By Mary Columbo Reichert, BCC
I always approach the conference as a combination spiritual adventure and professional training time, and I always hope to leave restored in spirit and renewed in calling. Particularly since I was receiving my certification this year, I approached it the same way, and I was not disappointed.
I shared a shuttle from the airport with other attendees, and we laughed and joked and became friends along the way. As we entered the winding road that led to the resort, we moved from fun-loving to reverential. The mountains seemed to demand respect, and we obliged. I was struck by a sense of sacredness in the Pueblo that invited me to enter a place of openness and peace that I often lose in the day-to-day.
My journey continued on the day of reflection as Meg Aschcroft helped us get “In Step with the Grace of the Moment” through readings, reflection, and sharing. The conference opening ceremony and prayer service continued the momentum, and we all swayed, danced, and clapped as we sang our proclamations that “we are marching, singing, dancing, praying in the light of God.”
The next day, we celebrated the Eucharist together, and my years of work toward board certification were acknowledged. We 24 who were present had congratulated each other during our rehearsal the day before, and now we took our places for formal recognition and missioning. As we stood at the front of the room, members of the group raised their hands and offered a blessing on us and our work. The energy was palpable, and I realized that there was synergy here. We were being sent to our work, and we were also witnessing to the others the importance of this call. This was a dual blessing.
Workshops covered many topics. The ones I attended reviewed the components of a good story and clear communication; how family dynamics affect spiritual care; and the chaplain’s role in bioethics conversations. I was grateful to explore the skills I use in my work.
The plenary sessions provided insights I could apply to both my work and personal life. Some of the lessons were: Unmet expectations lead to disillusionment, but open-mindedness allows for a reinterpretation that offers healing; awareness of what resonates or disturbs me may help me identify growing edges; and I can honor the uniqueness in others and still be faithful to my core being.
Beyond the learning was a powerful sense of camaraderie and strength. Whether sharing in worship, meals, or casual conversation, we listened, supported, comforted, and encouraged one another in ways that honored the Sacred in our midst. As I left the Pueblo after the conference, I realized I had been restored and renewed, and I said a silent thanks for this time and this place and these people.
Mary Columbo Reichert, BCC, is the weekend house chaplain at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, FL.