From the Editor

This issue of the newsletter is devoted to a single topic: the role that members of the clergy can play in supporting a lay-led movement such as Tres Dias. Our interest in this began with publication earlier this year of Rev. Christopher Leighton's story  describing how Tres Dias helped his church cast off its inward looking familial cloak and begin speaking God's word to the community. Rev. Leighton's article was the inspiration for both our survey of spiritual directors, the results of which are published below, and our invitation to other spiritual directors to give us their reflections on Tres Dias. The article by Rev. Cynthia Dodd is a response to that invitation.
      We encourage you to share this issue of the newsletter with members of the clergy in your community by using the link below.

The President's Letter

I can't help but wish that many who read this issue of the newsletter will be pastors who have not yet attended a Tres Dias weekend. My letter is addressed to them. 
Dear Pastor:
If you have been asked to participate in a Tres Dias weekend and are curious about what you might be getting into, let me take a moment to tell you what Tres Dias is about and how you might fit in with this ministry.  
     Many people invite others to a weekend by saying "You need to go!"  Let me be the first to tell you, you do not need to go!  Tres Dias is a lay led ministry for Christians, a ministry with the stated purpose of "Building leaders for the Church."  As a Christian and a pastor, you do not need us to teach you how to get more involved in Church! 
     However, there is a place in this ministry for you.  Many pastors today are functioning as one-man  armies. They are doing everything from preaching, managing the budget, and planning the activities to cleaning the bathrooms.  They could use some help.  Tres Dias is in the business of awakening the laity to the understanding that lay persons and clergy are called into Christian service together.  Being Christian is not a spectator activity! Rather, it's a dynamic fellowship of believers moving forward in Christian service within their church and beyond the church--outside the church doors, beyond the curb, and into our greater community.
     As a pastor, you felt the call to become a minister of the Gospel and to teach and counsel according to the truths found in Holy Scripture. This same function is carried out on our weekends by our spiritual directors through their five talks and three meditations. Those talks and meditations, together with the ten lay talks, create a "strength in fellowship" that forms the foundation for building leaders for the church.
     You may choose to never work as a spiritual director, but simply experiencing the awakening that takes place among those attending is worth the time spent. But volunteering to work weekends as a spiritual director will take you to a new level of leadership as you help team members and attendees understand that we are not just Church members but that we are called into His service as a part the greater fellowship of Christ.
   Those team members with support roles on a weekend are referred to as "CHAs," an acronym for "Christ's Hands in Action!" Let's join hands together, laity and clergy, as we serve our Lord.

Bruce Cato


In this Issue  

What Pastors Say about Tres Dias 

My Way of Telling Other Pastors about Tres Dias  


Future Meetings of the Tres Dias International Secretariat  




What Pastors Say about Tres Dias

In our April-May-June issue, we invited spiritual directors in the Tres Dias communities to complete a short questionnaire, telling us about their personal response to their first Tres Dias weekend and how Tres Dias had made a difference in the spiritual life of their congregations. We hoped that the survey would provide convincing endorsements of the Tres Dias experience, information we could use in future publications aimed at those pastors who were not familiar with Tres Dias or who were resisting involvement because of distorted information. We also hoped that the survey would provide insight into how that message could be conveyed to pastors more effectively. We were pleased to receive 30 valid responses, brim-full of evidence about how the Spirit of the Lord changes individuals as well as congregations.

      The questionnaire opened by asking how the respondent had heard about Tres Dias. Surprisingly, only three of the pastors learned about Tres Dias from other clergy. For all others, an introduction came via a member of their congregation or a friend.    

      The second question asked if respondents felt any reservations about attending their first weekend. Again, the results were surprising, suggesting that Tres Dias no longer suffers from a cult-like stigma. Only one respondent cited the issue of secrecy ("It all sounded a bit mysterious"). Another feared that it might be some kind of "groupie experience," and another anticipated that it would be trite and superficial. All others had no reservations. Many said that they were eager to attend, and that their confidence in attending came as a result of their deep personal respect for those individuals who had told them about Tres Dias.  

     Our next question asked if respondents were comfortable with the theological discussions on the weekend. Indeed, they were. "The talks covered all the denominational strengths while focusing on Jesus" one respondent wrote, words that were echoed by many others. "It was refreshing to be part of a theological discussion that was not dogmatic, but Spirit-led," another respondent wrote. "I was aware that this was
an ecumenical group. I welcomed getting to know others outside my denomination. It was a growing experience for me," said a third. There were only two negative responses. One described a table discussion that veered off into a disruptive discussion about speaking in tongues. The other referred to a skit that made the respondent uncomfortable. All in all, the responses confirm that the weekends "Celebrate those things that all Christians have in common, while respecting the differences."As a result of their weekend experience, these pastors reported that they became active in encouraging their congregants to attend Tres Dias.
     The questionnaire asked for approximately how many members in the congregation had attended Tres Dias, then followed up by inviting respondents to describe how congregants' attendance changed the faith dynamics in the congregation. Here are some representative responses.

"Folks return with a deeper focus on Jesus and for loving service to one another. They are less concerned with ecclesiastical externals or preferences, but on relationships. They emerge from the weekend with a greater commitment to serve in their local church. This is the strength of this ministry."
"Tres Dias has been a good, clean, cool stream of water refreshing our congregation. I think all churches need this kind of new experience coming in from  outside of their own church."
"The personal impact Tres Dias has made on many individuals has helped many to deal with their personal issues, step up to leadership roles and take their discipleship more seriously. There is more commitment to the local church by those who have been through Tres Dias."
"It has helped our people to the final surrender mode for Christ . . . . They came to a new level of spiritual life and freedom and dedication which affected our church."

