Long ago, 2006, and not so very far away, three clergy got together for fellowship in North County. They represented the congregations of Trinity, Escondido; St. Francis, Pauma Valley; and St. Mary’s, Ramona.
The initial intent was to have a time of fellowship and Bible study once per month and to alternate among churches for the gatherings. As the time together evolved, it became apparent that two of those early precepts were going to change as we adopted a permanent non-church meeting place and dropped the idea of Bible study. The former alteration came about because we realized that meeting for a meal made sense, so a restaurant was picked in Escondido, roughly the mid-point of our respective locations. The latter, eschewing the Bible study, came about as we realized we wanted most to foster collegiality and camaraderie which would allow us to connect in a deep and meaningful way, because, as one of our members recently put it, “Pastorates can be lonely positions.” We discerned that we really wanted to not be constrained by an agenda, goals, officers or anything else, but to let the Holy Spirit move us. With an evolving membership which now includes the rectors of St. Bartholomew’s, Poway; All Saints’, Vista; St. Thomas, Temecula; and St. John’s, Fallbrook, as well as clergy from the founding trio of churches, we continue to meet monthly at El Nopal in Escondido. Amazingly, no one has dropped out and the attendance is nearly 100 percent each month.
Our members represent two congregations that have split and are rebuilding, one which has built an impressive place of worship after being in a shopping center for over a decade, three established parishes and one smaller mission. We have supported each other by providing non-judgmental sounding boards, rigorous confidentiality, tolerance for diverse views, honest communication and more than a little expressed humor, perhaps even to zaniness at times. As happens with humans, the members have experienced personal and professional ups and downs and found the Sacred Society of the Cactus (as we call ourselves) to be a life-giving and life-saving group. Out of our friendships has also grown the practice of pastoral coverage in our respective congregations when one of us is on hiatus, which is a great benefit for those of us serving in one-priest congregations.
Over seven plus years we have come to know a deep and abiding fellowship, one in which we care for our fellow clergy and can be ourselves and appreciate each other. We truly trust, respect and have confidence in each other. We have each others’ backs and nurture one another’s souls. +
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