Then I was at the First Three Years' residency in VA, where a number of us recent Seminary grads reflected back on our first 3-6 years and discussed how the residency had been helpful. Sounds like the consensus was that:
We like having a mentor, a person who was typically (though not always) outside our own parish, who could teach us some ins and outs of our jobs. This person could be hard to find. Mine was great. He was my field ed supervisor, and one of his great gifts was his ability to challenge me in a safe way. He called me on my own unhealthy behavior, but he also tried to help me see the other side of the story. I like that he's a different race than me, and he was a safe place to discuss issues of minority and race. As a minority myself, it's hard to discuss sometimes! P. rocks the priestly world. I also really appreciated that he took a sabbatical in the middle of my residency, and afterwards, he really started modeling healthier behavior in a better way.
We like support groups. My fantastic group of women were the ones who taught me what healthy behavior looked like in an unhealthy parish. When I got off track and was giving up my days off to bogus emergencies and when a guy dumped me for just that, they were the ones who let me know I deserved to get dumped and that I was not behaving in a healthy, differentiated way. If I wanted to have a life, I had to draw my own boundaries. I would wish that everyone had a rabbi, a UU, and a Presbyterian who could do for them what my friends did for me. It takes a true friend.
We love our residencies! Having everyone together is amazing, since the peer support and the discussion about what has happened and how we've progressed is invaluable. After my first parish blew up, I spent a lot of time feeling as though I had failed as a priest. It's great, affirming, and blessed to be able to be with people who say things like, 'Wow, you look great! Your job sounds cool! You are doing SO much better than you were! Things are going well for you now!' and to be able to realize that, hey, they are right.
Changes will still be happening, but they are very positive ones... Stay tuned!