Each year, the pastors' spouses of our conference gather together for a retreat. Chris Bowles explained that the retreat began 40 years ago when the Rev. Bill Balch, conference pastoral counselor at the time, wanted the spouses to have a fun, safe place where they could be themselves and share stories of ministry. He was the keynote speaker for several years, and he encouraged the young wives to get together at least once a year.
The first year, 18 women attended the event. This year, 64 wives attended the March 7-9 Ministers' Spouses Retreat, held at Oak Tree Lodge in Sevierville, Tenn.
“It never matters to me who the speaker is or the subject of the retreat,” said Bowles. “I come for fellowship and always gain spiritual insight and meet new people. I don’t decide if I will come or not, I just put it on my calendar and come.”
Bowles, who has attended 37 retreats, is retired with her husband after serving in ministry for 50 years. She has many cherished friends and enjoys supporting the younger ministers' wives at the retreat. She wishes more wives would go.
“I think if they gave us a try, they would be surprised. I think they are fearful to step out into a group that they don’t know.” Bowles pointed out that when new members go, they are eagerly welcomed and quickly made part of the group.
The retreat starts on a Thursday and ends by noon on Saturday. During the retreat, the ladies share in devotions, break-out sessions, skits, songs, a banquet, shopping, and a lot of free time. Scholarships are available for those who would like to attend by cannot afford to go.
One of the favorite moments of retreat is on the second night when the women share their favorite retreat memories. The time that comes up every time is the retreat where they were snowed in. In April 1987, a blizzard hit Gatlinburg. They said they had a blast because it was so spontaneous. Even though the caterer couldn’t make it , their keynote speaker was unable to get through, they lost electricity, and one of the women broke her arm, they count that as the most successful retreat because they got through it together.
Jonna Ballard is taking over the scrapbook for the upcoming year.
“We love our stories. We all have them about retreat, parsonages, and our husbands. We need to write them down and keep them,” she said.
Sherry Parker agreed. She said she loves going to retreat. “It’s great that we have these memories and people who are special. I’ve met ladies on this retreat and enjoyed getting to know them. And I think the world of all of you.” she said.
During this year’s retreat, the wives raised $681 for Imagine No Malaria. Next year’s retreat will be held March 6-8, 2014. For more information, ask your District Superintendent’s spouse.