I recently attended the Summer Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM) on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I always love my time spent with others in campus ministry. My heart is encouraged and my ministry strengthened whenever I gather with these friends.
Whidbey Island is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Look in any direction; you have a view of both ocean and mountains. Amazing! It is a perfect location to do soul work: beautiful, peaceful, great coffee.
During SICM I was reminded of the importance of creating space for both life and ministry. We live in a world where our lives easily become filled with to-dos and worries. In the midst of our busy schedules we must learn to create space.
Create Space for God
Have you ever attended a conference where you are repeatedly told about the importance of creating space for God in your life as you are herded from one session to the next? SICM takes a very different approach, balancing deep content sessions with space to reflect and connect with God. We were not merely reminded of the importance of creating space for God in our lives; we practiced what this looks like.
Practicing Sabbath is one way we can each create space for God in our busyness. There needs to be a rhythm to our lives that includes both work and Sabbath rest, reflection, and recreation (re-creation).
Create Space for Friends
Have you ever attended a conference where the people sitting next to you have as much of value to say as the people leading the conference? Too often, though, there is limited time to hear from your fellow attendees. SICM takes a different approach. Yes, there are nationally recognized authors/speakers who share, but the heart of the institute comes from large segments of time when the attendees converse and share with one another. This happens in discussions as part of scheduled sessions, at lengthy meals, on ferry rides, and in browsing used book stores.
We were not created to do life or ministry alone. We need to share ministry in relationship with those who understand what we do and why we do it. In the sharing of these relationships we challenge one another to grow as people and as people in ministry.
Create Space for Beauty
Whidbey Island is one of the most beautiful places I have every visited. It is often described as a liminal or between place—a place where heaven and earth meet. Of course, Jesus tells us that the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom is happening everywhere. But the amazing beauty of Whidbey Island makes it an easy place to connect with God.
I had an interesting lunch conversation with Keith Anderson and Bob Henry about the role of beauty in our lives. Our ability to appreciate beauty is one of the marks that set us apart from the rest of creation and grows out of our creation in the image of God.
A few days on Whidbey Island are a great reminder of the need to create space for beauty in our own lives. Where are the places of beauty that you take in where you live?
Create Space for Catastrophe
During dinner at Keith Anderson’s house, Bill Fisher reminded us that we must leave room for catastrophe in our ministry. As ministers, when a catastrophe occurs among our community we will be the ones called on to respond. We need to make sure that there is space in our schedule as well as our spiritual and emotional lives to be able to respond to catastrophe when it occurs.
This reminds me of a passage in The Contemplative Pastor where Eugene Peterson compares the life of ministry to the life of the harpooner in Moby Dick.
In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, there is a turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, Moby Dick. The sailors are laboring fiercely, every muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task. The cosmic conflict between good and evil is joined; chaotic sea and demonic sea monster verses the morally outraged man, Captain Ahab. In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing. He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. And then this sentence: “To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.”
Create Space for Unexpected Encounters
While boarding the ferry, Bob and I were discussing the role spiritual retreats can play on our campuses. We noticed two ladies, a couple generations older than us, paying close attention to us. “Did you just say ‘Ignation silent retreats’,” one of them asked. “Why, Yes.”
At this point we had a decision to make. Do we invite these two strangers into our conversation? We invited. They responded. And we had a fascination discussion with two former nuns for the duration of the ferry ride.
We never know when God might show up in an unexpected encounter. Do you have space in your life to engage these encounters when they come?