
As with in-person CREDO, CREDO Sabbath is by invitation from the Board of Pensions. Notifications have been sent to all those invited to CREDO Sabbath in fall 2021. Invitations to 2022 CREDO and CREDO Sabbath will be sent later this year.
Lea Sitton is agency writer at the Board of Pensions, which supports wholeness in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) community and care for Benefits Plan members. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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