       Our final (and most important) question was this: How would you explain TD to other pastors? Here are some of the responses:  


"Tres Dias is a three-day, intensive weekend in which you will encounter the living Christ through a community of men and women who have allowed God to gently confront their brokenness and set their hearts on a path toward healing and reconciliation. It provides a context in which individuals can experience the living Christ in a truly transformational way. There will be laughter; there will be tears; there will be worship and communion. And, in the end, there will be a renewed heart for, and commitment to, Christ."
"Tres Dias is a three day encounter with the Lord where you will worship, experience a sweet presence of the Holy Spirit, you will hear testimonies of lay people and messages from other pastors in our local community. It's a great opportunity to get to know some other pastors and create lifelong friendships with them."
"This 'short course in Christianity' serves to renew or re-awaken the knowledge that God is sufficient in all things; that Christ is the salvation of the world; and that the Holy Spirit is the source of energy, inspiration and solace so badly needed in today's world. The community built around the weekend will enhance the fellowship and community of an individual church in ways only God could and would design."

"Tres Dias is a weekend encounter with Jesus Christ that allows you to take a clear inventory of your spiritual walk with Him and with the church. It promotes a spiritual atmosphere that gives you the opportunity to draw near to God without intimidation or judgment from others. What has helped me is that you can be real as you see others being real and you realize that we are all more alike than different."

"The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood."
Summing it Up
The survey overwhelmingly met its cardinal objective of providing endorsements we could use to explain Tres Dias to other pastors, and we will put his information to good use in the future. Most of the respondents indicated they will give us permission to use their names along with their comments and we will do so in future publications after we verify their permission. As it currently stands, lay persons who have attended Tres Dias are the primary ambassadors who carry the benefits of the weekend to pastors. There appears to be very little clergy-to-clergy communication about Tres Dias. Nor did the survey point to any broader way of spreading the message through, for example, clergy support groups, seminary courses, or workshops devoted to church growth and revival. Perhaps this is something to be explored in another way.
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My Way of Telling Other Pastors about Tres Dias
Rev. Cynthia Dodd
This is being written by a clergy person for clergy people. Laity may "read over my shoulder," as I sometimes do when I sit next to a person on a plane who is reading a book that I always wanted to read, but I would like my audience to be that minister, pastor or priest who has been invited on a Tres Dias weekend and has said something like "I just don't have the time. Please stop inviting me...I just don't have the time..."
     Underneath that polite refusal, which I am sure is very true, one may also be thinking, "Even if I have the time, I'd rather be doing something else..."
     As one who had much the same response over many years, until I finally said yes to an invitation to attend, I would like to say that the objection of "not enough time" points to a concern that Tres Dias may be able to help you with.
     Once you experience the power of a Tres Dias weekend, you will find that you have more energy and time than before you went--it is that inspiring. While many seminars we attend give us ideas and good sermon stories, this weekend helps us remember why we went into the ministry in the first place. As people share heartfelt stories about their faith journeys and their brokenness, their struggles and their triumphs, those listening begin to be more open and honest as they share in their small groups. There is nothing more refreshing than honest sharing, and although that kind of sharing is the stuff of healing that goes on in 12 step rooms and small group gatherings, it is all too rare in the larger church community.
      And there's more. Anyone you send from your church will return having thought more deeply about their Christian journey and be more alive in their faith than before they left. This means you will now have stronger leadership, freeing more time for you as parishioners step up to take more responsibility  . But it is hard to convince someone to attend a weekend if you do not have firsthand experience as a basis for talking about the weekend.
     And now a word about being asked to be a spiritual director, one of the two (or more) clergy  who become part of the weekend team. You may feel that, "Ok, I will go on a weekend so I can explain things to my church members, but I don't want to get hooked into this spiritual director thing." First of all, you must volunteer to serve; no one will push you to do this if you do not feel led to lead. If you do become a part of a team, however, the deep relationships that form as team members work together to bring a weekend into being are a little like those bonds formed with a beloved college roommate, or a longtime friend. And instead of having to travel across the country for a reunion, you have an opportunity to connect with those wonderful new friends on a frequent basis.
     Those connections keep what was received on the weekend ever fresh. Also, people who know and care  about you are available when, as sometimes happens, life makes an unexpected turn--a loved one dies, a decision has to be made, a personal struggle becomes overwhelming. Since we are often too busy to tend to our own needs, our support system can become thin, and during a crisis is not the best time to strike up a new friendship. The net must be in place before we start to fall. And God is offering you an opportunity to widen your support network.
      So, you may believe you are too busy to attend a weekend, but you are too busy not to. The next time someone approaches you about a Tres Dias weekend, you may want to use this phrase: "Because I am too b usy, I must make time to go." If you say yes, God will make the path clear.

Cynthia Dodd is a United Methodist minister and a spiritual director in the Fairfield County Tres Dias community. She served as the pastor of The United Church of Westville, CT, before joining the staff of a mental health agency where she has worked for the past 25 years.
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Future Meetings of the International Secretariat

 March 4-6, 2016: Secretariat
 Tampa Bay TD. Clearwater, Florida

 July 15-17, 2016: Assembly & Secretariat
 Mid-Hudson TD, Poughkeepsie-Newburg area, New York

October 21-23, 2016
Coastal Georgia TD (Savannah, Georgia)

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