I'm in Princeton, New Jersey.
I've come to Princeton most years since I was a first-year graduate student at Pepperdine. In November of 1997 I went to Boston for the Society of Biblical Literature Conference. Toward the end of the conference, I hopped in the car and drove to see some of America's most famous colleges. I was taken immediately with Princeton University and the little town that holds it. I began taking a spiritual/study break there the next year–and have done so most years since.
Princeton Seminary (adjacent to the university) is also one of the finest seminaries in the world. It's library is second to none in the Western Hemisphere. Back then you could stay for 15$ per night in the Seminary dorms–including daily linen changing, continental breakfast, and use of the libraries. It's gone up a bit since then, but I keep coming back.
I used to come in the late fall, early winter, when it was cold. That way, I'd have to stay inside and work/pray/rest. It was also great because the town was decorated for Christmas and there were all kinds of neat Christmas programs going on in the churches nearby.
I'm here in the summer this time. It fit the calendar better.
The annual Princeton recalibration has been a vital part of my spiritual and emotional well-being over the years. I spend the week fasting, praying, resting, and planning/studying for the upcoming year's sermon series. I also am able to do some long-range strategizing. Princeton is optimal for such a thing. It's beautiful, quiet, has amazing cultural opportunities and world-class libraries. It's geographically far away, and makes me feel contemplative (even smarter) just being here.
Many of the few good ideas I've had over the years came to me at Princeton. Most importantly, I always come back spiritually-centered, full in head and heart. I come back with fresh ideas, and some much needed long-range planning that seemingly can happen only away from the hustle and bustle. So, as I begin several days here, I wait on God to do His thing.
I have more tasks to accomplish this year. I need to leave here with the rough-draft of my DMin Project Thesis ready to go, and the final chapter of Jesus: the Word Made Flesh turned into the great, longsuffering publishers at College Press/HeartSpring. While on the one hand I fear that having so much task to accomplish may defeat the purpose of this retreat. But, then again, I think I'll be shocked to see how much spiritual/emotional energy getting those projects resolved will free up.
I'm so thankful for the opportunity to do this. Most of my friends in ministry have some version of my Princeton experience each year. It's essential for ministers and those who will be blessed or suffer through their ministry that these study leave/spiritual renewals happen…if only annually. My buddy Jim Martin
has been a role-model for me in this regard.
If you are in ministry, I'd love to hear what some of you do. When do you go? How long? Where? What do you do?